Nowadays I write mostly about how Technology is changing Finance and what we are up to at ETFmatic. Previous articles include lots of content around entrepreneurship from my experiences at Okuri Ventures, TetuanValley and Startupbootcamp amongst others . If you want to dig deeper into the archive I used to post random thoughts at La Palabra Harry??? while I worked as a Blade Runner.
I have mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs from dozens of countries. Pretty much every flavor, from MBA graduates or successful professionals that discovered they want to suffer the freedom to start from scratch, to young Developers in Accelerator Programs across Europe. The lost causes, the predictable success stories and everything in between. Half probably don’t remember me, a few hate me, too many take my advice too seriously.
I've managed dozens of mentors that gave up the time they didn't have for their families to help the next generation in many of these programs. They obviously also had an opinion on how to manage a business to support entrepreneurs launching businesses.
And as a consequence of launching my first FinTech startup 3 years ago - ETFmatic, with both the benefits and challenges of having never worked in Financial Services, I've dealt with as many idiots that wasted my energy as geniuses that we couldn't have survived without. And, truth be told, geniuses that could have ended us and idiots that we owe being alive to.Read More
Prior to building ETFmatic I had never worked in Financial Services. My experience included many years as Management Consultant for Private Equity and Multinational companies, so I was no stranger to how things work in the sort of companies investors bet their savings on. But my relationship with the Financial Services industry was shaped by my horrible experiences as a customer: paying endless fees that seemed to appear out of nowhere and how I was treated by as unpleasant as they come support teams. And above all, the lack of the kind of sensible approach towards Portfolio Management that is taught in Business Schools but is unavailable to retail customers because key financial concepts are not included in our educational systems All of this is further made worse by the reach of unsustainable marketing budgets in an industry where change is long overdue.
The Financial Services Industry has, step by step, earned the awful reputation it deserves. I don’t find it acceptable that so many retail customers pay half of their returns to fees simply because most of the innovation the industry has sought has been around how to screw their clients. Too much of what happens every day makes good professionals feel ashamed of “the best they can do for their clients” and loops regulators into a perpetual game of cat & mouse against companies suffering market forces that misalign them with their customers. Lack of transparency is a key enabler of all this nonsense.Read More
If you’ve ever bought a house then you’ll be familiar with how convoluted language can lead to ambiguity. The same can be said of investing. Traditional Terms and Conditions documents (T&Cs) – supposedly designed in the interests of the client – often fall well short of their purpose.
When was the last time you read your investment T&Cs cover to cover? You’d be forgiven that thinking life’s too short. Nonetheless, there’s always a lingering suspicion when you tick the ‘I agree’ box. Question is, what disadvantageous words have you missed in among those verbose documents?
Sadly, this is one of the ironies about a regulatory practice that is meant to protect the investor.Read More
Hace unos años mi pareja, de nacionalidad inglesa y con quien vivía felizmente en Londres, me convenció para que nos mudásemos de vuelta a Madrid debido a la multitud de oportunidades que ofrecía la entonces eufórica España. Hoy el escenario es muy distinto, y se hace obvio que si no arrimamos todos el hombro en la reconstrucción de país, el día de volver a hacer las maletas se acerca irremediablemente. ¿Qué ha cambiado?Read More
For months I have cursed the day when our dear politicians decided to convert entrepreneurs into pawns for their political campaigns. Based on the logic I´ve seen in the business schools I've been to, what I see on a daily basis in our pan-European startup investment fund, and in the non-profit association that I work in, I´ve come to dread their speeches. They present huge distortions unaligned with market logic and encourage senseless projects that don´t have a future. The result is that unwittingly naive entrepreneurs pay for the misleading messages of these politicians with their time and wasted enthusiasm, not to mention the innocent citizens with their tax money. This is not the path to sustainable growth.
After many meetings with "the enemy", I finally discovered that not all politicians are created equal and it is necessary to collaborate with those few who want to change the system from within; although it may only be because they are even more courageous and idealistic than the most daring entrepreneurs. It is equally as necessary to pass those proposals that help create many companies that hire many employees and pay lots of taxes, which can help to recover our now-forgotten welfare state. Today I have only one recommendation for success, it costs no money, it´s simple, and if someone can convince the Ministry of Work and Immigration of it´s necessity it would achieve a huge impact:
I am convinced that Spain needs to urgently attract over 5000 high caliber professionals, making these foreigners´ visas a priority and bypassing the miserable months it currently takes to complete the exhaustive documentation.
