As a theater actor who becomes rich and famous for a smash in the cinema and then returns to the charts, the venture capital firm Inveready can boast of a great success that, in reality, has little to do with the core of its deal. In 2010, its co-founder and now president, Josep Maria Echarri (Barcelona, 1976), promoted the entry of the firm in Masmovil, then a Mobile Virtual Operator (MVNO) more. "We went to the banks to fight for a policy of 200,000 euros and now we refinance hundreds of millions; we billed 2.8 million and we are already in the 1,400, "he explains. It was a risky bet, but today Inveready has, according to the data of the CNMV, 2.6% of the capital of a company with a capitalization of almost 2,500 million euros.
Despite his success with the teleco, Inveready invests in another world. Bet mainly by software companies and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and companies of biotech or life sciences. His portfolio includes companies such as Palobiofarma, which has a license agreement with Novartis for a drug against lung cancer; Ability Pharma, which studies endometrial cancer, and Agile, an OTT television company that already markets its platform in Spain with that brand.
In addition, Inveready is characterized by working hand in hand with public funding institutions, which rely on their sense of smell to turn research into a business fabric. One advantage of this for startups is that it favors a lower dilution of the shareholding percentage of entrepreneurs. "It is important, otherwise they are discouraged and it is essential that they continue to shine their eyes," explains Echarri.
In this decade of travel have managed more than 200 million euros, betting on about 110 companies. More than a third of them are engaged in biotechnology, and specifically invest in many startups focused on the discovery of innovative drugs. With what approach did you approach that world?
In Spain fantastic science is made, both from the private world and from the public. And we are a catalyst that turns knowledge into money. We convince people who have money to invest in knowledge. And they do it to earn more money. We are very clear that, unfortunately, this is not about doing good science, but about making money. If knowledge does not become money, there will be no money to fund knowledge.
And that science of first level that defends that Spain has, how is transferred to the industry, whether startups or big pharmacists?
In recent years, it has not improved much: it is still a pending issue. There is a lot of science that you want to transfer but, as it is not easy, it ends up being cheap. To us, being cynical, it makes our lives easier, because startups get licenses from academic centers under very advantageous conditions, and that ends up being a tremendous competitive advantage of investing in biotech in Spain. But as a contributor I find it sad.
Why we sell good science at a very low price?
There are many reasons, and not all are the responsibility of the public sector. I explain it with a simile: our knowledge well is as good as Boston's, but there it is fenced and with people's queue; and here we almost give away the water because we do not know what to do with it. It is a country problem. We have wells of scientific knowledge surrounded by desert, and they should be a garden. That 'water' is not used.
Formed in Business Administration, Finance and Actuarial Sciences (the discipline that calculates risks through statistics and mathematics, especially for the insurance industry) Echarri, with library mouse glasses, exquisite education and calm talk, is far from the prototype of the shark of venture capital. Rather it seems an efficient financier who prefers the low profile.
Do you consider yourself a financial company?
No, we are not pure financial; This business is not just financial. We need, in addition to technologists, experts who have been on the other side of the table, who understand what it is to undertake; people who, as is my case, have gone to the notary to start a company. Without these three legs, the business is not going to work, although obviously everything has a financial side, because in essence at the end it is about buying cheap and selling expensive, like many businesses. What happens is that, as I usually say jokingly, here the period of maturation of the stock is very broad.
It is essential to understand that investment in 'startups' has to be local. "
In this decade, what changes have you seen in the investment ecosystem in Spain?
It is essential to understand that investment in startups it has to be local, for a very simple reason: a London or Silicon Valley fund can invest 20 million euros in a Spanish company without a problem, but it will not put two million euros, or 500,000 euros, in one startup local. It does not compensate him to go down to that level, it involves transaction costs that do not interest him and he has a very powerful ecosystem around him.
The problem is that if there is no money in that initial phase, how will Spanish entrepreneurs be able to create such attractive companies so that those in the 20 million London or Silicon Valley funds will pay attention to them? That's precisely the fundamental evolution: a market of local investors has been created. So there are no longer just quality entrepreneurs and quality science; there are also investors, not just Inveready, able to close the circle. That is why there are now more Spanish companies that play international rounds of good size. It's all simpler, for everyone, than ten years ago. Until 2007, nobody had made money with a venture capital fund related to technology in the initial phases, although it seems incredible.
And you launched in the middle of the global financial crisis …
We were clear that it was very difficult to explain to the entrepreneur that we were so smart that, using the same old techniques, we were going to make money when until then nobody had achieved it. So we bet to do something different: have the public sector, which allows you to reduce the risk, since it usually provides a capital that does not have to be paid or, if it is a subsidy, sometimes not even that.
With what public institutions do they work?
With the ICO, Sodena [Sociedad de Desarrollo de Navarra], the Catalan Institute of Finance, the Valencian Institute of Finance … Participate in the funds and in some companies directly. They play a great role as funders of innovation, and we collaborate to ensure that science from these academic institutions ends up in companies.
I have never seen anything like corruption in this world, and this is achieved based on controls. "
And are not rhythms and political processes, so different from financial and business ones, a problem?
The processes with these institutions can be slower and bureaucratic, but we must bear in mind that we talk about everyone's money. For example: the processes of transfer of licenses are complicated, but it is that they have to be. Imagine a university that has spent millions of euros and a lot of time researching a project; If you transfer it to someone who is not able to make it grow, what about those resources used? But I have never seen anything like corruption in this world, and this is achieved through controls. I would ask for more agility, but never less rigor.
In the fall of 2017 Inveready, a company of Catalan origin, changed its headquarters from Barcelona to Madrid. Why did they make that decision?
We manage money from others, and those others want regulatory and fiscal security. It would be irresponsible on our part to put at risk the money of the people who have trusted us, however small that risk may be. It's that simple.
01. KDPOF They develop technologies to transmit data at very high speed by plastic optical fiber. "It is of special application for the connectivity of the cars", explains Echarri.
02. Stratio "Few companies are doing real business on a concept as broad as is big data, and they are getting it," says Josep Maria Echarri.
03. World Sensing Company of industrial and mobility solutions based on the Internet of Things, has the endorsement of Cisco's investment, which participated in its funding rounds of 2015 and 2017.
04. Housfy Exploits "the many inefficiencies of the real estate sector," says Echarri: "The great reception by the public is a reflection that the market was waiting for them."
05. Newton Learning This Catalan company has developed a program, Science Bits, to encourage scientific learning in schools. It's picking up speed in the United States, says Echarri.