Give First Wherever You Go: One Founder’s Journey from Mexico to Detroit

René Pons, co-founder of PPAP Manager, has founded a company in Mexico, run Techstars Startup Weekends across Central America, and gotten into Techstars Detroit. Everywhere he goes, René Gives First and strengthens the startup ecosystem. 

The Techstars Detroit 2019 class

In early July, a week before Techstars Detroit kicked off, TechCrunch ran an exclusive article announcing the new class of 10 companies that are, right now, enmeshed in their three month accelerator program. The article noted that the program name and focus have changed, from Techstars Mobility to Techstars Detroit: “Mobility is baked into Detroit, but Detroit is more than mobility.” The Detroit startup ecosystem is strengthening and expanding, and becoming ever more appealing to startup founders from around the world. 

Techstars has believed in Detroit through the hard times—we announced the first Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator program in Detroit the same day the city came out of bankruptcy. Ever since, Techstars has been a part of building better times for the Comeback City, helping to grow the startup ecosystem, making connections that benefit corporations and startups alike, and attracting new companies to the region.

If you’re a startup that does business with automotive or manufacturing, you need to get to Detroit.

We’re beyond excited about every one of the 10 companies in the 2019 Techstars Detroit class, but one in particular has not just a great business, but a founder who lives the Techstars value #GiveFirst, and who has been a force for startup ecosystem building for years in his native Chihuahua, Mexico: René Pons, co-founder of PPAP Manager

Safety First

First, the company: PPAP Manager is a platform to streamline the approval of packets of documents required in the automotive industry, known as PPAP (Production Part Approval Process), to validate production parts. 

There are 30,000 parts in your car, and every one of them journeyed a long distance, often passing through several sets of hands, before your vehicle arrived, shiny and new, in a dealer’s showroom. The global journey of each one of those 30,000 parts is documented by a PPAP. 

PPAPs are crucial to safe car production because they are the quality assurance for its parts. Yet today, most PPAPs are handled using spreadsheets or google docs, solutions cobbled together by individuals at different companies. They’re not fast, they’re not efficient, and worst of all, they’re not trustworthy enough for such important information. 

PPAP Manager aims to solve this problem for the global automotive industry by providing a single tool that documents parts as they go through all the many suppliers in the value chain, making these records both accessible and accurate, so that you know that the brakes on your car won’t fail. They’ve been checked. They’ve got a good PPAP tracing them back through production, assembly, and testing. 

René has started a few companies, and he got the idea for PPAP Manager from his co-founders, Vinnie Delgado and Jeefb Santos, who have worked in the auto industry for more than 24+ years altogether. They were looking for opportunities in manufacturing that would solve a defined and important problem, and had plenty of room to scale. PPAPs provided exactly the right kind of opportunity. 

“The land of opportunity for the automotive industry”

“PPAP Manager fits our investment thesis to a T,” said Ted Serbinski, Managing Director of Techstars Detroit. He saw the same opportunity that René did, loved the founding team, plus he knew what Techstars Detroit could do for the company. “PPAP Manager should be doing business in Detroit, and Techstars is the best way to make that connection,” Ted said. 

Ted’s on a mission to change entrepreneurs’ perception of doing business in Detroit, and one of his favorite techniques is to bring in entrepreneurs from all over the world—and then let the city, and the Techstars experience, speak for themselves. In five years, he’s brought 54 startups to Detroit from eight different countries—the 2019 class alone is 60% international, with founders hailing from five countries outside the U.S. 

“Detroit is the land of opportunity for the automotive industry.” —René Pons, Founder of PPAP Manager

For Ted, the message is clear: If you’re a startup that does business with automotive or manufacturing, you need to get to Detroit.

René agrees. “Detroit is the land of opportunity for the automotive industry,” he said. “There’s no better place for us to be.” René sees that more and more companies globally are trying to get standards working, and that Detroit is a great place to work with many of these global auto companies, to spread these standards quickly. René is hoping that Techstars Detroit will get PPAP Manager to a proof of concept in partnership with one or more of the program’s corporate partners—who he sees as hungry for the kind of quality assurance that his company can provide. 

