On itnig’s Podcast #41 Sacha Michaud, one of the cofounders of Glovo shares his take and experience on the hypergrowth of the Barcelona based delivery startup with us, talks about market about delivery and on-demand user experience. Continue reading “Glovo’s hypergrowth — Podcast #41 with Sacha Michaud”
On itnig’s Podcast #40 Albert Domingo, CEO at NexTReT and partner at itnig takes us on a journey through his experiences as business creator but also investor and shares his point of view on project evaluation with us.
Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig and Juan Rodríguez, CEO at Camaloon speak with Albert Domingo about his experiences and learnings and his advice for fellow entrepreneurs. Listen to our podcast on Youtube, iTunes or iVoox.
I would like to start telling the story about how we met Albert, our first investor at itnig. This story is closely linked to my own story as Bernat. While I was studying computer science at university I did a three months internship at NexTReT, a software company from Barcelona, Albert’s company.
I realized this was not for me and later set out to create itnig. When at itnig we decided to start our own business, I knew we needed funding but I had no idea where to go so I thought about my internship and went to see the founder and director, Albert Domingo. During my time as intern I had never met him but with this idea, very far from reality we eventually got to know each other. Albert Domingo told me very nicely that NO, he was not interested in investing but however we improved and improved the business plan and idea and eventually got to partner up.
This company was Camaloon, Albert invested and told people in his network about it and we were able to close a funding round with 12 partners.
One thing that Albert told me will always stay with me. It grounded me:
When I invest, I am sure about one thing: If I loose my capital, the entrepreneur looses his health.
He told me this very seriously, I got scared but more than anything this sentences has marked me. 7 years later his words are still in my mind — His message was very clear. Commitment and dedication are very important for Albert.
Albert, what is your story? What did you study and how did you create NexTReT?
I studied engineering and then worked in two companies, the last one in network solutions. When at this time, I made propositions of improvements I did not get very far. I decided to set out on my own, reached an agreement of 5 years with my university and this helped me get to met really good professionals. In 1993 there was a huge crisis in Spain and I was still able to reach new clients so I thought to myself: ”If I can do this now in this time, imagine what this could mean in a good economic time in Spain.”
This was the beginning of NexTReT. Our first client was Esade, then an ex-professor of mine moved to La Caixa, later we reached an agreement with TV3, and so step by step we reached a good client base offering our services in informatic systems and infrastructure. Our promise to the CEO is that their information technology will work, no matter the time of day.
Progressively the company grew, now we are 12 partners.
When I met people interested in creating their own business, I was always ready to help. Share my own experience. I like to share and to add value. That’s how I started to get involved with entrepreneurs, because I think there can be many things to start businesses. In 1999 I got involved in a project doing my first investment.
I have invested in many occasions but for me the investment is consequence of sharing. The order is: Getting to know somebody, and only when I feel good about somebody and trust this person, and I see that the person is committed (it’s not about leading an unhealthy life) we can take a step further into investing. Commitment is fundamental.
Commitment is fundamental, in all things in life.
If a person is not committed, no problem, but there won’t be an investment from my side. For me the first thing I look for is mutual trust, then I need to believe that I can add value and lastly the entrepreneur has to see me as adding value. However, investment is my hobby. my life and work is NexTReT and investment is my hobby.
You say you look for entrepreneurs who are committed to their businesses and don’t just leave their projects. Do you believe that there are some occasions when you see that it goes no further?
Yes, of course. There are times when it does not make sense to pursue. You need to know how to loose and when to stop. Right now for example I am in a similar situation with a great entrepreneur from Valladolid. I told the kid you need to stop. You gave it your all. You did the possible, we have lost the project and the investment but you need to stop and dedicate your talent to other projects.
There are two Albert Domingo — Albert Domingo from NexTReT and Albert Domingo outside of NexTReT. You say investment is a hobby to you but you dedicate a lot of your time. How do you organize your daily life?
My daily life evolves around NexTReT but of course I always manage my calendar myself. I have my family, my hobbies and organize my life around it.
AT NexTReT we have a General Director, we have a clear organizational structure and the business already works very smoothly. I maintain contact with our clients — that’s where I see my contribution.
What companies are you involved with now?
I don’t need to mention itnig’s startups right? To come back to the beginning of our conversation actually: I don’t remember having told you No but I do remember how we met.
Bernat was a kid who told me he wanted to create a business to sell buttons online. I had never bought buttons but he seemed to be a good kid.
Yes of course I am involved in other companies.The last project for example is a company that automizes vending machines, the decision was very quick, I liked the entrepreneur, it’s an innovative idea and a partner of mine is involved.
