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Building Bridges with the Tijuana & San Diego Startup Community

Posted: January 25, 2023

By Ella Napata

Startup San Diego 1st Mondays

When Tijuana and San Diego were named World Design Capital® 2024, Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero, said “Our designation as a World Design Capital is an opportunity for us to highlight to the world the unique interconnectedness of our region and tell the story of millions people who live, work, and partner together in exceptional ways.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Startup San Diego team sat down with Roberto Ramirez, Senior IT Recruiter at ArkusNexus a Mexico-based software development company to learn more about the Tijuana startup ecosystem and the opportunities the San Diego/Tijuana Mega-region has to offer. 

The Growing Tijuana Startup Ecosystem

Strategically located and one of the most traveled borders in the world, the San Diego and Tijuana binational community were meant to work together. With San Diego’s population of +3.2 million and Tijuanas at +2 million, that gives a combined residence of over 5 million, nearly double that of Los Angeles. The San Diego/Tijuana region has proved that it has a wider pool of talent and opportunities for business development and collaborations.

On the Tijuana side, there is a growing startup ecosystem that hosts startups like Grupo Tress, Salsa Perrona, and Nexus Fuel. Tijuana is also an important center for binational manufacturing in industries including aerospace, medical devices, biotechnology, automobiles, and electronic equipment, supporting jobs on both sides of the border. Production is concentrated in 101 industrial parks, including 65 in Tijuana and more than 25 in Mexicali.

Notable companies that have factories in Tijuana are Thermo Fisher Scientific, Samsung, Hyundai, Bose, Foxconn, Panasonic, Infineon Technologies, and more.

Skilled Talent Knows No Borders 

With Tijuana being the fifth largest city in Mexico, it also hosts a number of top universities that produce some of the best talents the country has to offer.

Notable Tijuana universities:

Engineering is a strength in Tijuana, led by universities such as the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), approximately 27% of the students graduating each year from Tijuana’s 35 universities are engineers.

Here’s what Tijuana founders are saying about talent and collaboration opportunities between Tijuana and San Diego: 

Angel Sanchez

Mexican talent has proved to be at a global level in many industries, we have a lot of high-tech expertise and it is combined with our professional values. USA talent (not only US citizens but anyone living in the US) has identified business opportunities and created real businesses around those. If we mix both sides, I have seen many successful organizations that have designed and delivered high-tech solutions to a wide variety of industries and demographics … I suggest entrepreneurs from both sides of the border include at least 30% of their organization from either Mexico or USA residents.

– Angel Sanchez, Founder at Arkusnexus

Hugo Cen

We need to identify the advantages that each region offers to leverage each other’s strengths. San Diego is well known for innovating in the field of bio and life sciences, as well having a rich ecosystem of grassroots startups and a diverse demographic of consumers perfect for product launches. Tijuana offers both low and high-skill talent for a wide range of services: telemarketing, customer support, marketing, development, engineering, manufacturing and creative talent. Also, Tijuana is perfectly suited for research and development in software, manufacturing and life sciences. Much of the medical tourism in Tijuana is a result of cost savings, high medical standards but also, innovative procedures such as cell regeneration and life enhancement. This is a unique opportunity for U.S companies to test and develop new procedures and products in Mexico. 

Core competencies of U.S based companies will remain in-house, however, new complementary competencies can be developed and worked in Tijuana, providing an avenue for companies to push for innovation without compromising a huge amount of capital investment, mitigating the cost of R&D. Also, working with nearshore teams, U.S based companies have the opportunity to scout for talent and recruitment.

 – Hugo Cen, CEO at Ai Lab School

Future Collaborations with Tijuana & San Diego Startups 

It’s clear that the Tijuana/San Diego mega-region is one that is constantly growing and changing over time. With a developing workforce, stronger economic ties, and more collaborations, the region has a bright future to support each other’s growth. 

Alexa Rae NavarroStartup San Diego Executive Director, Alexa-Rae Navarro shares, “We envision our Mega-Region as a thriving and inclusive global hub of  innovation, producing meaningful and high-growth companies. Connecting talent and founders to the right resources, networks, and support across borders is a pivotal piece to that. We are thrilled to partner with ArkusNexus to bridge the gap between our startup communities to connect, educate, and inspire founders and local talent to grow an equitable ecosystem.”

Join us for 1st Mondays in Tijuana, Mexico

If you want to learn more about the San Diego/Tijuana startup ecosystem, join us for our 1st Mondays networking and happy hour event happening on Monday, March 6th at the ArkusNexus MIND Hub in Tijuana, Mexico. Get the chance to meet founders, entrepreneurs, and business professionals from both sides of the border, listen in to a short panel discussion and network with some startup leaders.