Rene Pons, Founder of PPAP Manager

Power of the Network

René knows how important connections are—one aspect he values in the Techstars accelerator is its diverse corporate partners, including Lear Innovation Ventures, Ford X, AAA, Avanta Ventures, USAA, Nationwide, Honda Innovations, and PlanetM. 

He knows the importance of great connections—to other entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors, as well as corporations—for helping startups grow because he’s seen this power, over and over again, as a Community Leader helping to run Techstars Startup Weekends across Central America. Since 2012, René has organized over a dozen Techstars Startup Weekends, most of them in Mexico, but also as a facilitator in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and one in Seville, Spain, when he was briefly living in Madrid and wanted to get involved in the local startup community. Two years ago, he organized six Techstar Startup Weekends at once, all in different cities, three in one weekend and three the next. He describes himself as “the crazy organizer who tries to do different stuff.” 

René loves Techstars Startup Weekends because they change how people think, and then give them the tools and connections to start putting that change into action. “The first thing we need in Latin America is to change the way we are thinking,” René said. “We don’t have enough people building or starting new companies. People need to realize that they can take control of their lives and start solving the problems that they see.”

He sees the first step as getting people to try new things—like attending a Techstars Startup Weekend—and from this experience, new entrepreneurs and new companies will grow. René is happiest when he sees the locals in a community step up and start working. As a Techstars Community Leader, he knows the formula for a Startup Weekend, and his goal is to get the event rolling in each new community, and then leave the team there to keep it going. This is how the events—and the entrepreneurial spirit they engender—spread. 

“You learn a lot by getting involved and Giving First.”— René Pons, Founder of PPAP Manager

To René, Detroit is a model for where he hopes to see Latin American cities get to, with an evolving startup ecosystem and lots of opportunity for making connections and building businesses. 

Give First Wherever You Go

And, of course, René plans to get involved in the Detroit startup ecosystem, above and beyond participating in the accelerator program. “Wherever we go, we need to get involved. I’m looking forward to knowing people and to start sharing with them and learning from them,” René said.

René lives the Techstars value Give First, and he practices it wherever he goes. “You learn a lot by getting involved and Giving First,” René said. “The connections you get from being there and sharing with the community—you cannot put a price on it.” 

How Startup Ecosystems Grow

At first glance, Chihuahua and Detroit may not seem to have much in common. But now they share René Pons, and that’s a bond that will show results, we suspect. Maybe one day soon, they’ll both be known as startup hubs—growing companies, attracting talent, and transforming their regional economies. Entrepreneurship is powerful.  

Detroit has become a place that startups want to move to. Five years ago, post-bankruptcy, Detroit was a hard sell for startups. Today the supportive startup ecosystem and the affordable cost of living make it a desirable—and smart—place to start a business. 

René and PPAP Manager have moved from Chihuahua to Detroit for the three months of the accelerator program, and René plans to get involved in the local ecosystem. It may even make good business sense to keep PPAP Manager in Detroit long term. 

But that doesn’t mean René has abandoned his home, or the Chihuahua startup ecosystem. Long term, his dream is to invest in small companies in small cities all over Mexico. “There’s lots of talent with great ideas in Mexico,” he said, “But they don’t have the money to build a prototype. At that early stage, these companies need more support.” René wants to give that support, and be an angel or seed investor who helps make this startup ecosystem go. 

Ask Chris Heivly, Techstars VP of Innovation, about how startup ecosystems develop, and he’ll tell you that “ecosystem development is all based on success through a thousand nudges.” Connectors and believers like Ted and René provide these nudges constantly, doing their part to grow their ecosystems. 

They believe that entrepreneurs create a better future, and they’re doing their part to make that better future—one PPAP, one Techstars Startup Weekend, one company, one accelerator, one city at a time.








