2021 was an interesting year for the Spanish ecosystem.
For one, Venture Capital investment at €1.9 billion was the highest ever, almost 4x times than in 2020, according to data from Dealroom. We also saw how Spain is booming with startups that are acquiring unicorn status, 12 of them just this year, confirmed by an Atomico report.
It is also possible to see groundbreaking ideas coming from cities other than Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. For example, Málaga is beginning to develop some of the most interesting startups in sectors like gaming and agrotech.
By the end of 2021 the sectors which received the most funding were proptech, logistics/delivery and fintech. There is also an interesting initiative in Catalonia to conquer the NewSpace sector. It’s possible, though, that the most innovative up-and-coming startups are the ones going into the metaverse.
There is a lot of good news coming from Spain right now and while there is still a lot to do in terms of helping the ecosystem grow and develop, the future looks promising. One step in the right direction is that the so-called Startup Law will be ready for 2022, after much government debate.
Novobrief is taking the opportunity to present 20 tech leaders to watch in 2022. These entrepreneurs all have ties to Spain and are putting the country on the map of the most innovative companies on the planet.
Gonzalo Galindo, Head, Cemex Ventures
Gonzalo Galindo is the Head of Cemex Ventures, the venture capital arm of Cemex, a Mexican company and a global leader in the building materials industry. Before transitioning into Cemex’s venture capital arm, Gonzalo had over 15 years of experience working at Cemex in business development and operations.
Based in Madrid, Cemex Ventures invests in construction technology-focused disruptive startups that are able to provide answers to real day-to-day problems happening in the construction value chain.
Apart from making investments, Cemex Ventures also helps early-stage companies who need support in their market growth process, through pilots, research and development (R&D) testing activities. Cemex Ventures also gives them access to its network of partners including other investors, VCs, accelerators, investment funds, clients, suppliers and the academia. Likewise, Cemex Ventures has launched some in-house incubated solutions to attend to the specific needs of the core business.
Jordi Romero, founder and CEO, Factorial HR
Jordi Romero is the founder and CEO of Factorial HR, an HR Software startup in Barcelona that is on its journey to improving Human Resources management and allowing small and medium companies to start making better decisions.
Previously he was CTO and VP of Business Development & Platform at Redbooth, an online collaboration software company founded in Barcelona, that then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived between 2011 and 2016. During his time at Redbooth he also joined his friend Bernat when he was starting itnig, a holding company that invested in Camaloon, Quipu and Factorial, among other online businesses.
Since 2019 Jordi has been an active business angel, co-investing with his partners at the itnig fund, a 2M € early stage fund investing 100.000 € per company. itnig is also heavily involved in developing the Barcelona startup ecosystem, running a co-working space and owning a specialty coffee shop in the Poblenou neighborhood, the biggest startup hub in Barcelona.
Tarik Faouzi, Senior Vice President, CloudBlue
Tarik Faouzi is Senior Vice President of CloudBlue, an independent Ingram Micro business dedicated to helping service providers of all kinds build, scale and monetize cloud and digital services in the as-a-service economy.
Tarik has two decades of experience in the IT world. Since joining Ingram Micro in 2014, he has focused on defining and realizing its cloud strategy, moving from inception to go-to-market for several launches. As a General Manager based in Barcelona, he strives to stay two steps ahead of the market by looking toward what’s next in the cloud.
Tarik leads the global cloud products team and has the responsibility of the product roadmap of various platforms, the development of solutions offerings, and expansion of professional services. Before his role in Ingram Micro, he led Tech Data’s $350 million Components Specialized business unit, where he worked to improve vendor relations and strategically expand the company’s product portfolio.
Carolina Aguilar, CEO and cofounder, Inbrain Neuroelectronics
Carolina Aguilar is the co-founder and CEO of Inbrain Neuroelectronics, a company based in Barcelona that is outperforming Elon Musk’s Neuralink with their neural implants.
She is a neuroscientist and business executive with more than 15 years of Medtech experience, managing complex environments from acquisitions to consolidated businesses. Carolina was Head of Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation for 10 years, both as the European sales director and Global commercialization lead. Above all she is a lover of value-based healthcare innovation leading to healthcare sustainability.
