"I am from Mexico." This a phrase that at least most of my friends and close community are very proud of. As Mexicans and Latinos, we are constantly described as cheerful (and noisy) people, with a free and energetic spirit with tons of hopes and dreams to come true. Accurately, all of that is true. Yet, what people sometimes miss is the entrepreneurial spirit within Mexicans and the Latino communities. You would only need to go through the metro stations at any time during the day on any city across the country and you would see how creative Mexicans can get in order to make some money to take back home. At the subway or along the street you can buy any product that comes into your mind: chargers, body creams, makeup, lamps, batteries and of course - tacos. And, while some people find it strange and sometimes even funny, this entrepreneurial spirit makes me confident that with just a glance of opportunity we can make great things.
This past weekend, more than 1,200 talented student entrepreneurs traveled from around the world to pitch their game-changing ideas at the Hult Prize Regional competition, aiming to double the income of 10 million people living in urban slums. The teams simultaneously competed in London, Dubai, Shanghai, Boston and San Francisco hoping to be the Regional champion that would advance to the 7-week summer incubation program to accelerate their ideas and be part of the Hult Prize Global Final in New York during the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September 2016.
What was incredible about this edition of the Hult Prize was that I witnessed, once again, how young people around the world are changing the way we approach the world's most difficult issues. Everyone involved could see the passion of the hundreds of students pitching ideas that created social impact and uniquely delivered business returns. Also, for the first time, Mexico had a national delegation of 9 teams representing 8 university campus from around the country and proudly I can tell you that not one, but two teams: Tolos from Tec de Monterrey Campus Toluca and PROTrash from Tec de Monterrey Campus Guadalajara, were in the top 6 of the Boston and San Francisco Regional Finals. Confirming that the entrepreneurial spirit in Mexico is alive and brighter than ever, and that with just a bit of empowerment and training, young Mexicans can come up with outstanding local solutions to our country's biggest issues. What did these teams have in common? Both teams went directly to the urban slums, asked questions, built a pilot, went back to ask more questions, talked with mentors, received support and worked in collaboration with their university, but most importantly: they didn't give up. These students were not only completely engaged in achieving excellence with their studies to serve others, but became aware and are currently sharing the sense of urgency that the urban poor embody in their country.
Currently the Hult Prize online wildcard application has just opened, which serves as a finals fast-track, granting the winning team a coveted spot in the Hult Prize Accelerator and Global Finals - joining the regional champions. I'm sure that not only these two teams but the whole Mexican delegation will be taking part of this wildcard application and that regardless of the result, they will put their idea into action.
A couple of days ago, I came across an article that said, "Mexicans themselves don't even trust their own transformation.", but I believe that these students have showed us exactly the opposite. By connecting people, goods, services and capital, they are changing the way urban poor live and inspiring a whole generation in their country to come up with solutions to break the poverty cycle. They have showed the world that despite all the problems Mexico faces today, young people are creating the Mexican dream: the dream of a Mexico were no one is left behind and not only 10 million people, but every person across the country has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.