A New Startup Culture at Techstars Startup Week Lima / Una nueva cultura de startups en el Techstars Startup Week Lima

By Arturo Calle Flores, CEO Alterlatina & Community Leader, Techstars Startup Programs Peru

Here, Everyone Shares Everything

In a conversation during an event at Techstars Startup Week Lima, a venture capitalist told me: “It amazes me how this works, I come from the corporate world and there nobody shares anything.” I liked hearing that because it reflects the achievements of several years spent trying to create a community of startups in Lima, Peru. Here, everyone shares everything.

Organizing Techstars Startup Week Lima took four months, but helping to create a collaborative culture took about six years. Techstars Startup Week Lima is an event that celebrates the achievements of the startup community, brings together all the actors of the innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem, and shares knowledge and experiences for a week.

A few years ago it was not possible to imagine such an event in Lima. So what changed?

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Meets Latin American Business Culture

The resurgence of the Internet boom that happened around 2007 made a big difference. Social networks began to redefine cyberspace. Google disrupted the advertising business, Apple redesigned the music business, and Amazon boosted e-commerce globally. In that year and the following, thousands of entrepreneurs from around the world began to meet in spontaneous, effervescent, and dynamic communities, in order to exchange experiences and launch their startups.

Latin America was part of that process. Initiatives were born in places like Tequila Valley, Palermo Valley, and Lima Valley, to name a few. From the beginning, the entrepreneurs in these communities not only disseminated the new technologies and businesses of the network—they also introduce a new type of culture, the collaborative culture of Silicon Valley. However, adapting an entrepreneurship ecosystem to Latin American business culture was not easy; many burgeoning startup communities disintegrated, and others were forgotten.

Strengthening the Startup Ecosystem in Lima

Towards the year 2011, my local startup community, along with some other communities in Latin America, started running Techstars Startup Weekends in Lima, with a goal of strengthening the startup ecosystem. During the following years, the governments of countries including Chile, Brazil, and Peru created funds for startups, and accelerators began to appear in the region. But the success stories were few, the startups very isolated—and the government programs threatened to close.

That was, until they started measuring the social impact of these initiatives. That’s when those programs discovered that, although the monetary results were lower than they had hoped, there was a change in the minds and attitudes of the entrepreneurs in these communities. Now, people were worried about generating global impact and creating sustainable businesses; they sought contact with the creators of different technologies; and they started thinking twice before working in a company that didn’t not worry about social welfare.

In those years of work in the community, something had changed. What had been the transformative factor? I would argue that Techstars Startup Week has had a huge impact.

Techstars Startup Week Lima by the Numbers

Let me share a few numbers to back up that bold statement. Techstars Startup Week Lima has joined more than 30 organizations of the Peruvian ecosystem; it had 89 exhibitors and 48 sponsors directly impacting more than 1300 entrepreneurs face-to-face and 1250 in the live broadcasts of social networks. Entrepreneurs attended an average of 10 events, and attendees scored the events an average of 8.9 out of 10. Startup Week Lima was an event with excellent numbers.

How did we achieve this strong outcome? We asked for help. We talked with the regional community and formed organizing teams interested in giving first. Give First is one of Techstars deeply held beliefs: we give without expectation of receiving a transactional or immediate return. It’s amazing how life changes when you start to live #GiveFirst.

We received help from the Techstars communities of Venezuela and Pachuca, Mexico. We received not only advice but also work material, speakers for virtual talks, examples of what went well and what went wrong at previous events, and even operational help for various activities of the event. These outpourings of collaboration and helping each other would have been previously inconceivable in the traditional Latin American corporate world.

#GiveFirst

Yes, Techstars Startup Week had a big impact—but it’s not the main thing that changed this community and made it so much more collaborative and functional.

So what was the decisive factor? The change of attitude: give first, be inclusive of everyone, and develop a network instead of a hierarchy. That network is not done in a day, and this kind of change can’t be imposed from outside, it has to grow from within and it is a long journey. But today, I look at the startup community here in Lima, and the amazing event we held at Techstars Startup Week Lima, and I feel profound satisfaction. I see a more united ecosystem here, plus dozens of Latin American cities closer and closer to a boiling technology business.

***

Techstars Startup Week is a celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. Find one—or make one happen—in your city.