What is your advice to an entrepreneur who is looking to talk to you? What are you looking for in a project and in a entrepreneur?
I might not be in line with other business angels but for me, personally, I have a kind of order of what I look for.
First, there needs to be trust, I need to see brilliance in the person, I want to share in the project with other people and lastly I look at the project where I look for potential, a clear market and past accomplishments.
If somebody has a clear idea and wants to share it with me, I am happy to listen. If you look for it you will always find time.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Albert Domingo’s journey and his perspective on investment and entrepreneurship. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.
In itnig’s Podcast #39 you’ll hear from Jesús Monleón and his story of entrepreneurship: Cofounder of eMagister, Seedrocket, Offerum, Glamourum, early team member of Trovit and active investor with invested entreprises like Captio, Tiendeo, Redbooth and Mailtrack.
Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig, Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial and Juan Rodríguez, CEO at Camaloon speak with Jesús Monleón about his experiences and learnings and his advice for fellow entrepreneurs. Listen to our podcast on Youtube, iTunes or iVoox.
Jesús Monleón, how did you start?
I studied Business Administration and when I was at university I was curious about starting my own business. At that time, around 1996, at university we got an Internet connection and as I had started to think about creating a job portal I found out about Infojobs. I saw they were close by so I went and met Iván Martínez and Nacho González-Barros at the university campus in Cerdanyola.
Later I started working in the financial sector, but I quickly realized that this was not for me so I left and decided to create a business with my cousins.
This is when emagister.com — a search site for classes — was born in 1999.
I thought to myself “If Infojobs went well, what I can do that is related?” At that time there were a lot of educational offers in the newspaper and everybody was already talking about how Internet was going to change education.
The first thing I thought was that to start out we need a team and so I gathered my cousins: I was the oldest with 22 years and then there were my cousin Juán Ramón, who was an engineer, another cousin Jordi Castellò had studied economics and Monica joined us in administration / finance.
We already knew each other, we even had created an ice cream kiosk at High School together.
We found our first investor and now really had to think about how to get this started. That’s when I remembered Grupo Intercom and called them up. And we set out to work. Our expectations were far from reality: In the first year we made 600 Euro in revenue, our prevision was of 6 Million Euro.
We had traffic, we knew that people were confirming classes through emagister but we hadn’t yet figured out how to monetize it.
Thousand of tests later, we still had no business model and we had given ourselves a year to get this working. Through an outside input to change our contact forms and ways to connect schools & students, we switched to a model based on leads. That’s when emagister takes off. We had traffic, a working business model and very few competitors. This was the beginning in 2001.
What did you do after emagister?
From my experience at emagister I saw that being part of a startup was tough and my impression at that time was that Internet was a bluff, entrepreneurship was shit, and only investors are winning.
So I went into the financial sector to make some money. I moved on to La Caixa’s Venture Capital department. With a team of four people we were searching for Catalan operations for the bank. I got tired after a while and needed some more action. I was part of the start of the bank’s Venture Capital department for entrepreneurs — a very interesting experience with very good investments — and decided to start again. That’s when I met the Trovit team and joined them.
At Trovit everybody was very techy, we were making money with adsense, my role lay in business development. First we sold Banners and then set up a pay per click system. I built up our commercial team.
Trovit went very well. It’s a good business. A company generating EBITDA.
As an entrepreneur but also from the other side as investor I have learned that investors are not my friends. As an entrepreneur I want to drive the company, drive the bus and want the investor to join the journey, to hop on the bus but not to interfere with me driving.
I don’t like to depend on investors. Investors are not your friends.
Years later I founded Seedrocket, as something I would have like to have when I started out with emagister. Seedrocket is an association without profit focus, we are a group of friends who have known each other for a long time and work together.
I was looking for people who could help me with their experience and place . a minority investment.
In 2007 I met Vicente Arias from Softonic, Grupo Intercom, and we talked about creating an incubator or investment fund. We were looking at YCombinator and Seedcamp models, just when YCombinator was starting out in the US. So we invested small amounts of money, 20.000 Euro, in three projects, offered offices and mentorship. I was looking for people who have had experiences creating companies, sharing what they have learned not in technical terms but more about relationships with cofunders, investors…somebody who has gone through the same as the entrepreneur.
The accelerator business model is really hard and I saw it would lead me to do things i was not fond of like selling to big corporates. So we are just a club of friends.
Follow the rest of his story and reflections in the podcast:
And today, what is your day to day life like?
