By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News
The project is called the San Antonio MX prize.
And it’s worth $500,000.
“The coolest part about it though, is that we, the Geekdom community, get to be the first customer,” said Lorenzo Gomez, head of Geekdom and the 80/20 Foundation. “We get to launch our prize on this before anyone else in America.”
The founder of XPrize, Dr. Peter Diamandis raised a $10 million prize for the first team to create a rocket for private spaceflight. That prize changed the aviation world, Gomez said. Now Diamandis has launched HeroX to take all of those lessons learned in awarding big prizes and to crowdsource ideas to solve local and global problems, Gomez said.
On Wednesday night, Nidhi Chaudhary, HeroX challenge design manager from New York and Christie St. Martin, digital strategy and community development manager from Toronto, gave a sneak peak into the contest, which will run for 14 months.
Graham Weston, chairman of Rackspace and founder of Geekdom, put up the money for the San Antonio MX Prize through his personal foundation, the 80/20 Foundation.
A panel of judges will award $500,000 to the team that comes up with the best solution to develop a strong entrepreneurial network connecting Mexico and San Antonio.
“We want to give this money to an organization, or a team, that can actually remove barriers that can increase the amount of tech entrepreneurs coming in from Mexico to San Antonio,” Gomez said. “And the barriers that really hold people back are access to capital, access to Visa support, access to connections through the entrepreneurial ecosystem – how can I meet people that are already doing this or have done this. We want the winning team and all the teams that are competing to solve those problems.”
The network already exists between Mexico entrepreneurs and San Antonio, Gomez said. This prize is meant to accelerate efforts underway, he said.
“As a city so often we try to get the attention of Silicon Valley, Austin and what we should be doing is looking South,” Gomez said.
San Antonio wants to be the gateway for Mexican tech companies to launch into the U.S., Gomez said. And when a U.S. company wants to launch in Mexico, they go through San Antonio, he said.
For Geekdom’s challenge, the teams don’t get money for their ideas. They go out and solve the challenge, Chaudhary said. Then they must prove that they solved it and a panel of judges will decide the winner after 14 months, she said. To compete, the teams will register on the San Antonio HeroX page. They have until August 30th to register.
For example, if 500 Startups put an incubator in San Antonio for Mexican startups they would be a contender for the prize, Gomez said. Or if a Venture Capital company set up a fund to provide financing for the startups, they could compete, he said.
Geekdom will post the guidelines for the competition on its website by Jan. 15th listing the criteria to win.
“Our goal is not to make it so hard that no one wins the prize,” Gomez said. “We want someone to win.”
This competition is to shine a light on one of San Antonio’s biggest strengths, Gomez said.
“There is an existing network of Mexicans here already,” said Tito Salas, project manager of San Antonio MX Prize. Mexican companies like the proximity of San Antonio to Mexico, he said. They also like the culture here, he said. And it’s easy for non-native English speakers to communicate since many people in the city also speak Spanish, he said.
BioVideo of Monterrey, Mexico, located its U.S. headquarters to San Antonio at Geekdom, Gomez said. The company has gotten funding here and all of its U.S. connections are out of San Antonio, he said.
HeroX plans to launch other community-based challenges next year, Chaudhary said. The company is a for profit startup which makes money through fees for each campaign.
“We at Geekdom are honored to be the first guys to do something so progressive and innovative,” Gomez said.
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