Andy Kieffer, AgaveLab: Cultivating Guadalajara Talent to Solve Mexican Problems with Tech, Ep 83

Andy Kieffer and his family decided to spend a year relaxing in Guadalajara, Mexico, and ended up staying. As founder of AgaveLab, Andy helps startups in the US and Mexico build tech products with local Guadalajara talent. 

Originally from the midwest, Andy moved to California straight out of high school and worked on early stage tech companies, helping them build product, raise money more quickly and even get acquired. After each project, he would take a year off to travel, which eventually led him to Guadalajara.

In this episode I sit down with Andy to hear more about his story building tech companies in Silicon Valley, creating products for the Mexican market, and how he is helping solve some of Mexico’s biggest problems with his “startup apprenticeship program” AgaveLab. We also cover lessons learned from the Mexican ecosystem, why Mexico is an attractive market for starting a business as well as for foreign investment.

“We’re the craft beer of startup studios”

The idea behind AgaveLab is that traditional investing doesn’t work for many potential entrepreneurs. Andy decided to found AgaveLab –which in this episode we called a “startup apprenticeship program”– to provide financial and emotional support to startup founders that in any other way would not have access to this type of help. With a limit of two startups per year, AgaveLab works closely with startup founders, helping them have a much higher chance of success. Like craft beer, they do lower volume but high-touch work. 

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Andy and AgaveLab help entrepreneurs build their products and companies in Mexico. 

Harvesting Mexico’s low hanging fruit

After leaving the midwest at 18 years of age, Andy led a nomadic life living in Europe and the east coast, eventually settling in San Francisco for 18 years. He arrived in the Bay Area around the same time the Internet was starting to become interesting. After moving to Guadalajara, Andy started to see problems that were already solved in the US or Europe and thought that local solutions could help push Mexico forward.

Listen to this episode to find out how Andy started tapping into Mexico’s startup ecosystem and created companies through AgaveLab by engaging with Guadalajara talent.

Investment opportunities in Mexico: “It’s like going shopping where everything is 90% off”

Andy explains that there are many obvious business opportunities in Mexico that have yet to be explored. In the US most of the low hanging fruit has been picked, and the investors need to invest 10x more than in developing countries to get companies off the ground. In Mexico, investors can help solve urgent problems with much less capital.

In this episode of Crossing Borders, learn more about why Mexico is an interesting place to  invest in startups.

Show Notes: 

  • [1:42] – About AgaveLab
  • [7:52] – A startup apprenticeship
  • [11:15] – Handling crises in startups
  • [12:51] – How did a ‘gringo’ end up in tech in LatAm?
  • [17:55] – Living in Guadalajara
  • [20:58] – Pointing the lens to Mexico
  • [23:33] – Mexico’s obvious opportunities
  • [25:19] – Financing in the US versus Mexico
  • [28:17] – Top lessons learned from building companies 
  • [30:00] – Advice for potential investors looking at LatAm
  • [32:31] – Andy’s recommendations on blogs, books and podcasts
  • [33:58] -What’s next for Andy and AgaveLab?

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