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Agave Lab, the startup factory that was born in Guadalajara

This article originally appeared in Forbes (in Spanish)

With nearly two decades of experience building startups in Silicon Valley, Andy Kieffer founded Agave Lab, a startup factory based in Guadalajara.

After spending 18 years  working, living, and creating companies in the mecca of global entrepreneurship – the Silicon Valley – he needed a change.

He decided to move to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico where his plan was to take a break and try his hand at retirement.  His plan was to exit the hectic world of startup creation and management. What he did not expect was that the exact opposite would happen.

Just months after his arrival, he began to receive calls from his contacts in California asking for support in developing their new startups.

Faced with this situation, Andy decided to create Agave Lab, a hub of developers in Guadalajara that could create products for US-based startups.  After several years of this work, he realized that there was an interesting opportunity to change course.

“There came a time when I realized that the same job I was doing for startups in the United States I could do here in Mexico, a less-saturated market with much better opportunities for early stage startups.”

First steps:

This idea is what led him to create Agave Lab Ventures, a startup factory which creates, invests in, and accelerates companies. The current portfolio is comprised of the companies: Regiztra, EasyLex, Digitt, Fondeo Directo and VoxFeed.

His work is mainly focused on developing early stage startups that have a clear idea about what they want to do and are in the process of turning their ideas into businesses.

“What we are looking for are founders who have a central idea and that are beginning to work on the first steps of their product development. We like to participate in the formation of the companies and their business plans,” says Kieffer.

“We spend long periods of time cultivating each startup. We get to know the founders really well and support them with management and administrative guidance so that they can progressively function more independently.” Kieffer explains.

To create the company and product, they use the same in-house teams and processes they used when building products for US-based startups.  So far, Agave Lab has invested approximately $1.5 million USD in the companies in its portfolio.

Choosing the right venture – pre investment

What is Andy Kieffer’s formula for evaluating and selecting good ventures? It all boils down to three main points:

-Engaging potential users to validate market need before investing.

-Using those same potential users to help refine the product strategy, and determine potential price point.

-Getting as close as possible to the entrepreneur.  By spending several months working with the entrepreneur in the pre-investment stage they are better able to understand their personality and their vision for the company’s direction.

Potential in Mexico

Kieffer says one thing is very clear: there is a big opportunity in Mexico for more successful startups.

“I see very good opportunities in this country.  There are large traditional markets that move hundreds of millions of dollars and are now facing global competition.  These traditional industries are where I think startups should focus.” Kieffer concludes.

Learn how Agave Lab operates