Having been on the corporate side for a long time she decided it was time to make a key contribution to the speed of critical innovation and recently co-founded Inbrain Neuroelectronics aiming to decode brain and nerve signals into sustainable medical solutions.
Alvaro Gutierrez, co-CEO, Barkibu
Alvaro Gutierrez is co-founder and co-CEO of Barkibu, a platform to connect veterinarians and pet lovers. Barkibu is a telehealth platform that offers immediately available communication, plus a comprehensible insurance product that helps pet owners with the costs of dealing with illness and accidents.
Alvaro holds an MBA 2004 from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and has experience in investments and debt capital markets working for JP Morgan in London.
Alvaro is also the co-founder of Noma, a digitally-powered pet health insurance company that in April 2020 merged with Barkibu, and the co-Founder of Kiwoko, Spain’s largest pet retail and veterinary chain. He and the other founders of Barkibu have confidence in how AI can reshape pet care for both owners and animals.
Rob Cassedy, CEO, Wallapop
Rob Cassedy is the CEO at Wallapop, the leading free app for buying and selling secondhand products that promotes a new way of sustainable consumption. Based in Barcelona, It is one of the key global players of a new pure mobile approach that is disrupting the industry.
As an engineer, Rob began his career in strategic consulting at Mars & Co. and obtained his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Rob is one of the most respected executives in the European online classifieds industry. He spent three years as CEO of eBay Kleinanzeigen in Germany, the largest classifieds business in Europe with almost 500 million monthly visits and 30 million active ads. Prior to eBay Kleinanzeigen, he led the European expansion for eBay Inc.
Adrián Hernández, CEO and Founder, Simplicity Works
Adrián Hernández is the founder and CEO of Simplicity Works, a company with headquarters in Alicante that invented and patented the 3D Bonding technology. This is a joining technology that vastly improves efficiency in shoe-making and that recently was chosen by the European Innovation Council to receive an investment of €17 million.
Adrián has a strong background of 25 years in the shoe industry in different areas of operations, product design, management and marketing. He has been the inventor of 14 new patents for processes and tools in the last five years. In his own words, he “believes in generating solutions to trigger a global reorder replacement of production centers, always with a focus on promoting equality of opportunity, respect for people and our environment.” Adrián has strong skills for detecting opportunities and visualizing the impact of change and prioritizing the best outcome.
Edgar Martín-Blas, CEO and Creative Director, Virtual Voyagers
Edgar Martín-Blas is the founder, CEO and Creative Director of Virtual Voyagers, a pioneering company in the Virtual Reality industry. The company has been recognized in the XR rankings as one of the top 30 international XR startups. It also appeared as a featured VR company at Facebook’s “F8” event in California and in Oculus Connect 6.
In 2019 and 2020, Edgar was selected by the Choiseul Institute as one of the top 20 of the 100 Economic Leaders for the Future list (www.choiseul.es).
His works include Theme Park projects and large scale project design with Disney and Efteling teams. Advertising awards such as EFI (Effectiveness Awards), Ibero-American FIAP, and international Malofiej. Edgar has worked with more than 38 brands (Ferrari, Disney, Movistar, Inditex, Mastercard, etc) and has won 10 national and international awards: Lovie Awards, Google best App, International Travel & Tourism Award and Inspirational, among others.
Luisa Rubio Arribas, Head, Wayra X
Luisa Rubio Arribas is Head of Wayra X, and is responsible for leading Telefonica’s investment vehicle to globally execute seed and early-stage investments in digital startups oriented to consumer markets.
Luisa is a senior expert on venture capital, open innovation, entrepreneurship and corporate strategy. During her career, she has participated in several conferences as a speaker and jury member, contributed to international publications, and acted as a professor on Entrepreneurship and Open Innovation.She has worked in Spain and in the USA, focusing most of her career in Open Innovation initiatives. There, she has led investment, disinvestment, and business development opportunities with more than 100 startups around the world. Luisa holds a double degree in Law, Labour Relations and Human Resources from Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s in Lawyering from UOC.