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Una nueva cultura de startups en el Techstars Startup Week Lima

Por Arturo Calle Flores, CEO Alterlatina & Community Leader, Techstars Startup Programs Perú

Aquí, todos comparten todo.

En una conversación, durante un evento en el Startup Week Lima, un inversionista de capital de riesgo me dijo: “Me asombra cómo funciona esto, yo vengo del mundo corporativo y ahí nadie comparte nada”.  Me gustó oír esa frase porque refleja el logro de varios años tratando de crear una comunidad de startups en Lima, Perú. Aquí todos comparten todo.

Organizar Techstars Startup Week Lima nos tomó cuatro meses, pero para ayudar a crear una cultura de colaboración nos tardamos unos seis años. El  evento celebra los logros de la comunidad de startups, reúne a todos los actores del ecosistema de emprendimiento de innovación, y comparte conocimiento y experiencias durante una semana.

Hace unos años no era posible imaginar un evento así en Lima, ¿Qué ha cambiado?.

El ecosistema de emprendimiento se encuentra con la cultura latinoamericana de negocios

El resurgimiento del boom del Internet que se produjo alrededor del 2007 hizo una gran diferencia. Las redes sociales comenzaron a redefinir el ciberespacio. Google disrumpe el negocio de la publicidad, Apple rediseña el negocio de la música y Amazon impulsa el comercio electrónico a nivel global. Durante ese año y los siguientes, miles de emprendedores de todo el mundo comenzaron a reunirse en comunidades espontáneas, efervescentes y dinámicas, con el fin de intercambiar experiencias y lanzar sus startups.

Latinoamérica no fue ajena a ese proceso. Nacieron iniciativas como Tequila Valley, Palermo Valley y Lima Valley, por nombrar algunas. Desde el inicio, los emprendedores en estas comunidades no solo diseminaron las nuevas tecnologías y negocios de la red — también introdujeron un nuevo tipo de cultura, la cultura colaborativa de Silicon Valley. Sin embargo, la adaptación a la cultura de negocios latinoamericana no fue fácil; muchas comunidades se desintegraron y otras pasaron al olvido.

Fortaleciendo el ecosistema de startups en Lima

Hacia el año 2011, mi comunidad local de startups, junto con algunas comunidades en Latinoamérica, comenzamos a realizar los Techstars  Startup Weekend, con el objetivo de fortalecer el ecosistema de startups. Durante los siguientes años, los gobiernos de países como Chile, Brasil y Perú crearon fondos para startups, y las aceleradoras empezaron a aparecer en la región; pero los casos de éxito eran contados, las startups aisladas–y los programas de gobierno amenazaban con cerrar.

Hasta que se comenzó a medir el impacto social de estas iniciativas. Es cuando se descubre que, si bien los resultados monetarios no eran los esperados, se estaba dando un cambio en la mente y actitudes de los emprendedores de estas comunidades. Ahora las personas estaban preocupadas por generar impacto global, negocios sostenibles; buscando el contacto con los creadores de tecnología y pensándolo dos veces antes de trabajar en una empresa que no se preocupa por el bienestar social.

En esos años de trabajo en la comunidad, algo había cambiado. ¿Cuál había sido el factor decisivo?

Techstars Startup Week Lima en Números

Podría asegurar que Techstars Startup Week ha tenido un gran impacto. Permítanme compartir algunos números para respaldar la declaración anterio. Techstars Startup Week Lima ha unido a más de 30 organizaciones del ecosistema peruano; ha contado con 89 expositores y 48 patrocinadores impactando directamente más de 1300 emprendedores de manera presencial y 1250 en las transmisiones en vivo de las redes sociales. Los emprendedores asistieron en promedio a 10 eventos, de los cuales se dió una valoración de 8.9 sobre 10 en promedio en la calificación de su participación. Startup Week Lima fue un evento con excelentes números.

¿Qué hicimos para lograrlo? Pedimos ayuda. Conversamos con la comunidad regional y formamos equipos organizadores interesados en dar primero. Give First (Dar Primero) es una de las creencias más arraigadas de Techstars; damos sin expectativa de recibir algo a cambio o de manera inmediata. Es increíble cómo cambia la vida cuando empiezas a vivir con #GiveFirst como creencia.

