Mexico City Creator Awards 2018 – blooders pitch by César Esquivel Tellez

The crowd might have seemed partisan to Antonio Purón. The Hola<code> cheerleaders were out in force, springing up from their chairs, banners in hand at every mention of their organization. The two owners of Ceviche Surf had their raucous fans, as did the all-female team of biotechnology engineers from Ecoplaso. Yet Purón stood undaunted.

He strode to the mic to state his mission in 45 seconds: “TAK-TAK-TAK is a project for children at the bottom of the pyramid to receive an education.” His project, TAK-TAK-TAK by Inoma, has developed 85 video games across mobile and PC platforms to teach children in underserved communities through play.

Asked how he was sure children would play his games, he replied, “We went to Chiapas [one of Mexico’s poorest states] to a remote school with very low connectivity [and] installed our games. We found out the kids asked the teacher to open the school on Sundays to play TAK-TAK-TAK.” The best kind of answer—simple, powerful, and deserving of the US $180,000 Audience Choice Award.

Amid headlines about crime or immigration involving Mexico, the Mexico City Creator Awards was the place to recognize a very different reality. Virtually every creator, nominated and awarded, spoke of a unique and joint commitment: using their ideas, their energy, their very blood to make Mexico a better place.

Every creator spoke of a unique and joint commitment: using their ideas, their energy, their very blood to make Mexico a better place.

This blend of national pride and creative commitment was peppered throughout the first Creator Awards held in Mexico City. The global competition, sponsored by WeWork, celebrates ideas with impact and heads to Shanghai next. Hosted at the Corona Forum, more than 2,700 people gathered to witness the best of the country’s entrepreneurial culture. Besides the Audience Choice Award and a Community Giver Award for those doing good within their WeWork community, prizes were given out in three main categories: the Incubate Award, for great ideas or specific projects that need funding; the Launch Award, for young businesses and organizations that need a little help getting off the ground; and the Scale Award, which is for more established operations aiming to get to the next level.

Watch the whole event on Facebook Live:

Creator Awards México

Sintoniza el próximo jueves 1 de febrero nuestro Facebook Live a las 8 p.m. para ver a algunos de los creadores más inspiradores de México contándonos porque deben ser los ganadores de los #creatorwards ¡Las grandes ideas merecen grandes celebraciones!

Posted by WeWork on Thursday, February 1, 2018

To kick things off, industry leaders hosted master classes before the awards ceremony. The first panel, featuring chef Eduardo García, discussed culinary entrepreneurship.

“I saw Mexico as a country where opportunities didn’t exist,” he said. “But I found a completely different country. I arrived [in 2007] with nothing in my pockets, so I tell my cooks that if they truly want to achieve something, they can do it.” Eleven years later, his culinary mastery has led him to own three renowned restaurants and create more than 100 jobs.

The crowd gave Garcia a standing ovation as he said that despite being seen as “illegal aliens” in the US, Mexicans have every opportunity to succeed.  

Watch the master classes on Facebook Live:

WeWork Creator Awards México Master Classes

¡Los premios #creatorawards llegan a la Ciudad de México! Tendremos a los chefs Eduardo Garcia y Elena Reygadas hablando de sus inicios como emprendedores y cómo se convirtieron en renombrados chefs. Además, la estrella de pop-rock mexicano Natalia Lafourcade Oficial discutirá con la editora en jefe de Vogue México y Latinoamérica, Karla Martínez su camino hacia el reconocimiento mundial a través de su arte. ¡Asegúrate de sintonizar nuestro Facebook Live, no querrás perderte estas interesantes pláticas!

Posted by WeWork on Thursday, February 1, 2018

That energy and participation was the lifeblood of the evening. Shouts of “I love you” accompanied singer Natalia Lafourcade as she sat down for an interview with Karla Martinez, editor-in-chief of Vogue México.

Even Miguel McKelvey, co-founder and Chief Culture Officer of WeWork, was taken aback when he took to the stage. “This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I gotta take a picture from up here.” Despite his first name, McKelvey apologized for not speaking Spanish before revealing how impressed WeWork had been with the creativity shown in the over 1,300 applications received in the Creator Awards.

The need for such creativity was evident in the range of the candidates for the Incubate awards. Acordando Caminos transports people living in remotest Mexico when in need of medical emergencies. El Pequeño Gran Escritor gathers stories written by children and has them illustrated by professional artists before publishing them. In the end, all six Incubate finalists took home $18,000.

Then came time for the Launch category and a passionate pitch from César Esquivel Tellez. His organization, Blooders, puts those in need of blood donations in touch with potential donors across Mexico via an app. This might seem an obvious solution in the age of crowdsourcing, but, as Esquivel Tellez said, “One in four people will need blood at some point, yet Mexico is the worst country in Latin America for blood donations.”