These visas need to be granted to those few who want to commit to helping us move forward here in Spain, and who we need to do so. We need more teachers like Joe Haslam, who came from Ireland after selling his Internet company to the IE Business School to foster disruptive innovation among the international MBA students receiving their degrees here in Spain. Other examples are Nathan Ryan and Chris McCoy, other brave Americans who are trying to renovate our outdated university system from the inside at the Universidad Carlos III and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. We need more managers of large corporations and serial entrepreneurs with international experience from outside of our borders like Argentinean Inés Leopoldo of Mitsue Venture or German Gregor Gimmy of Sclipo. At our company we need Katelyn Melan, a 23-year American who graduated head of her class in a joint business program between ICADE and Northeastern University. After working at JP Morgan and General Electric she told the Washington Post that she preferred to stay here to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem than to earn what would be a very generous salary in corporate America. We need 5000 more names, just like those above, who are currently without a visa. Professionals that would have the perspective to help the next generation of entrepreneurs and those national directives that have so far missed their mark to reach their full potential. Although the ignorant would call them "privileged" for jumping the interminable waits for documentation, many have already been doing that for a long time. It is with their help we could we could finally begin to act as global citizens.
We also need less politicians, especially those who maintain the currently inefficient system and bureaucrats who interfere to the point where Spain is ranked below the Congo on the competitiveness scale. I'll spare you their names with the hope that some may come to their senses and reform, or that someone sensible removes them first. For the challenges ahead it is essential for all those able to fight against the failures of the system from within to unite. After all, what we have to do if we are going to get out of this crisis is to stop avoiding the problem and help all involved to step up to the task. We will not silence those ideas that could improve the situation, as it will take many such initiatives to overcome this crisis.
It was the guiri that pushed us to the moon, who asked what it is you can do for your country rather than what your country can do for you. If you want to know more about what we are doing from here in Tetuan, join the conversation at http://www.StartupSpain.com
*Guiri is a colloquial Spanish name used in Spain applied to foreigners.Read More
No son las grandes corporaciones las que más impulsan el empleo, sino la empresa incipiente. El 80% de los puestos de trabajo que se crean debían atribuirse a PYMEs.Read More
Los emprendedores que intentan lanzar proyectos de base tecnológica siempre se quejan de que en España apenas hay inversores profesionales, pero rara vez se preguntan por qué ocurre esto... ni como aprovechar la situación cuando tienen entre manos una oportunidad realmente interesante.
Es difícil distinguir entre los distintos modelos de Private Equity, que podríamos definir como la gestión de fondos privados para inversión en vehículos poco líquidos, e incluyen desde la apuesta por proyectos innovadores aportando una financiación que banca o inversores corporativos e institucionales rara vez están dispuestos a aportar (denominados Venture Capital o Capital semilla), hasta modelos de compra apalancada (inyección de deuda) y consolidación (despidos), denominados Leveraged Buyouts y que son lo que se suele entender por capital riesgo. Es tentador cruficar a los gestores de empresas de capital riesgo que especulan arriesgando fondos de terceros disfrutando de sueldos muy generosos y fuerzan decisiones cortoplacistas en aras de lograr un retorno de doble dígito. Es sencillo asumir que aquel que tiene el poder de escribirte ese cheque que tanto impacto puede suponer para tu empresa tiene todo el control. Pero a pesar de que la mayoría de profesionales de las fusiones de adquisiciones anhelan trabajar en Private Equity, y que sin duda es la opción más perseguida por los MBAs de las más prestigiosas escuelas de negocios, recuerdo con claridad cristalina cuando hace muchos años el responsable de unos los principales fondos europeos me confesaba que percibía su trabajo como una cárcel de oro debido a los términos que le habían impuesto a él sus inversores. Al fin y al cabo, su trabajo consiste “simplemente” en gestionar el dinero de otros.