Recibimos ayuda de las comunidades de Techstars en Venezuela y México. Y no solo consejos, sino material de trabajo, expositores para las charlas virtuales, ejemplos de las cosas que salieron bien y mal en los eventos previos, incluso recibimos ayuda operativa en varias actividades del evento. Esta prodigalidad de colaboración y ayuda mutua hubiera sido previamente inconcebible en el mundo de negocios latinoamericano tradicional.

#GiveFirst

Si, Techstars Startup Week tuvo un gran impacto—pero no es el factor principal que transformó la comunidad y la hizo más colaborativa y funcional.

Entonces, ¿Cuál fue el factor decisivo? El cambio de actitud: dar primero, ser inclusivos con todos y desarrollar una red en lugar de una jerarquía. Esa red no se hace en un día, y ese cambio no se da por imposición externa, crece desde dentro y es un largo camino. Pero hoy, miro la comunidad startup en Lima, y siento una profunda satisfacción. Veo un ecosistema más unido, además de docenas de ciudades latinoamericanas cada vez más cerca a una ebullición de negocios de tecnología.








18 Startup Weekend teams are presenting at the BRAPPS Brasil this weekend.

18 Startup Weekend teams are presenting at BRAPPS this weekendBRAPPS is the biggest mobile content event in Latin America happening April 25 and 26, 2014.

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The event includes: talks focused on mobile startups, trade shows, hackathons, and more. For two days, technology and entrepreneurship will take over Brasil. BRAPPS provides the opportunity for the public to asses trends and products, and generates business between entrepreneurs and investors.

The Startup Weekend teams presenting are:
  • Cadê o Busão: A mobile application which helps people catch the closest bus. Works collaboratively, using data from the user to provide information closer to reality.
  • Certifiq: Created during Startup Weekend Goiânia in 2013, winning second place and currently at the incubator – PUC Goiás. Certifiq provides automation of certificate issuing process through a user friendly interface.
  • Comida de Rua: Aims to enhance the experience of consumers of street food. Showing through the website and mobile app the location of the best places to enjoy street food.
  • Doatorium: Platform sharing donations. Our goal is to make life easier for those who want to donate something but do not know who needs it.
  • Kidscoin: An app that helps parents manage their children’s allowance to accumulate coins according to the child’s actions.
  • Mimopress: Mini albums you create in minutes with your digital photos. Create now and receive at home.
  • Não Contém – An application that indicates restaurants which sell meals without gluten and lactose-free.
  • Pastar: A platform that integrates members of the livestock market.
  • Promotools: A solution for electronic satisfaction. A survey which helps companies monitor the quality of service at point of sale.
  • Speakrs: Connects travelers with native-speakers. ‘Speaks’ are local people who speak the language of the traveler and are willing to provide a unique experience, not only presenting tourist locations, but also shared cultures, places and insider tips.
  • Surfmappers: A portal for buying and selling surfing photos.
  • Sweet’mm: Choose the perfect bra for you in just 3 steps.
  • Tipit: Platform for streaming live concerts.
  • TOOTZ: Shows through geo-location information in real time about show houses, bars and restaurants to go out and enjoy the night. The platform facilitates contact between bands and venues. Thus musicians and venues can close contracts online, quickly and safely. The information about which band will play in a particular establishment are automatically updated in the mobile application.
  • TruckPad: An app that connects truckers with their cargo. Today, these ‘entrepreneurs of the roads’ waste a lot of time and fuel looking for their next shipping. With TruckPad it will receive direct deals on their smartphone.
  • Vai Sim: An online travel agency with unique trip packages for people with disabilities and reduced mobility.
  • Xoboi: Digital Solution for agribusiness. Management and centralized suppliers of the field. Farmers, veterinarians and entrepreneurs can quote and buy the necessary supplies for your agribusiness.
  • Yummer: Connects tourists with each other and with local people, thus providing a better travel experience

Congrats to all the Startup Weekend teams! Follow along with BRAPPS on Twitter.