Beyond having helped 13,000 people receive blood in 2017, Blooders also uses a novel idea: get them while they’re young. By visiting schools across the country, Blooders raises awareness among kids about the importance of blood donation and gets them to bring in their parents to donate. In his 45-second pitch, Esquivel Tellez said he hoped to reach 30,000 people in 2018. The $180,000 Launch prize will help him meet that goal.

Finally, the big winner of the evening was Someone Somewhere, which won $360,000 in the Scale category. The idea for Someone Somewhere arose when Antonio Nuño and his friends visited artisans around Mexico and saw the poor conditions they lived in. “There are 7 million artisans living in poverty in Mexico, often because their products simply are not useful on a daily basis,” he said.

Fifteen years later, Someone Somewhere has, on average, tripled the revenue of its suppliers, making T-shirts, hats, and backpacks designed for everyday wear. Nuño’s win in the Scale category was sealed when he encapsulated the next step for his company: the lucrative US market.

At a time of division and doubt, what could be more meaningful than improving the lives of Mexican craftsmen than by tapping the neighbor to the north of the Rio Grande? McKelvey asked for an XXL shirt on the spot.

César Esquivel Tellez of Blooders delivers his pitch.
Holacode gets a standing ovation.
Miguel McKelvey and Antonio Nuño celebrate Someone Somewhere's Scale Award.
Tak-Tak-Tak by Inoma takes home a prize.

Winners of the 2018 Mexico City Creator Awards

Scale – $360,000

Someone Somewhere

Launch – $180,000


Audience Choice – $180,000

Tak-Tak-Tak by Inoma


Incubate – $18,000

Acortando caminos

Amigos sin Frontera a.c.

Ceviche Surf Co


El Pequeño Gran Escritor

KROKIS diseñando experiencia


Community Giver Award – $18,000

Documentalistas Sin Fronteras

Voluntarios México


Photos by Katelyn Perry

Your child’s daycare is closing. Your car needs a new carburetor. Your elderly father is suffering from a terminal illness. Your home improvement project has morphed into a money pit. The relentless news cycle makes you want to pull the covers over your head and stay there until Saturday.

Yet even as these types of ongoing stresses are occurring in your life, you must still go to work and try to perform at your best. While pulling that off isn’t easy, it is possible. Those who work in the mental health field say there are tools that help a person stay productive at work even when their personal life threatens to dominate their thoughts.

A main component, they say, is being honest with yourself and others about the stresses and your personal needs.

“Anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high,” says Poppy Jamie, the 28-year-old founder of the meditation app Happy Not Perfect. “We all understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed.”

Jamie, a member of the board of advisors for UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, says that if those stresses are personal ones, they can spill over into work performance if time isn’t taken to acknowledge and process them.

“When you suppress emotions, you activate the emotional center of your brain,” Jamie says. It’s the opposite of what many are hoping for at work, where maintaining a calm and rational demeanor is often helpful to make the best decisions.

Earlier this year, Jamie’s app debuted a five-minute exercise called Refresh that uses science-backed steps to help you approach your day in a more centered way. The app asks how you are feeling, with choices ranging from “sad,” “heartbroken,” and “anxious” to “excited” and even “magical.” The program then moves through a breathing exercise, noting when you should inhale and exhale.

On World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health, Jamie led a breathing exercise at London’s WeWork 138 Holborn. She discussed how people aren’t stuck with the way their mind works—it’s possible to be less stressed if you retrain yourself to handle it better.

But Jamie’s approach is about more than breathing. On her app you can vent by typing in what’s on your mind and then “burn” the whole screen in a symbolic manner to let go of negative thoughts. You are prompted to list things you are grateful for, doodle on the screen, or pass along a compliment to a friend.

In times of high stress, Jamie says, it’s paramount to identify what will help you relax. This “radical self care,” as she calls it, includes basics like proper sleep and hydration, but also requires that you consider things that specifically calm you down and then commit to doing whatever that might be. It can be as simple as drinking more hot tea or leaving a few minutes early to make a yoga class.

“When we are struggling, we forget what we need to feel better,” Jamie says.

If something beyond the simple stresses of daily life is weighing you down, Jamie says you should not hesitate to seek professional help or take some time off. If you have personal days, it’s wise to take advantage of them.

“Allowing yourself to recover is really important,” she says. “And being able to then, when you’re recovered, go back to work [at] full steam. You wouldn’t keep training on a sprained ankle—you’d take a couple of days off to make it rest.”

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, co-founders of Shine, send an inspirational text daily to their 2 million community members across the globe. They advise that when stress becomes something that impacts your work, it needs to be brought up to a supervisor.

“A good rule of thumb is if you feel your struggles are impacting your ability to get the job done, flagging that to your boss will hopefully get you the proactive support you need,” says the 35-year-old Hirabayashi, who works from Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights. “What we always find helpful in that scenario: Come with a few ideas or solutions for how they can best support you, not just the problem, for the most productive conversation.”

