In November I quit my job as the editor of Wired to run 3D Robotics, the San Diego-based drone company I started with a partner as a side project three years ago. We make autopilot technology and small aircraft — both planes and multirotor copters — that can fly by themselves. The drones, which sell for a few hundred bucks, are for civilians: they don’t shoot anything but photographs and videos. And they’re incredibly fun to build (which we do with the ample help of robots). It wasn’t a hard decision to give up publishing for this.
But my company, like many manufacturers, is faced with a familiar challenge: its main competitors are Chinese companies that have the dual advantages of cheap labor and top-notch engineering. So, naturally, when we were raising a round of investment financing last year, venture capitalists demanded a plausible explanation for how our little start-up could beat its Chinese rivals. The answer was as much a surprise to the investors as it had been to me a few years earlier: Mexico. In particular, Tijuana.