Como siempre nos recuerda Warren Buffet, lo único por lo que debe medirse al responsable de un vehículo financiero es por el retorno sobre el capital que consigue para sus inversores. Un fondo de capital riesgo funciona si vende sus participaciones mucho más caras de lo que los compró, y tiene para hacerlo de 4 a 7 años. En términos simplistas hay dos maneras de lograrlo; multiplicar el valor de todas sus invertidas entre de tres a cinco veces en menos de 5 años o multiplicar el de un 20% de ellas más de 10 veces en un periodo similar. La mayoría de fondos no lo consiguen, y sus gestores tienen que buscar otro trabajo después de unos pocos años tras apostar su reputación profesional y no lograr suficientes inversores les respalden en el siguiente vehículo.
Muchos profesionales del sector consideran la parte más compleja del trabajo es vender las participaciones a buen precio, en mi opinión lo más complicado es conseguir que te lleguen suficientes oportunidades de inversión atractivas (lo que en la jerga del capital riesgo se denomina como deal flow) porque aunque suene a perogrullada si no inviertes en los proyectos adecuados luego son invendibles. La mayoría de métricas relevantes indican el deal flow en España (es decir, la oferta de proyectos atractivos candidatos a la toma de una participación) es de calidad inferior al que se puede encontrar en Estados Unidos y otras geografías.
Y es por esto por lo que el emprendedor con un proyecto de alto potencial tiene que saber jugar sus cartas; los inversores necesitan “dealflow de calidad”. Si hace los deberes para saber a quien realmente interesaría apostar por él será recibido con los brazos abiertos, y si hace los deberes para evaluar de manera objetiva cuanto de valioso es lo que trae podrá negociar unos términos razonables con el fondo adecuado. Porque si su proyecto sólo puede financiarse con capital riesgo, tarde o temprano tendrá que usar las rejas de sus cárceles de oro como una escalera.Read More
The ‘Tower of Babel’-like plethora of languages and the creativity of lawyers has daunted European business since the days of the Roman Empire because it is hard to launch a business when the rules of the game change every few hundred miles. Large corporations have managed to compete with their American counterparts thanks to their critical mass, enabling them to have economies of scale in terms of distribution networks, visibility and lobbying power, but options for small companies are much more limited.
The impact of these challenges on the potential of Technology startups and Venture Capital as an asset class is even more obvious; in fast moving markets the window of opportunity is short and competitors from countries like Denmark, Ireland or Spain rarely have a chance against U.S. rivals in the battle for the global market of customers, investors and employee talent.
Startupbootcamp has been changing the future outlook for startups in these countries and across Europe by providing the necessary tools to rapidly and successfully launch into the global market, thereafter enabling them to grow across Europe and to sell in other countries. In Startupbootcamp acceleration is key. From day one the teams must hit the ground running and undergo constant transformation in order to shape, build and sell their initiatives. The competition doesn’t rest and neither does Startupbootcamp. With the necessary assets, an integrated schedule and effective instruction, teams can expect to be ready for investment in three months.
Startupbootcamp is about collaboration. The programme has established a vibrant technology ecosystem that joins over 150 entrepreneurs, investors and business angels from around the world, offering not only access to mentorship but close links to the global tech sector, giving teams the ability to sell in other countries and to grow across Europe. Startupbootcamp is ultimately changing the panorama from a fragmented environment to a single European market of opportunities where investors can seek to meet and invest in any startup in the Startupbootcamp network.
Now, we are also going to to make all participating startups more investable by establishing a practical, more universal means of connecting startups to investors with open source contracts. The Incorporation and Shareholder agreements will be available online through a wiki-typle platform over the next weeks in order to constantly reassess and give feedback regarding their ability to take into account the nature of quickly growing startups and to simplify the due diligence process. Through joint contracts under UK law and incorporation in London, Startupbootcamp startups are easily investable for BAs and VCs from any country. Our press release explains further:Read More
El proyecto más ambicioso, el negocio más rentable, el plan más exitoso. Hasta el mayor de los imperios financieros empezó siendo poco más que una idea. No llegaba ni a PowerPoint. Es esa idea, esa semilla, la que hay que desarrollar hasta transformar los sueños en negocios tangibles que harán crecer nuestra economía.Read More