Nearshore Americas

Nexus 2024 Keynote: The Reward is in the Journey, Says Bismark Lepe

“I think there’s a lot more opportunity. Whether or not countries, individuals  [in the nearshore] take this opportunity is still waiting to be seen,” commented Bismarck Lepe, Wizeline’s Founder & Executive Chairman, who delivered the keynote address at Nexus 2024  on Thursday.

The oldest son of Mexican immigrants, Bismarck is a nearshore success story himself.  His parents migrated to the US  from a small town in the state of Jalisco, and gave him the tools that would eventually allow him to build and direct Wizeline –which is barely a decade old– through most of its existence. Now the company is one of Latin America’s largest and most successful providers of nearshore IT, employing over 2,000 people across 15 countries, and providing service to more than 170 customers globally.

Much of that success, he told the Nexus 2024 audience, came from his parents’ obsession with his education.

Wizeline Founder & Executive Chairman Bismarck Lepe shares his story with the Nexus 2024 audience

“My parents were maniacal about education,” Bismarck said.  “When I was in second grade, they earned US$13,000 combined. They bought me a US$3,000 computer and  hired someone to teach me how to program, teach me about software.”

“My parents sat me down and told me ‘Look, we don’t know how this educational system works in the US, but you have to go to school. We’ll work three, four, five jobs; whatever’s necessary for you to go  to a good school’,” he added.

Like other successful Latin American players in tech, Bismarck hammered home the point that wider access to education is a surefire road to success for any country, as well as the first step to eliminate the biases surrounding Latin America’s capabilities in general.

“I think we’ll start to lose that negative bias that I had of Mexico when we decided to invest in Guadalajara,” Bismarck said. “I think we’ll begin to see more and more latinos in executive positions at these tech companies. They’re going to be more willing to accept Latin America as a nearshore tech provider.”

NSAM Managing Director & Chief Analyst Kirk Laughlin (left) and Bismarck Lepe (right) share the stage at Nexus 2024

“Right now it’s heavily influenced by Indian players, because there are a lot of Indian execs,” he added, “I think you’ll start to see a more positive bias in LATAM, which, if you’re doing business in LATAM,  will be a win for you.”

But it’s going to take more than college degrees. Today, in the tech industry, it’s all about specialization.

“It’s going to be important that people specialize. It’s going to be important that the entire region becomes an avid user of AI tools,” he commented. “Because you can’t argue with numbers. If you think about India, it is 10 times bigger than  Mexico. Mexico needs to be not 10 times more productive, but 100 times more productive if it wishes to keep its position.”

Leading the right people

One of Bismarck’s many claims to fame is working at Google during the early days of the company. He saw the organization grow and learned many things about how a successful tech company should operate, how to lead teams, and more. 

“When we started at Ooyala –and we continue to do this in Wizeline–, we set the bar very high in terms of job interviews. But once they [the hirees] got in, we treated them incredibly well. Once is a product of their experiences. We saw that at Google, so we thought it might work at Ooyala,” he shared with Nexus attendees during his keynote speech.

“At school, even though I was working insane hours and taking classes, I always had these little businesses. I tried to start five different startups. They all failed. It was going to Google what really taught me that it’s not only about building a product; it’s about learning to sell it, to hire people, to properly compensate. Learning how to lead.”

“It was going to Google what really taught me that it’s not only about building a product; it’s about learning to sell it, to hire people, to properly compensate. Learning how to lead”—Bismarck Lepe

This approach has also led Bismarck down a path of what he terms “a higher purpose.” Growing up in a low-income household, he obsessed over material wealth during the early days of his career. 

Eventually, though, after coming in contact with his roots in Mexico, he realized that he could do more than making money for himself and his business.

“In 2009, after looking all over the world and deciding to set up offices in Guadalajara, that reconnected me with my roots, and I think it gave me a higher purpose,” he said. “Growing up poor, the life-long goal for me was making money […] I joined Google pre-IPO, Google goes public, and now I’ve made some money. That made the urge to make money sort of disappear; it wasn’t my driving force anymore.”

Now, with Wizeline’s 10 years of success behind him, Bismarck han say for sure that leadership is mostly about two things: 1) hiring the right people and 2) building strong relationships with them.

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“It’s really important to hire the right people. When I’ve been successful with a team is when I’m surrounded by a group of people that are also themselves entrepreneurs,” Bismarck explained. “These are people who are constantly walking around, being consciously curious about the world, and they’re always thinking about what can be done differently. If you hire those people, they’re going to be thinking about that in your company. They’re going to be self-driven.”

“Just be a good person. Avoid being an asshole,” he underscored. “You can be tough, raise your voice, but just don’t be an asshole. And you’ll find you can make life-long relationships with these people you work with, and people you work for”. 

Cesar Cantu

Cesar is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. He's a journalist based in Mexico City, with experience covering foreign trade policy, agribusiness and the food industry in Mexico and Latin America.

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