Blue Trail, Innovation Meets Tradition in Tepatitlán

Blue Trail Software started its development from the small Mexican town of Tepatitlán

From the Guadalajara International Airport, the city of Tepatitlán is a 30-minute ride down the highway 80D that crosses through Jalisco’s Los Altos (Eastern Jalisco). After the Tepatitlán exit sign and the $4 toll, behind a Rotary Club sign greeting visitors, a panoramic view unveils a city expanding beyond horizon line.

Tepatitlán de Morelos – Tepa for the locals – is your typical Mexican city. The Spanish have settled in Tepa almost 500 years ago, and continuously applied the architectural and landscaping ideals imported from Europe. Walking downtown, you encounter a real square plaza, the grandiose San Francisco cathedral, a rectangular City Hall, and the nearby flea market.

Around this historic centro, a city is growing. Fast. Extremely fast. So fast that the city officials submitted to the Congress of Jalisco their intention to create the Metropolitan area of Tepatitlán de Morelos (along with the municipalities of Arandas, San Miguel del Alto, and San Ignacio Cerro Gordo) to anticipate the region’s rapid growth. The proposal was declined, yet the city keeps growing.

Traditionally, Tepa is a livestock city, a major producer of chicken in the country. Every year in April, the city organizes its annual fiesta, the Tepabril, where livestock farmers from all over the country gather to show off their bred and fed cattle. The city’s cows produce the Navarro cheese, which won the World Championship Cheese Contest 2018 (best Latin American style hard cheese), and can be found in every store across Mexico.

The city expands rapidly but its economy needs to diversify to create favorable conditions for further growth. Within an hour drive from central Guadalajara, coined the Silicon Valley of Mexico, a handful of tech entrepreneurs took the leap and settled in Tepa, betting on the city’s growth and its need to develop a tech economy on its turf.

On Saturdays, Tepatitlenses go to the soccer stadium to cheer their team, the Club Deportivo de Tepatitlán de Morelos. On Sundays, the streets around the stadium turn into a flea market, an attraction for tourists looking for an authentic Mexican experience. During the week, techies working for the city’s main software company, Blue Trail Software, take over the area.

The office building of Blue Trail Software in Tepa is located 3 blocks away from the official limits of the historic downtown, yet its neo-colonial style makes you feel right in the middle of it. The building is clean, the paint is fresh, and a large neon-sign logo of the company on the building’s front stands like a flag of the Silicon Valley floating over Tepa.

A restaurant occupies the ground floor, and Blue Trail the 2 upper floors. The first floor is a wide open space. A magnificent split curved staircase occupies the center of the room. The ramp is metal-embroidered, the steps shine like marble. This architectural marvel is surrounded by modern furniture covered with computers and cables running all over them.

The ground floor restaurant serves Chinese food. There aren’t many Asians in Tepa, but surprisingly enough, you can find an authentic traditional Japanese house in the city. It is in great condition, and has been built on stilts on what seems to be a dried out river. The History of Tepa is rich in cultural influences. The French invaded the city in 1864, an event that the locals still mention today to explain the different blood that runs through their veins.

The co-founder of Blue Trail is also French, though he settled in the United States years ago. He founded Blue Trail in San Francisco, CA, and quickly opened an office in Mexico to hire more affordable software developers. He co-founded the company with his wife, born in Yahualica de González Gallo, a picturesque town not far from Tepa.

For a software company, hiring employees in a rural area sounded rather complicated. It was not. Blue Trail faced some challenges, but the company designed a strategy aligned with its economic environment and it worked. Most employees come from other cities, sometimes other states of Mexico, to work for Blue Trail. One time, the parents of one employee came from another state to visit. They enjoyed Tepa so much that… they permanently moved there.

The question raised here is the following: Do those employees love Blue Trail or Tepa?

During the 1950s, because it is one of the highest points of Jalisco’s Los Altos, the city became a major relay of radio transmissions. That didn’t turn the city into a tech hub, but it made the city extremely well-connected to the rest of the country.

For those unsavvy about the Mexican geography, Guadalajara is very close to the famous city of Tequila (so close that one can clearly see the Tequila volcano from Guadalajara’s hilltops). The Mexican alcohol is actually produced throughout the state of Jalisco. Many tequilerias operate around Tepa, including the famous San Matias, the Château-Lafite of Tequilas.

Compared to Guadalajara, living in Tepa is cheaper, the traffic is lighter, the people are nice and laid-back, and the women of Los Altos have the nationwide reputation of being among Mexico’s prettiest.

Walking up the split curved staircase of Blue Trail, we reach the rooftop, which was entirely refurbished into a chill zone, with hammocks, barbecue grills, large shades, outside couches, and eventually loud music and beer on Friday nights. There is also a panoramic view of the city skyline, a superb opportunity to mingle with the employees over the sunset.

The youngest are interns following Blue Trail’s intensive program to become top developers. They’re trained by the older kids of the company, those who also started at Blue Trail and stayed through the development of the company. Like any tech company, Blue Trail faces the challenge of recruiting and retaining the best talents. Areas like Tepa have limited tech education power (the University of Guadalajara has a branch there), even though its new generation (the depicted millennials) loves technology. Blue Trail sensed that, and its training program now became the company’s source of eternal youth.

There is a mysterious tale about Tepa, the Leyendas de Tepatitlán : It is said that an enchanted, illuminated town with a lake exists deep down under the city’s ground. One day, a child fell into a crevice and found this magical place. After five years, he found a way out, and when he finally got back to his family, he discovered that everyone but him had aged in five years. 

Would this crevice be hidden under a building in Tepa that has a split curved staircase on its upper floors? Maybe not, but the histories of Blue Trail and Tepa are definitely intertwined.