I am spending my day on the phone. Basically spending my time on Seedrocket for founders fund, talking to entrepreneurs all day and to my own small investments. Spending my time talking to the different business.
Today I live off my own investments. It started out as ahobby and evolved into investments who have brought high returns.
As an entrepreneur, what do you recommend? How to start a technological project?
First thing, find a team. And then, launch.
Find the best team. This does not have to be a guru, nor the most experienced person but good people.
How do you define good people?
There are people with a certain talent and attitude.
I don’t mean technological capacities — Especially if the founding team are able to gather smart people around them and give less experienced people the chance to learn. This was amazing at Offerum, the team was growing with the company. When you are 23 years old, you don’t have any experience, everything you do is for the first time, but some people have a certain talent, a capacity that can be build out.
The hardest is finding good people. And there is no manual. And what is ‘good’ is hard to define.
Even talking to professional investors, the topic of good people has no answer. I think it boils down to ‘perception’, the perception you have of the person.
What is the last investment that you are crazy about?
Tuvalum — a bike marketplace.I like it because it combines SEO and a marketplace, of demand and offer, which gives room to arbitrage. It’s a very interesting project now and I believe it’s replicable internationally. In 3 years I have no idea how I will see it, this is pretty random but at the moment I really like it.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Jesús Monleón and emagister’s journey. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.
In itnig’s Podcast #31 Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial speaks with Antonio García Martínez about his past experiences designing ad-targeting products at Facebook and his perspective on the current Cambridge Analytica controversy. Listen to our podcast on Youtube, iTunes or iVoox.
After a doctorate in Physics, I started working at Goldman Sachs as Quant Analyst in 2005. It was the time of the financial crisis in the US, an economic apocalypse. I thought the only thing that might survive after this crisis is the technological sector.
So I became a Research Scientist in an online advertisement company, a niche in the tech sector. There I got to know my co-founders, we applied to YCombinator and went through their Bootcamp as a startup. During this time, all problems that can occur happened to us. After 10 months Twitter bought us in a so called Acqui-Hire, when they buy a company but what they are really after is the talent and to get the founders and employees on board. After a bit of drama I went to Facebook.
At Facebook, my role was that of a Product Manager of ad-targeting products. At this time, in 2011, the whole team at Facebook were 20–25 engineers and 5–6 Product Designers. We all fit in a meeting room. However, Facebook had about 1 billion users and even with almost non existing business or monetization model the revenue was high. It was the time Facebook would transition from a startup with a crude business model to what it is today.
I was involved in product development for things such as the Custom audiences. With the IPO Facebook went public and started to turn its focus towards monetization models. These two years of developing products are what makes Facebook money now.
What is going on with Facebook now in terms of privacy?
The Cambridge Analytica crisis comes from the Facebook platform. You probably all remember the time when you could login on Spotify through your Facebook account and would receive some kind of spam to your Facebook profile. Facebook decided to take this step of creating a platform to make an integral product that could span and connect different sites. However, this was not a good product, a fail, as in the long run nobody was using the Facebook platform. As a user, you would use Facebook to log in, some of your personal data are shared with the product you are logging in to and this data might be used.
There really is not much Facebook can do to regulate the data flow and what happens with this information once it leaves the Walled Garden of Facebook. And that’s basically what happened as researchers at Cambridge University created a psychographic model, an app which by asking questions tries to make a psychological assessment of you as a person. They were creating a five dimensional graph based on the big 5 personality traits (Ocean — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) and projecting the user’s personality in five dimensions.
Through a model they then correlate this with your political views, eg. pro Trump, pro immigration.. and combine your psychological profile and political stand with Facebook’s ad platform to be able to find a person on Facebook and specifically target advertisement to the believed preferences.
Obviously the story has some James Bond badness, researcher, an almost hidden secretive company, financing Breitbart, Bannon’s involvement as editor — It’s a compilation of different elements that makes this story.
If the problem was that Cambridge Analytica breached the terms of service of Facebook, why did Mark Zuckerberg hide?
This is a bit curious. I think it’s simply because Mark Zuckerberg is not the most social person, he’ll do a Q&A internally and answer all kind of questions but externally he seldomly shows his face.
The problem is the perception, not so much the actual impact it had in the elections but the perception of it.
What about Fake news?
I think fake news is a real problem but it’s hard because there is no obvious solution. Compared to ad content, organic content is much harder to control. People are used to having a Feed of content optimized to their likes by default. In the US a lot of media consumption happens through Social Media, that’s hard to change. Two months ago, Facebook made a change to the Feed, giving journalistic content less importance and in a way bringing the old Facebook- between friends- back again.
