Nearshore Americas

Kaxan Founder Depends on “Intelligence and Business Sense” of Dev Teams

Mexican tech firms should not be overly concerned about retention of talent because their workers will often return with news skills and better connections within a few short years. That is the philosophy of Ricardo Gomez Quiñones, president of the Kaxan Media Group, one of the brightest young companies in Mexico’s burgeoning digital entertainment sector.

Founded in the western city of Guadalajara known as “Mexico’s Silicon Valley” in October 2008, Kaxan primarily produces video games and animated movies. In mid-January it became the first company to move into the sector of Guadalajara’s historic city center that is set to become a Creative Digital City. This ambitious project aims to transform the area into a world-class hub of digital media development, spanning the creative industries from TV, cinema and advertising to videogames, digital animation, interactive multimedia and e-learning.

Finding and Retaining Talent

Being the first company to base itself in the area will not only create publicity and help Kaxan to attract talent, it will also provide it with sufficient office space to cope with its expansion. Kaxan has between 100 and 200 employees at any given time depending on the projects being undertaken, but the plan is to consolidate a staff of around 200 by the end of 2014, Gomez told Nearshore Americas at the new office in the heart of downtown Guadalajara.

Kaxan’s success has been reliant on hiring and developing the best talent in western Mexico, Gomez noted: “We have a special Kaxan Campuses where we hold competitions in different areas, such as animation, illustration, art or programming. We take some of the competitors in and put them in an intensive training course run by our staff and even some international experts in order to train them and get to know them. That’s how we select the best and we bring them into our company, and the others we send back to work for the competition!”

“It’s a model that we’ve been following for about four years at the Kaxan Campuses in Puerto Vallarta and Chapala and now we’re opening another training area at our new headquarters in Guadalajara. We don’t want to compete with the universities; it’s more a case of helping the graduates to specialize in great depth in the area where we want them,” he told Nearshore Americas.

“Regarding retention, we’re convinced that it’s a good thing that people go to other countries to discover different cultures and other ways of working, and to network and meet new people. So we’re open to people looking for new opportunities in other countries and even in other international businesses – and we know they’ll come back because they’ll miss the tortas ahogadas and the pozole (two delicious local specialties) and their families! Mexican people are very attached to their families and their customs. So it’s great if they leave for two or three years and then they come back with greater talent, better connections and a more global vision of the world. So we’re in favor of people emigrating,” Gomez added.

Building Innovative Products

In its short lifespan Kaxan has already established itself as a key player in Mexico’s booming communication and entertainment sector which has grown by 7.2% from 2008 to 2013. The sector is worth an estimated 17.4 billion dollars and contributes 6.7% of Mexico’s GDP, according to Guadalajara newspaper El Informador.

Mexico is one of the 15 biggest videogame consumers in the world, with US$664 million in sales in 2012, a recent Nearshore Americas white paper noted. It is also the world’s 18th biggest exporter of creative goods, with creative exports growing at a healthy 9.1% between 2003 and 2008 to reach US$5.2 billion.

Kaxan is one of the most prominent players in Mexico’s videogame industry, and the firm is best known for producing Taco Master, a multiplatform game in which users prepare increasingly complex orders of authentic Mexican tacos against the clock. Taco Master was named Best Mobile Game at the MTV 2012 Game Awards and in January 2014 reached a milestone of two million downloads in over 180 countries.

What is the key to producing innovative new products like Taco Master? “First, you must have intelligence, business sense. We have people who are identifying where the latest global trends are heading, in terms of both videogames and in movies. This intelligence must then be transmitted to everyone in the company,” Gomez said.

“We carry out a monthly exercise that we call Kaxan Day. On that day everyone that works in Kaxan proposes new ideas for feature-length films, shorts or videogames. And then we discuss all of the ideas, we choose the best and we continue working on them and they could end becoming movies or games,” he explained. “So that’s how we keep generating new ideas and new projects every month. Right now we’re working on three animated films that in different phases of production, we’re working on videogames related to the movies and other stand-alone games, and we’re starting to work on live-action films.”

Marketing the Business

Innovation is not limited to production, Gomez believes – it is also important when it comes to marketing. “Marketing has changed completely with the development of new technology. Every six to 12 months it’s changing and every year innovative new means of marketing are being presented in events such as the (CES) Consumer Electronics Show or in the COS (Content Optimization System) and in the videogames and movie sectors there are transformations constantly taking place. That’s why the business intelligence center is so important, in order to know where you’re going and how to keep adapting,” Gomez said.

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While Taco Master has an obvious appeal within Mexico, Kaxan needed the help of experienced international distributors to make it a global hit, Gomez added. “We have strategic alliances at a global level with international distributors. When it comes to videogames we have an agreement with (Angry Birds publisher) Chillingo, which is the biggest distributor of mobile videogames. For example they distributed Taco Master on the iOS platform and now we also distribute it on the Android, Nokia and Windows platforms. And we also use global strategic alliances for distributing our movies.”

Duncan Tucker

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