How to Create a Working Culture That Drives Performance

Here’s the dilemma. Today, the business environment is fast-changing, competitive, and volatile. So, companies want their employees to be superheroes to cope with it. Often, leaders promote this goal by creating a performance-obsessed culture. And it can eventually lead to employee burnout and lower job satisfaction.

Leaders need to find a balance between achieving goals and keeping employees productive. This means creating a unique culture with a focus on both performance and employees` wellness. Building such a culture requires the leader to consider organizational and individual factors.

Continue reading “How to Create a Working Culture That Drives Performance”

Why You Should Consider a Coworking Space For Your Startup

Yes, we all know the tale about the guy who starts a small company in their garage or basement, has a brilliant idea, and becomes the next Steve Jobs. It’s true, most successes have very humble beginnings. It’s also true that not all garage or basements are going to magically get you a successful business. They might work in the very (very) early stages of your startup, but you can’t always meet a client at coffee shops. That’s why you should consider a coworking space for your startup.

Your home office or a coffee shop won’t be enough!

Continue reading “Why You Should Consider a Coworking Space For Your Startup”

The Rise of Female Entrepreneurs

Let’s talk about female entrepreneurs and how the rise of them is just beginning.

In 2018, the American Mentoring platform SCORE published a report considering female entrepreneurship in which we find out that in the US women-owned enterprises employ approximately 9M people and generate more than $1.6T. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor also covered the topic and pointed out that 126M women now start or run their own business. The rise of female entrepreneurship has been highly pointed out by the media in the last years; more and more debates come to life considering the presence of women in tech, entrepreneurship, and business; this is why we decided to share with you our findings and opinion on the topic.

What’s going on in female entrepreneurship?

Female entrepreneurs are on the rise, the number has increased by 18% in 2017 and today represent 26% of all businesses. The TOP industries where female entrepreneurship is present correspond to health, fitness, retail, beauty, business services, food, cleaning, and maintenance.

59% of women explain starting a business in order to pursue their passion and 42% be their own boss. Despite the growth in female entrepreneurship; we can recognize a strong gender disparity culture and a need for things to evolve.

The Harvard Business School undertook a study where a group of males and a group of females presented the exact same business proposal for investment. The outcome of the experience shows that 39% of investors said they would offer to fund the women in contrast to 68% for the males.

Females in business face strong issues and stereotypes that need to be beaten to the root in order to engage the economic impact and new wave of leadership. Women are underrepresented business leaders; 5% of the CEO in Fortune 500 are female, and only 20% are Fortune 500 board members.

This under-presence is not the only issue; women and males have a huge gap in salaries. The world’s highest CEO pay corresponds to $87.5M for Gregory Maffin the CEO of Library Media against $47.2M for Carol Bartz, ex-CEO of Yahoo.

Let’s not desperate considering the issues that women are facing in business; day by day things are changing. More and more female leaders are empowering the case of women promoting their hard work and impact in society.

What women have to say?

We discussed with Zeynep Demirbilek; the CEO and founder of Service Club to have the point of a view directly from a woman. She points out that in business she doesn’t visualize a difference between women and males. From her point of view, it should not be based on gender but on the individual themselves.

She recognizes that as a woman, there are a lot more compromises and that it can be more complicated. Women have to take care of their career, just like they traditionally take care of the family; she admits admiring the women able to balance the upbringing of kids and the scaling of a business.

She points out that many times, she has been asked if the reason for her success, was being a woman; when the hard work and commitment should be the only recognizable values.

She considers that the presence of women in business will highly influence the future of management due to their abilities to be more considerate, understanding than their male peers. The rise of female in business will increase the use of emotional intelligence in business management.

Female Entrepreneurs in VCs

In the world of VC, females are not present enough. The UK Treasury Report shows that all-female leadership teams have received less than 1p for every £1 of investment in startups. In the US, female VCs are shadowed by the high male presence, only representing 9% of VCs; we can also point out that 74% of US VC Firms are all-men. This huge gender disparity, is, unfortunately, causing a lack of funding in female-founded projects, lacking promotion and empowerment.

However, let’s not be too negative; things are changing step by step by the hard work and development of engaged and dedicated female leaders, empowering women all across the world to believe in themselves and start their company.

