Ideas on paper

Thoughts by José Luis Agell

Category Archives: keys for success

Passion for building cool products

I’m not sure why I actually studied Mechanical Engineering but I’m convinced it had something to do with my eagerness to build new things. And I’m also convinced that this is one of the reasons why I’m passionate about tech startups. Image

Many successful entrepreneurs have been asked about the reason why they decided to leave the comfort zone and started their own project; and there’s no common answer to that. I guess some entrepreneurs do it for money, with the intention to have a good pay-out in the exit. But I know a lot of people who take the leap just for the satisfaction of seeing that they were able to build a great product or service.

Mechanical Engineers were crucial during the Industrial Revolution. They were able to build the train that transformed our society. They also had an important role during the twentieth century. They built cars, planes and worked with Electrical engineers to build most of the devices and machinery that surround us.

I must admit that I’m a bit jealous of Computer Science Engineers, because, nowadays, they are the pillar of the tech startups. Every successful innovation has software or can be enhanced by it. This is why I’m determined to improve my programming skills. And I can’t think of a better opportunity to do it than the Mobile Gaming Hackathon that Chartboost is hosting this weekend. We’re expecting over 100 hackers and designers who will team up and build their dream game app in less than 2 days! I can’t wait to see what participants can come up with!

I’m proud of my colleagues and friends Sean, Zach and Ed -engineers from Chartboost- who won the AT&T Hackathon last weekend. Guys: next time, I’ll be part of your team! 🙂

I don’t believe in Spanish companies…

but I believe in Spanish talent!

Many Spaniards visiting or moving to Silicon Valley ask about the keys for Spanish companies to be successful here. This is obviously a very tricky question because no one knows the secret recipe to create a company that attracts talent, clients and investors. However, there’s only one piece of advice that I can give to any company from Spain who’s trying to come to the Valley: forget where you come from and focus on where you want to get.

Expanding a business overseas is not easy and Silicon Valley is not a paradise. The way of living and doing business is completely different, plus it requires tons of resources and you need to make sure that it pays off. It can be a necessary step to tackle new markets, acquire new talent and raise money but it can also be a dramatic cash burn.

We, immigrants, tend to protect ourselves from the unknown by creating our comfortable ghettos. There’s a natural tendency to gather with our compatriots. I’ve done that many times and it can be relieving. However, I strongly believe that to multiply the odds of success in Silicon Valley and other parts of the world, entrepreneurs need to leave the comfort zone (and this also includes leaving the Spanish Harlem).

Nowadays, companies and entrepreneurs need to be and think global from the very beginning. I’m not talking only about having an English website; I mean a complete change of mindset. As individuals, we can-and should- take advantage of our original talents and values, but the companies that succeed abroad are those that are able to adapt to foreign dynamics. Looking for an American co-founder, hiring local people, getting international advisors, avoiding being surrounded by expats, attending networking events, applying for acceleration programs… are factors that can definitely help acquire this new internal dynamics.

This is why I don’t believe in Spanish companies anymore.

Technology to improve our lives

I was fortunate to attend part of the GigaOm Roadmap today. The conference gathered 20 tech leaders to analyze “what’s next”.  Tech pros and founders from companies like Square, Twitter, Dropbox, WordPress, DreamWorks… went on stage to talk about what they’re working on and where do the see they future of technology going.

Speakers came from very different backgrounds and industries but there was a common denominator: technology is going to become more human-centered, enhancing new user experiences, better communications and healthier life-styles.

These are some of my notes:


“Both [Twitter and Square] are great at encouraging more face-to-face human interactions… I believe strongly that this information and these tools help us be better, but we need to be sure as builders of tools that it’s not overwhelming, that it’s meaningful, and that it’s not distracting. That it’s not something that puts technology first; it puts humans first. And the humans’ use of the technology first.” (Jack Dorsey)


Ian Blaine, CEO of The Platform, said that content can’t be pushed homogeneously to everybody. The access to the cloud has to be personalized, adapted to everyone’s preferences. This is what they’re doing at Xfinity, creating a customized way to watch media content and movies, making it more personalized, social and more user-friendly.”There will also be a bunch of extra meta-data around the program, making it possible for end users to find new content by actor or even through personal recommendations. Another neat feature: TV viewers will have a history of the nine most recent items viewed across VOD, live TV and online content.”


Mobile internet is connecting us all, bringing up great capabilities and opportunities in various industries: health, communications, sports… It might sound a bit futuristic, but Jawbone Founder and CEO Hosain Rahman says we’re headed to an era where our bodies can be connected to everything in the world, including our remote doctor, coach or heating system. I’m still impressed by the new wristband that his company has recently launched: UP. This system (wristband+ iPhone app) tracks your daily and sleeping activity and helps you live a healthier live.

Openness and interoperability

With lots of data about ourselves in the cloud, interoperability becomes crucial. Data has to be accessible from a variety of devices.

This is just a taste of what the future will be. It was a day full of valuable insights and excitement to make us smarter, more connected and healthier through technology.

Ctrl+Alt+Compete, a movie about startups

I can’t wait to see this movie that gets into the journey of 5 startups to show what it takes to be successful and what are the main risks.