Albert Zaragoza, VP of Engineering, BitPanda
Albert Zaragoza is the VP of Engineering at Bitpanda, the Austrian cryptocurrency broker that has recently chosen its Barcelona office to base a Tech Hub.
Before Bitpanda, Albert was CTO at Wordsensing, an IoT and industrial monitoring company. Previous to Wordsensing, he was VP of Engineering at EVRYTHING.
He defines himself as versatile, hands-on, business-focused technologist with widely diverse industry experience including IoT, media, healthcare, retail & finance. His passion is combining deep technical expertise with proven management skills adapted to the specific requirements of the role.
Albert has had several successful encounters in building technology strategy programs, teams and hubs across the UK and Europe. He is now leading the Bitpanda Barcelona Tech Hub, pushing forward customer acquisition and onboarding initiatives.
Andrés Dancausa, General Partner, TheVentureCity
Andrés Dancausa is General Partner at TheVentureCity, an operator-led venture accelerator that makes the global entrepreneurial ecosystem more diverse and accessible to capital.
Andrés has a long career in startups and business. He was CEO and Partner of iAhorro.com for 8 years, now one of the leading Fintech companies in Spain with a team of more than 140 people and with a business figure that has grown by 200% in the last 3 years.He also founded of SofiaSquare, a private tutoring marketplace.
He started in TheVentureCity in October 2018 in Madrid, with great expectations. In his own words, TheVentureCity’s “dream is to find and help to build Unicorns (actually Iwanacorns) around the globe and that´s what we are doing!”
Bernardo Quintero, founder, VirusTotal
Bernardo Quintero is the founder of Virus Total, a crowdsourced threat intelligence platform that is dedicated to scanning URLs and files for malware-free of charge. Back in 2012, Google acquired Virus Total, which is how world-leading malware fighting met planet-scale technology.
An engineer from Málaga, Bernardo has a passion for IT security and is the paradigm of a successful entrepreneur. In the last decade, he has also been working as a Security Engineer Manager for Google.
Bernardo provides support to the entrepreneurial spirit and self-employment through initiatives like the Bernardo Quintero Business Project Awards or Loop Venture, a project created by a group of successful entrepreneurs who invest in software start-ups.
Alberto Méndez Rebollo is the CEO of Plexigrid, a company that is changing the way energy ecosystems sense, think and interplay.
Alberto is an executive, investor and entrepreneur who has dedicated his entire career to “the energy transition”. He has held executive and board positions at leading corporations, startups and international organizations such as Siemens-Gamesa, Vattenfall, XCharge and Procurement Leaders, where he has built and run multibillion ventures and operations in areas like wind and solar power, electricity grids and e-mobility.
With Plexigrid he is providing tailored solutions for electricity systems by using data analysis and optimization technology. The final goal of Alberto and Plexigrid is to allow the electrical systems to work as a perfectly tuned orchestra. That is an ecosystem where consumption adapts to production, allowing more renewable generation.
Adeyemi Ajao, co-founder and managing partner, Base10 Partners
Adeyemi (“Ade”) is co-founder & Managing Partner at Base10 Partners. Before Base10, Ade had a successful career as an entrepreneur and investor.
Ade holds an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He also holds a J.D. in Law and a M.S in Economics from Icade University in Spain and studied a certificate on Machine Learning at Stanford.
Ade was the co-founder and CEO of Tuenti (The “Spanish Facebook” which was acquired by Telefonica in 2010 for $100M), co-founder and CEO of Identified (“AI for HR” acquired by Workday in 2014), and a founding investor of Cabify (the largest ridesharing company in Latin America currently valued at over $1B).
While at Workday, Ade led launch to Workday Ventures, the first fund focused on Applied AI for Enterprise Software and was VP of Technology Strategy.
Enrique Lizaso is the founder and Managing Director of Multiverse Computing, the first quantum & quantum-inspired toolbox for finance.
He holds a Degree in Mathematics from the University of Barcelona (majoring in Crypto and Mathematics of Financial Derivatives, and where he heard for the first time about Quantum Computing Algorithms), another Degree in Computer Engineering, and another in Medicine from the University of Navarra.
