Spanish talent takes root in Silicon Valley


It is the home of giants like Apple, Google or Facebook. A hotbed of ideas where the best talent unleashes their creativity. With abundant financial resources from the multitude of venture capital funds installed there and a technological knowledge accumulated over decades, Silicon Valley, at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, has become the nerve center of innovative entrepreneurship where anyone who wants to succeed in this aspires to try their luck. Many Spaniards have crossed the Atlantic to immerse themselves in the business culture of the Californian valley and learn first-hand the attitudes necessary to stand out in such a competitive environment.

Is what he did Pepe agell. Just finished

The race, in 2008, headed to the United States accompanied by María Alegre, his now wife and then girlfriend. At the time, the two were taking a course at Stanford University in which successful entrepreneurs told their stories. «We knew something very special was cookingSo we came on the adventure, without a visa, to build our local network of contacts, “he says by phone from his home in Menlo Park.

Pepe Agell has been in Silicon Valley for more than a decade.
Pepe Agell has been in Silicon Valley for more than a decade. “It is extremely expensive and coming here is not a game,” he warns sailors

For three years they worked for other companies until in 2011 Alegre founded the company together with an American partner. Chartboost, which Agell joined months later. Focused on helping game developers monetize their traffic, this year it has been acquired by Zynga, one of the most historic in the sector, for 250 million dollars.

Although the project has gone from strength to strength, Agell is cautious. «It seems that coming to Silicon Valley is a guarantee that the checks will fall and you will make the Americas, but It is very competitive because it attracts the best of each country and investors see dozens of projects a day. What is true is that they have been doing it for many years and are very professionalized, “he explains.

Ambitious mindset

Faced with European humility, Think big on this golden mile of innovation. “It seems like any project has the potential to change the world,” says Agell. His advice to entrepreneurs considering operating in this enclave is to first try to grow the business and do not go just with the desire to lift a round. «If you have positive commercial numbers, good partnerships here, important clients, etc. I do recommend raising money in the United States ”, underlines Agell, now president of the California Spain Chamber, a non-profit organization that promotes the creation of networks between companies, academies and professionals in California and Spain.

“Honestly, when we presented our project, I didn’t even know what an incubator was,” jokes the entrepreneur Quim Sabrià

Our country has several ‘ambassadors’ in the mecca of entrepreneurship. Another example is Quim Sabrià that, at the age of 25, he changed the classrooms of the Badalona institute where he taught mathematics for the hills and groves of California. Together with three other partners, he developed Edpuzzle, a tool that allows teachers to reuse videos from platforms such as YouTube or record their own content to insert multi-choice questions and monitor each student individually. They presented the idea to a Silicon Valley-based startup incubator and shoved it in their pocket. “They invested us $ 100,000 and gave us the opportunity to soak up the best in the creation of technology companies, so we did not doubt it,” the CEO and co-founder of the firm said by videoconference.

One of the peculiarities of the place that surprised him was that “everyone, from those who have set up a large company to those who are just starting out, dedicate 30 minutes for you to explain your idea to them.” He was also struck by how accustomed the general population was to dealing with startups. “Students and teachers from the schools we visited suggested improvements to the product. In Spain startups are perceived as something risky that only young people do», Compares Sabriá, which has managed to get 250,000 schools globally to use its tool often.

“In Silicon Valley everyone dedicates 30 minutes for you to explain your idea to them”

Pedro Moneo He is also a member of the club of Spaniards who have made their mark in Silicon Valley. There he founded, a week after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a global innovation consultancy, Opinno, present in seven countries and with more than 250 employees. Having lived in San Francisco for five years, he believes that a distinctive sign is that startups assume from the beginning that their service will serve millions of people: «You have a more powerful global and digital visionIn other words, your way of working is like that of a platform, thinking about how to create an environment in which many people can coexist and that can scale very quickly.

Moneo recognizes that Silicon Valley is decades ahead of our country, although the differences have narrowed. «In Spain there are beginning to be second and third generation entrepreneurs. There is an ecosystem where people who understand these businesses and their scalability are present on the entrepreneurial and investor side, but also in other areas such as the regulator or in the services that support growth (lawyers, managers). The challenge now is the creation of first division companies», He assures. To achieve this, Spain needs a long-term vision.

“The high salaries of Silicon Valley, together with high taxation, make states like Texas more attractive for many companies,” explains Pedro Moneo – José Ramón Ladra

“When the rules change every too little time and do so retroactively, a feeling of legal uncertainty and a weather vane effect is generated,” says Moneo. “The priority in this area is to intervene as little as possible to ensure that things are easy and happen quickly,” he proposes. With the Next Generation as a backdrop, he advocates the creation of a “open, international, stable and with the least possible friction” environment and focus on lighting leading companies in industries such as robotics, artificial intelligence or biotechnology. “Spain has no future if it does not play in that league,” ditch.

And it is that the Spanish who have conquered this world epicenter of innovation have learned valuable lessons. Just over 9,000 kilometers separate Madrid, the hometown of Laura González-Estéfani, from Silicon Valley, where he landed with his family in the hands of Facebook. «I learned that anything was possible and that the more ambitious and disruptive you are, the more support they give you», He points out. The culture of merit is a basic ingredient in the area. “Depending on the value you add, you grow more or less quickly and are very goal-oriented, not working hours. In Europe we are still a little behind, “he says. The acceptance of failure has in this earthly paradise of technology its maximum exponent. «Those who dare and make mistakes they give almost the same importance as those who do something wonderful,
while in Europe those who try and do not succeed, the effort is not recognized
“, the Mint.

The multiculturalism of Silicon Valley fascinated Laura González-Estéfani when she arrived in 2011:
The multiculturalism of Silicon Valley fascinated Laura González-Estéfani when she arrived in 2011: “I had colleagues from all over the world and in Spain, at that time, it was very rare,” she recalls

González-Estéfani warns of a recent phenomenon that benefits the Old Continent. “American capital has realized that it had to leave the San Francisco Bay looking for new opportunities. Europe is the pretty investment girl and, above all, Spain, because with the same money a European entrepreneur will build much faster than one from San Francisco because he will be able to hire twice as many people, ”he explains. We face, yes, the challenge of tackling old burdens. “All countries understand and practice that you have to invest in startups, except ours, which says so but the tax infrastructure does not support it,” he complains.

The second problem is the way of thinking. «In Spain, entrepreneurs are the ones who don’t have anything better what to do because there is a civil servant mentality, although this is changing ”, he considers. Therefore, it values ​​the merit of those who dare with their own business in Spain. «It is a country that, with everything against it, has a quality of entrepreneurs and spectacular talent», Indicates the one who was the first employee of Facebook in Spain and previously founder of various companies. After leaving the social media company in 2017, he created The Venture City, a venture capital model with which he seeks to “support the next generation of entrepreneurs so that they do not suffer all the limitations that I suffered in their day.”

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