“We’re going to dedicate the first episode of ‘Toy or No Toy’ to Bocas del Toro,” announced Mayer Mizrachi Matalon during his most recent Bocas del Toro visit. “We’re going to film it in Bocas del Toro and I want all the entrepreneurs of Bocas del Toro to apply for Toy or No Toy, to reactivate the economy of Bocas del Toro, together in the private sector.”
Toy o No Toy could be characterized as Panama’s version of the show “Shark Tank,” where the contestants present their current business or an idea to start a new one; all with the opportunity to secure capital or develop a strategic partnership. Mayer is one of the show’s three hosts (and investors) and all Bocas del Toro local entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply before the deadline on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.
Quite the accomplished businessman himself, the Geeky Drop and Geeky Motors founder has visited our community many times throughout the years, including a few times since the pandemic. Whenever he visits, Mayer is not shy to share his impressions of Bocas del Toro. On his most recent visit, he referred to Bocas del Toro as a “gem of tourism” with “wasted potential.” We followed up with the 35 year old tech mogul for more of his thoughts and we’re honored to publish this interview, a review “Mayer-istico” of Bocas del Toro, if you will.
Why is Bocas del Toro “a jewel of tourism”? What are some of the reasons you like to visit?
In order to really appreciate what Bocas del Toro is, you have to travel and see what other countries have in order to realize how valuable and unique it is what we have in our hands is in terms of tourism. That is why many of the residents of Bocas del Toro/Isla Colon are foreigners who came to visit, fell in love and decided to stay. Personally, for me Bocas is special because it merges the two nationalities: Panama and Jamaica. I always say that Bocas is the most Jamaican thing outside of Jamaica. From the patois, to the food, to the beaches and the kindness of the people. In fact, I dare say that Bocas is more like Jamaica than it is Panama.
When did you start coming to Bocas and how many times have you visited us?
In 2016 I began to frequent Bocas and all the internal tourism that Panama has to offer. Having visited a large part of the country, today I always gravitate to Bocas since it is a way to disconnect from Panama City life. I go almost every 2 months.
What are your recommendations for the tourism and business community of Bocas del Toro?
I think the strongest thing Bocas has is its community. It is my thought that Bocas is on its feet thanks to the efforts of the people of Bocas of never giving up, sharing jobs, even with little profit and being truly supportive of each other. My recommendation is that they continue to support each other since our government’s efforts to create employment, tourism and economic activity in Bocas are not bearing fruit. Keep taking care of the tourist who visits you, keep being optimistic and keep investing in tourism and business in Bocas. The world is experiencing a macroeconomic crisis of inflation that is hitting global tourism and economies around the world. In this sense, everyone should practice austerity without losing the optimism that this all will pass and things will improve.
What kind of companies should apply to this episode of Toy or No Toy? What kinds of features or opportunities are investors looking for in the program?
Any type of product or service. Really what we are looking for are businesses that are already operating and what they need is a boost. A start-up that is already making sales, that already has clients, only there is a bottleneck to reach that next level. Be it sauces that want to enter a supermarket, handmade hats that want to get into stores or national distribution, or even tourism businesses that are doing something different and special in the tourism industry.
According to Mayer, season 3 will be even more exciting for applicants because there are new supermarket and retail sponsors, so products featured on the show could be lined up immediately to be distributed on shelves all over Panama and there are new bank sponsors who will be able to provide credit lines, offer loans and open bank accounts for the contestants, something all growing businesses need and is not easy to do.
“What we are looking to do is amplify the creations of Panamanian entrepreneurs so that they can continue creating jobs and generating income in this country,” said Mayer, in promotion of season 3 of Toy o No Toy.
In order to apply, you need to provide a 140 character description of your business and upload a 1 minute video to YouTube (important: applicants without video submissions will not be considered).
Check out the Toy o No Toy YouTube channel for episodes from their first two seasons.
Mayer Mizrachi Matalon is a 35 year old tech entrepreneur from Panama City. He is the creator of the email encryption service Criptext, CEO of the file sharing application El App, founder of the technology e-commerce store Geeky Drop and Panana’s first fully digital car dealership, Geeky Motors.
@mayermm is quite the well-known personality on social media, particularly among Panama’s youth, where he likes to share his thoughts on technology, business and give the occasional cereal review. The self-described “Cereal Killer” has a podcast called “Cerealistico,” which refers to a play on words in Spanish of the phrase sea realistico, or “be realistic.”
His newest project combines his entrepreneurial spirit, passion for cereal and affection for his four-legged companion, Tinaquera, in what will be Panama’s first dog cereal: Tina Flakes.