Jack Jones, founder of Australia’s The Banksia Project, which works with men to develop practices to implement positive mental health strategies, says putting in the time to build a positive office environment will pay off when stress threatens to impact work performance.

“When outside stressors are significant, we have to put on a facade as to how we really feel when we get to work,” says Jones, who is based at Sydney’s WeWork 333 George Street. “We therefore spend the majority of our day pretending we are okay, when at times, we aren’t. It is extremely important to create relationships with people in your workplace that allow you to be honest, open, and vulnerable.”

That means sharing struggles with colleagues and doing the same for them.

“We need to feel comfortable to talk to our colleagues about life’s challenges and know that they will also be willing to show vulnerability towards us in return,” says Jones, 25. “In order to safely do this, people need to be willing to listen honestly and openly after they ask a question like ‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you okay?’”

Taking time during the day to enjoy the simple pleasures can also improve your mood and lower stress.

“We need to slow down and stop to enjoy the first sip of our coffee,” says Jones. “Enjoy the beauty of someone deciding to wear a bright scarf on a rainy, miserable day.”

Jamie agrees with Jones that being positive affects everyone around you.

“Looking after your mental well-being is a priority not only because it’s beneficial to yourself, it’s also hugely beneficial to the business environment,” she says.

As the weather cools down, shoppers review their closets, looking to fill any gaps in their own wardrobes and preparing their children to go back to school. Direct-to-consumer apparel companies — which bypass traditional bricks-and-mortar stores — evaluate trends in shopping habits and find a way to make tasks easier on consumers.

Three startups are using technology and integrating customer feedback to do just that. One helps men buy unique, perfectly fitting shirts; another looks to easily fill what may be a guy’s most important (and most ignored) drawer; and a third assists parents in properly sizing their kids’ feet to make online shoe-shopping easier.

Every great outfit starts with what goes under it, but Laura and Michael Dweck (29 and 31, respectively) know that most men don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort shopping for socks and underwear. So in 2015, after a post-honeymoon fight over Michael’s overstuffed underwear drawer, they started Basic Outfitters, “an online destination for men to refresh their basics drawer in under two minutes,” says Laura, the creative director. For $60, customers can select a pack of socks, a pack of underwear, a pack of T-shirts and a “wildcard basic” — jogger-style pants or an extra set of socks, underwear, or tees. (The success of the company — it now has a team of 10 working out of its office at WeWork 135 Madison Avenue — landed the founders on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.)

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura Dweck of Basic Outfitters.

Basic Outfitters quickly learned customers couldn’t be grouped into “basic” or “fashion” categories, so the wares come in a variety of styles. Even if a guy initially chooses plain socks, Laura said, he’ll often go for a bonus pack of the popular “micro-conversational” prints for socks or boxers, which feature prints like motorcycles or palm trees. And sometimes male stereotypes do turn out to be correct: Basic Outfitters’ customers can’t get enough blue, but yellow regularly remains on their virtual shelves.

Laura has learned perhaps more than she ever expected to about men’s underwear preferences — Basic Outfitters followed early feedback requesting boxer briefs with a fly opening, and their popularity persuaded the company to develop more such styles.

Taking fashion risks

Woodies Clothing, which sells custom button-down shirts (starting at $85) and chinos (starting at $98) from its website, also discovered that men are willing to take fashion risks, even with  collared shirts. While Woodies’ bestsellers include straightforward no-iron blue and white button-downs, a flamingo-print shirt sold out in its first run. “That’s something we were not expecting,” says founder Jacob Wood, who works from 175 Varick Street in Lower Manhattan. Since moving into WeWork in 2014, Woodies has expanded to a staff of five.

Customers may be pleasantly surprised by how extensively Woodies has streamlined its process of ordering a custom shirt, which involves a dizzying number of options for collars, cuffs, and pockets. When Wood, a former buyer at Macy’s, founded his company in 2014, early iterations of the site suggested that customers use a tape measure and watch videos to take their measurements. Needless to say, that idea didn’t fly.

With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts,” says Jacob Wood of Woodies.

Now, the 31-year-old entrepreneur says, “we have an algorithm: With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts.” Pant sizes can similarly be determined when the customer provides his waist size.

Kicking around an idea

One startup is trying to make shopping for kids’ shoes easier for parents. Growing kids’ sizes are always changing, and it can be difficult to get those growing kids to cooperate in a brick-and-mortar store. So Jenzy‘s app directs customers to snap a picture of a child’s foot next to a credit-card-sized card (preferably one that doesn’t show financial information, like a library or store loyalty card). The app, which serves kids up to 6 years old (there are plans to extend the age range), then recommends the best sizes for the child in various brands and styles, including those from well-known manufacturers like Keen and Pediped.

