Updates from IBD: Mexico City

Is the Agave plant magical?

Is it possible to be adopted into a Mexican family in less than 3 days?

Is it advisable to go to a Lucha Libre fight?


Can we stop unnecessary blindness in Mexico?


From our first week in Mexico, it appears that the answers are yes, yes, yes and YES!


Starting with the last question: Can we stop unnecessary blindness in Mexico?


The vision of salaUno, our client, is to eradicate unnecessary blindness in Mexico.  Co-founded by a Berkeley MBA/MPH, salaUno is a social enterprise that offers low-cost, high-quality eye surgery to reach the more than 2 million eyes with cataracts in Mexico.  The clinic is efficient and affordable (for some patients with great need, it’s free), and the patient experience far exceeds that of the public where the wait for a surgery is typically 8-12 months and the patients are treated poorly by hospital staff.

Since opening in August, salaUno has performed more than 1,200 eye surgeries and has become well known in Mexico – it’s been featured in the #1 selling magazine and on television, and Carlos and Javier are being recognized as one of the top 10 Mexico entrepreneurs in the Mexican version of Forbes. 

With the success it has already experienced, salaUno has an aggressive growth goal going forward, in hopes to impact as many people in Mexico as possible.

Our team has been focused on 3 of salaUno’s top priorities for growth:

  • Recommending a selling process for counselors to increase the take-up of paid surgeries
  • Designing the metrics and analytics to track in a new ERP system, as well as how to integrate it in the daily processes of the organization
  • Reshaping the strategy and recruiting process for eye camps in Mexico’s poorest areas

On our path to recommendations and implementation, we organized focus groups with patients, conducted interviews and trainings with current employees, and held numerous diverging and converging sessions to prioritize the key issues and ideas.  We also visited outreach eye camps, analyzed patient data, and talked to partners who help us organize camps. 

As a result of our work and salaUno’s support and engagement, we have made significant changes to the counseling, data management and eye camp strategies:

  • We’ve held several training sessions for counselors on the full patient consultation process and piloted the first pieces of our recommendations this weekend.  Counselors are already integrating the new tactics in daily consultations and initial feedback is positive
  • We’ve designed key tools in CRM that will increase the revenue and efficiency of salaUno, including better follow up with patients, sales metrics reporting, easier scheduling for staff, and more accurate cash forecasting
  • We’ve recommended ways to reduce critical barriers in eye camps, specifically by making camp-sourced surgeries free and setting up transportation for patients

With this work we are directly expanding salaUno’s growth and impact, and are changing the lives of its patients.


Now to discuss the other questions….


Is the Agave plant magical?


Both salaUno teams took a trip to the pyramids our first weekend in Mexico.  It was a full day tour, where we learned about the history of Mexico and climbed steep pyramids from the 10th century.  It was also our experience with the agave plant, the basis for much of Mexico’s products. 

Ok, so it depends on your definition of the word “magical”, but how else can you describe a plant that is the source of food, drink, clothing, musical and writing materials?!  Specifically, the agave has the following uses:

  • Mezcal (Tequila is the most common type), of which a mere shot induces Masaki to tell incredible/horrifying stories
  • Edible flowers that are sweet when roasted
  • Syrup that can be used in cooking and binding
  • Didgeridoos made from the stalks
  • Fibers for clothing
  • Sharp tip that can used as a needle (with the thread), pens, and nails
  • Reduce indigestion and inflammation

Our agave plant guide giving tasters of Mezcal and Tequila to energize us before we climbed some pyramids


Is it possible to be adopted into a Mexican family in less than 3 days?

Our own Larry Pier spent a weekend with a Mexican family after only 3 days talking to them at salaUno.  Here’s the back story:

Day 1 salaUno had us go through the patient experience at the clinic.  We provided medical information, had an eye exam, met with an optometrist, and spent around 90 minutes in the waiting area.  Sitting among the families and elderly patients in the waiting room, we saw salaUno as its patients do on a first visit: treated with respect by knowledgeable staff, but also confused by the steps in the patient screening process, and unsure whether our wait would be 15 minutes or 4 hours.  Only a few hours and we already recognized opportunities for salaUno.


salaUno waiting room

Speaking of opportunities, Larry took advantage of our time in the waiting room to strike up a conversation (in broken Spanish) with a Mexican family.  They were supporting an older member of the family as he got a consultation for surgery.  They ended up talking for around an hour.  The family returned 2 other times that week, once for the surgery and another time for a check-up, and each time they talked to Larry.  By the 3rd day, they invited Larry to a Mexican weekend birthday party a couple hours out of town.  Larry happily accepted. 

We don’t know much about what happened that weekend, but we do know that Larry eventually returned with 30 pounds of sketchy meat and refused to speak Spanish for several days after.


Is it advisable to go to a Lucha Libre fight?


Lucha Libre, the pro wrestling of Mexico, is stylistically different from US pro wrestling.  While the US focuses on soap-opera plots and dialogue, Lucha Libre is mostly masked, quiet, and highly acrobatic.  Flips and dives are frequent. 

Four of us from the 2 salaUno teams attended a Lucha Libre fight last week: Clement Rispal, Dan Stotts, Larry Pier, and Tara English.  Despite Lucha Libre’s worldwide recognition, the ticketing process was bare-bones:


Our seating was a quick experience with low-stakes bribery: after buying tickets, we were sat only 3 rows from the front and then asked for money for the seating position. 

The fights began, and went on, and on, and on.  In total the event lasted nearly 3 hours.  One highlight the introduction of the “gender bender” wrestler, with a pink Mohawk, skirt and sash, and a signature move of the “beso” (“kiss”) to torment wrestlers he pinned. 

Check out a video excerpt of a fight:  http://youtu.be/BI3a3tNnzUY


Clearly, IBD has presented us with questions we’d never thought to ask before.  We look forward to seeing what our last few days hold for us!


The team! — Tina, Masaki, Tara, Larry

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