Venture Capital firms in the United States for female founders and co-founders have been trending up in recent years; several women-led funds and incubators were launched in 2018 promoting the presence of females in the sector.

Source: Crunchbase

In one of their recent article, Crunchbase mentioned that 7% of partners at the top 100 ventures firms were women and that females held under 12% of the partner roles in accelerators and corporate venture firms.

Based on the data gave by pitchbook.com we know that between 2008 and 2019, the female (co)founded VC deal has increased from 3.3% to 6.1%; and the female (co)founded VC Capital went from 1.7% to 2.2%. The number is trending slowly and raising step by step showing the need for a boost in female presence in Venture Capital.

In a second place, the charts provided by pitchbook.com shows that the deal flow by female co-founded companies increased from $2.2B in 2008 to $16.2B in 2019.

We can recognize promising female-founded startups that raised heavy investment such as:
-Glossier, founded by Emily Weiss raising $192M
-RenttheRunway founded by Jennifer Hymn and Jennifer Fleis raising $321M and Humacyte founded by Laura Niklason, Juliana Blum and Shanna Daki raising $438M

We can also recognize the development of promising female-founded investment firms such as:
-TheJumpFund founded in 2013 BY Stephanie Grove and Kristina Montague investing in 33 projects, with 6 successful exits; BBG ventures founded in 2014 by Susan Lyne investing in 84 projects with 9 exists and Rethink Impact, founded by Jenny Abramson in 2015 investing in 23 projects and 1 current exit.

What can we conclude about that? The VC funding statistics for women are not high, but there are going up step by step. It’s important to recognize the need to empower women in business and engage the economic activity of female entrepreneurship.

More and more role models are empowering women and the future generation of leaders to see their potential and recognize women as important as men in the industry. This week, it is the famous tennis player Serena Williams that revealed a new venture capital ownership; the US tennis superstar launched Serena Ventures promoting diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity, and opportunity. This type of role model changes the way women are seen day by day and promotes the economic and business achievement of each one of them.

When asked his opinion on the topic, Albert Domingo the CEO of NextTRet said how important for women it was to grow within all industries and recognized their ability for multi-tasking. He shared with us that after being present for many years in business, he saw the need for women to present themselves more on the venture capital scene. As he mentioned, today in venture capital we see many sharks, people with no compunction that are only going after the power and money. He pointed out that women are recognized for having a deeper emotional intelligence than men and that it could give some variety to future VCs.

Female in Technology

Finally to discuss women in tech, we can point out that they only represent  20% of US’s Tech jobs, when they represent half of the American workforce. However, there has been an increase of 68% of tech businesses founded by women between 1997 and 2014.

Based on the information given by entrepreneur.com we understand that the number of a startup with a least one female increased from 9.5% to 18% between 2009 and 2014.

However, it’s a must to recognize that women are underrepresented, as they encounter only 7% of tech roles in Europe and only 11% of Software Developers roles. 5% of Tech-startups are owned by women, it is going to be critically important to engage the empowerment of women in tech in order to diversify our industries and economies.

We discussed with Adrienne Fanning, the CEO of the founder of Sawyer. She considered having received a lot of support since she arrived in Barcelona three years ago, especially by the Tech and Startup World. She recognizes that sometimes it can be challenging to be a woman in this ‘Boyzy club’. She considers that it’s time today, for women to be given more of a voice in business, VC, and Tech; to be able to spread empowerment, confidence, and the development of projects.

Finally one the last note considering women in tech, Alexis Roig mentioned that there is a lack of promotion within the technology industries for young girls; making tech look ‘for boys’. He considers that females in tech don’t have enough role models to follow and that we must make girls part of it from a very young age. He underlined the great work, done by BSC, promoting technological industries in the educational programs of girls from a very young age.

To conclude, women are taking more and more space on the Business, Tech, and Venture Capital front. They promote new management and a new perspective to business and allow the diversification of our industries. More than ever, it is important to promote the work of women to step by step change our world for a more balanced place. Now more than ever is essential to follow female entrepreneurs.

Podcast #39 Jesús Monleón’s 1001 stories

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.

Why emagister?

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.

*laughing*

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.

Podcast #30 Cultural Fit — Does it exist or does it develop over time?

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.