“We’ve been live in the App Store for about two months and have about 1,500 downloads,” says Carolyn Horner, who co-founded the company with Eve Ackerley. The two are very pleased with their return rate.

It was not the most obvious path for the two child-free 20-somethings, but as they thought about starting their own clothing company, they kept hearing from friends who were frustrated with buying children’s shoes online. They realized that they could simplify the process.

Development of the app involved a lot of trial and error for Horner and Ackerley, who met teaching in China after college and are now based at WeWork 1601 Market in Philadelphia. Well before they were ready to send it to mommy bloggers for review, they found a surefire way to entice fellow WeWork members to test-drive the app in the building’s common areas. “We’d bring doughnuts to the beta test,” says Horner. Not only did they meet parents who offered suggestions, they got acquainted with a graphic designer who ended up doing the UX for their site.

The founders of Basic Outfitters also picked up tips from the WeWork community. One particularly lucky break, Laura Dweck says, was meeting a video producer in the WeWork building who agreed to shoot a series for social media to build buzz. “He put together some incredible footage, taking influencers around the city to film people going through their life wearing our basics,” she says.

The experienced producer, who’s done work for brands such as Bravo and Chevrolet, simply believed in the product. Laura says she recalls him saying, “I’ll do this for you guys — let’s have some fun.”

Dweck says the producer gathered some social-media influencers and filmed them going about their days in Basic Outfitters attire. Soon the company was getting notes from people who loved the clothing, including some women who wanted it to expand its product line.

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura. “We started the company to help out men, but now the demand for a women’s drawer is off the charts.”

“I’ve always worked in dusty, old, unsexy industries,” says 35-year-old entrepreneur Omri Stern, who dreamed about starting his own company in a more exciting field.

So what’s he doing in insurance, one of the least sexy fields imaginable?

It turned out that when he needed business insurance, Stern tried unsuccessfully to buy a policy on five different websites from 10 different brokers. If consumers could quickly and easily buy car or life insurance online, Stern asked himself, why couldn’t small businesses take advantage of the same technology?

Omri Stern says investors have taken notice, giving Jones a hefty amount of early stage funding.

This realization led Stern and partner Michael Rudman to found Jones, an app that offers pay-as-you-go liability insurance to independent contractors. It currently focuses on construction and real estate companies, but will be moving into related industries in the future.

Jones has been flying under the radar so far, getting a few brief mentions in the business media. But investors have taken notice, giving the company a hefty amount of early stage funding.

Where they’re based: Stern and two other staffers operate out of WeWork Soho West, while the other seven employees work in Tel Aviv. That’s where Stern is from and where the company’s research and development house is located.  

Their inspiration: Stern got a broker’s license just to understand the ins and outs of the overly complicated system. “When you’re actually faced with needing insurance, it’s really expensive,” says Stern. “It takes weeks, and your client wants it by tomorrow.”

Their first big success: Even though it just opened its app to the public, Jones is already offering policies to a handful of clients through insurers like Chubb and Atlas General Services.

Their early investors: Jones has already raised $2.8 million in funding. Their investors include JLL, the second-largest commercial real estate brokerage firm in the world.

What makes them different from other companies: Because insurance is so expensive, it doesn’t make sense for most contractors to buy insurance for an entire year if they only need it part of the time. But Stern says Jones can save them a significant amount of money by turning on their insurance when a project starts and off when it’s over.

Photos by Frank Mullaney

If you think a nonprofit called Everybody Dance Now! is all about shaking your booty, you’d be right. But you’d also be wrong.

The New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

“But dance is not the goal,” says executive director Olakunle Oladehin. “The goal is reshaping what is the way to properly educate. Hip-hop dance culture can inspire and uplift. I think that’s really what we are doing.”

Oladehin and his colleagues say the loss of dance and music education in many public schools has been a tragedy.  “We have done a disservice becoming a test-focused educational system,” he says. The impact, he adds, is felt disproportionately among low-income populations and communities of color.

This New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

The programming from Oladehin’s organization includes professionally taught dance classes, dance-off competitions, and full-scale performances. It’s essentially the movie Step Up playing out in elementary and middle schools across the country.

If all this sounds like something a kid would love, that’s probably because it was started by one. Jackie Rotman was 14 when she launched the organization in 2005. She still serves on the board but is currently concentrating on getting master’s degrees from both the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Oladehin has always loved dance but didn’t discover hip hop until college. Up until that point he was planning to attend medical school, but he took a little time off and decided to enter public health. Then he heard about the opening at Everybody Dance Now! and thought the position was a perfect way to merge his personal and professional interests.

Winning at the Nashville Creator Awards will help with for organization-wide expansion. Everybody Dance Now! currently serves 3,500 students in New York, Portland, Houston, and other cities. Oladehin has four new cities “ready to go” to help make that expansion a reality.