This reminds me of the last podcast in which we spoke about cultural fit. You once told me about the employee handbook, the little red book that you received at facebook. Can you tell us a bit about it?
In my book, Chaos Monkey I talk about it a bit. During the interviewing cycles, somebody will always ‘there is no cultural fit’ and this can be some hidden part of racism, sexism…it might mean ‘the candidate is not like me’. T
In regards to the Little Red Book, it was born in 2012 out of Facebook’s fear of converting into an old, structured company. Worried that they would not be able to keep the agility and aggressiveness of a startup, the Little Red Culture Book was one way of fighting against the corporate ageing that might creep upon us as an organization.
On the last page for example it reads:
If we don’t create the thing that replaces Facebook, someone else will.
That’s the tone of the Little Red Book, I still have one copy actually.
If you want to find out more about it, we recommend to read Antonio’s book with many more anecdotes from his time as Product Manager at Facebook: Get the book here and listen to the whole podcast on Youtube.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Antonio García Martínez takes on Silicon Valley. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.
In itnig’s Podcast #30 Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial speaks with César Migueláñez, Product Director at Factorial, Roger Dobaño, Product Manager at Quipu and Bettina Gross, Talent Acquisition about the concept of cultural fit.
Roger talks about the evolution of culture inside Quipu’s team, the selection process for open positions and we see examples of culture rendered transparent at PayPal, Facebook and Rebooth.
How did the culture at Quipu evolve?
We started almost 5 years, we were 2 people working inside of itnig very closely and we have grown to be a team of more than 20 team members, with one general managers and big changes in the organization. There are big cultural differences from the beginning to today.
What differences do you see?
In the beginning, we had very little experience and our founders’ personalities marked the culture of the initial team. In small teams you influence the culture directly but as the team grows, as you install levels of management it becomes a task to maintain the initial enthusiasm as the company grows. I think there were basically two phases at Quipu: When we were about 10 people, young people with a lot of energy, we shared a lot, not just work but also our private lives. Then there is a second time, when the company has become more professional, growing form 10 to 20 people, new departments like Sales.
The first contact a new employee at Quipu has is a talk with me, Roger, talking about our culture, our history and our plans for the future. I think it’s important that the first contact be a kind of anchor for this person — if you have any question, I am here for you.
What do you talk about in two hours on the first days of a new team member? How to refer to company culture?
There are two main things: First, a retrospective and then a basic guideline on how we solve problems. And then of course depending on the person and his/her future position I focus on the team and challenges ahead.
Do you believe the cultural fit is made or exists? Does a personal develop it within the team or come with a predetermined cultural fit?
I would say more than cultural fit, it’s about values. What do we share as group of humans? What are our underlying shared beliefs and values? And I think in this sense it’s something you have innate in you when you join a team or not but also something that develops over time.
If you think of culture, you can also take the example of migration. You move to a new country, the culture is different, but I still believe that you can become part of the group, of the society.
It’s interesting you say that Bettina. You actually come from a different cultural background, you did not grow up here in Spain or Barcelona and you’ve become part of the local culture. Do you think the differences become shorter over time?
Yes, I believe the distance becomes shorter. Maybe it’s just my own ideal or my own illusion but I think you can integrate in a new culture.
You believe you can overcome this distance?
Yes, if not I think I would not be living here.
You spoke about values — During interviews in the selection process, or even in employer branding when writing job offers, do you use values to describe the company?
Yes, at least that’s something we try and it’s something we have been speaking about a lot. How do different part of the team interact, should people from other teams be involved in the selection process. It does not have to be the founder who’s involved if in terms of values we are all aligned.
Even though a person from another team might not be able to assess the professional skills, he/she can still detect if there is a kind of cultural fit or not.
Cultural fit which for me is an important pieces, just as important as the professional talent of the person.
When we try to explain our culture, which is really hard, culture of the company is like DNA, changing constantly, adapting. Our initial culture is a part of Cesar, Bernat, Pau and me and that’s where we got our values from. We all sat together and each told their version of the story. When the first person joined our team we told him clearly that he is going to expand our culture. We are aligned at the base but he joins and expands our culture. And it’s the same for the 20th team member who actually joined us this week. He expands our culture just as much as the first person did.
I think this is very important that you talk about expanding. Sometimes the idea of cultural fit is also scares me, it may imply a fixed set of behavior, a group that is homogeneous and either you fit in or not. Especially in small structures like a startup I think it’s important to have somebody from outside, with another way of thinking and the ability to doubt or question.