Enrique has worked for more than 20 years in the Bancassurance Industry (first in Caixa Terrassa and Later in Unnim Banc where we became Deputy CEO).
He has also set up successful ventures in the field of International Health insurance, and recently launched another in the field of Blockchain in Legaltech. He has been the founding member and President of the “Quantum for Quants Commission” of the Quantum World Association He is also VP of the Quantum Blockchain Alliance, a workgroup linking both Blockchain and Quantum Computing.
Enric Asunción, CEO, Wallbox
Enric Asunción is co-founder and CEO of Wallbox, a smart electric vehicle charging and energy management provider based in Barcelona. This company designs, manufactures and distributes electric vehicle charging technologies.
In 2017 Wallbox was awarded Europe’s best Startup by South Summit. Enric has a background in Industrial Engineering and worked in Tesla for three years before starting Wallbox. Enric is also an Endeavor Entrepreneur and considers himself a futurist and E-mobility Enthusiast. He says that he and his partners founded Wallbox to develop intelligent chargers that combine cutting-edge technology with outstanding design to provide a pleasant and user-friendly charging experience to our customers.
Avi Meir, co-founder and CEO, TravelPerk
Avi Meir is the co-Founder and CEO of TravelPerk, a business travel platform offering companies of any size a one-stop-shop to book & manage all their travel in one place. Based in Barcelona, TravelPerk is one of the fastest-growing tech startups in Europe and raised $14m from some of the world’s leading investors including SparkCapital, famous for Twitter, Trello and Slack.
Prior to founding TravelPerk, Avi was Co-Founder of Hotel Ninjas, which was acquired by Booking.com in 2014, and VP Product at Budgetplaces.com, which was acquired by Palamon in 2011
Avi started writing code when he was 12 years old, holds an MBA from IESE, and is a frequent speaker about travel technology in industry events. He lived in three countries and speaks English, French, Spanish, Hebrew and Klingon.
Ana Maiques, co-founder and CEO, Neuroelectrics
Ana Maiques is the co-founder and CEO of Neuroelectrics, a company aiming to change the way we interact with the brain; developing innovative technologies to monitor and stimulate the brain.
As a company, Neuroelectrics received the Best Start-up in Health Award in 2015 by Wired UK magazine and in 2016 was recognized as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™ List, the most comprehensive analysis of private companies in America. Ana continues to break the barriers for women and entrepreneurs bringing together science and technology in an impactful way.
Ana was nominated by IESEas one of the most influential entrepreneurs under 40 in Spain in 2010, she was the only woman on that list. She received the EU Prize for WomenInnovators from the European Commission EC in 2014.
Also in 2014, she was an award recipient of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge. In 2015 & 2016, she was named one of most inspiring women on the Inspiring Fifty list in Europe of women technological leaders and innovators.
Aquilino Peña, co-founder and partner, Kibo Ventures
Aquilino Peña is the co-Founder and Partner at Kibo Ventures, one of the most active Venture Capital firms in Spain.
Aquilino has been involved in the digital industry since the late 90s, has been an active Angel Investor and Advisor to a number of companies such as BaseKit(UK), Acierto.com, Matrix, Bodeboca, PayCo (Germany), Virtual Contenidos, Alice (US/España) amongst other relevant projects.
Aquilino started his career as a Consultant for The Boston Consulting Group, where he worked for the Madrid office and started up the Sao Paulo office.
Aquilino is well known and considered a key person in the European Internet arena. He has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a E-3 degree in Law and Business Administration from ICADE. He is also fluent in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Marc Coloma, co-founder and CEO, Heura
Marc Coloma is co-founder and CEO of Heura, a Barcelona-based foodtech company considered to be one of Europe’s fastest-growing plant-based brands. Heura started with a plant-based chicken product and now offers a range of plant-based meat alternatives.
In 2018, Marc received the CVC Young Innovator Award and in 2019 was selected by Forbes as one of 100 Most Creative People in Business.
In his own words, “justice is my drive and technology is where I find solutions”. This entrepreneur/activist says that his passion is to engage in projects that will build a better world.
Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company.