Roger: My approach is not about saying this is how it is but more than anything about how we solve problems. I think we need a connection between humans who feel good around each other and can work together well. We had a person with us at Quipu who was very important for our culture and our group and even though she left her spirit and attitude are still with us today.
Bettina, you worked at PayPal some years ago, a US company and you were working in Berlin. What was the culture like for you? How did they transmit the company culture? Did you have contact with a very senior person explaining the beginning and history to you?
When I started I had a training of one or two weeks focussed on what it meant to be a PayPalian — there were even tests to make sure we were following. It’s an interesting way. The culture is always given from above, that’s clear, but to have it in paper (or well a software), is a whole different levels. There were a lot of rules but I think this was also positive. When you start somewhere new, those rules help you understand what the group expects of you and what you can contribute, whereas when you ‘swimming in uncertainty’ it is hard to find your place.
After the two weeks, what’s next? Do you get feedback? Do you hear you don’t fit in?
No, this I think was already clear from the selection process. But there were many follow-ups, like monthly meetings with teams, HR teams and senior teams. This was really helpful for me especially because it was my first job after leaving university — where do I see myself? How do I want to evolve?
I liked that you mentioned these two weeks of training. Actually at Facebook they have a small red book, The Facebook Way, that includes values. It’s the bible of why you are here and how we do things.
What kind of question do you see acceptable to find out if a person might be a good cultural fit or not?
I think you have to be cautious in terms of profiling. I think all questions should be acceptable if they serve an understandable purpose. For example you asking about technology used at home to find out if the person is ‘techy’. The goal was to find out if the person is ‘techy’ and not if he/she uses Mac or Windows but it can still be critical.
Well yes it’s always tricky, I think you have to find a way to create a conversation, because you will be in the position where one party scrutinizes the other.
Jordi, and you at Redbooth, a company founded here in Europe that suddenly comes to have a management team from the Us. How did that go?
Actually at Redbooth the concept of cultural shock took a different turn because I actually think we had two cultures. With a basis of Spanish or European culture we flew to San Francisco and set up an office there with people who had grown up in the US culture. Adn we left. So the company had a way of doing more or less US but a team from Silicon Valley ambitious, powerful and aggressive. We spoke different languages — two people who tried to do the bridge between San Francisco and Barcelona. We tried but in the end we were not able to understand each other.
An example: At some point in time we had a high churn rate and we set this as a priority to tackle. In Barcelona we wanted to all get together, create posters, a roadmap, to celebrate together but from the US direction, where our CEO was, the guideline was to make a Churn Bounty. The individual person who does xy, gets xY Euro. like the hunger games against churn but one agains the other.
In the end the company kept these two cultures, both in their ways, but without meeting midways. We tried to translate but it was not an integration.
And now, with a bit of distance. Do you see anything you could have done to create this integration between the two cultures?
I don’t believe in the concept of creating a company here, hiring a person there and working in two centers. I think the only way of creating a structure in the US in this example would have been moving a part of the core team to the US, staying for 3 years and not months and from there creating the US team. It’s really hard to transmit your ways of doing if you are not aware of them yourself — we were a young team, very inexperienced in leadership and communication. So it was all very implicit.
Thinking of this, how was it for you Cesar, to join Factorial when Jordi and Bernat and Pau had already known each other for a long time?
Good. I already knew Bernat well before we started Factorial but the other I got to know while working. I did not have much time to think about the culture either, we were so focussed on creating the first product. The compatibility of the personality formed our culture. It was very organic in the end.
And has it happened to you that a person, even though technically or professionally perfect fit with the team, ended up leaving because he/she was not able to connect with the group?
Yes, and it’s bad for both parties. If you are not collaborating well or not feeling well in the team it’s impossible to work together. You cannot add anything to the company if you are not feeling well.
Maybe that’s it the culture fit — that you feel good about where you are.
Yes, and you have to realize it quickly.
Now that we have Quipu and Factorial here, do you think there is a common culture among startups?
Yes, actually it’s also something I look for when interviewing candidates. Startup experience per se is professionally completely irrelevant but it teaches you what we expect from you, what we want to achieve, how we work towards it. I think it is another way of doing business it is underlying in most startups. A small structure where we are inventing something every day, no structures, no certainties — I think the strength it takes to do this transpires to all team members.
Listen to our podcast to learn more about Factorial and Quipu’s ideas on cultural fit. Learn more in this Podcast in Spanish on our Youtube channel, listen to it on iTunes or enjoy it through iVoox and subscribe to our newsletter to stay always up to date.