Ideas on paper

Thoughts by José Luis Agell

Category Archives: Learnings

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.

I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded

Last Monday, the FailCon took place in San Francisco. As its website preaches: FaiCon is a one-day conference for technology entrepreneurs, investors, developers and designers to study their own and others’ failures and prepare for success. Wow! 🙂

I love the idea to share our failing experiences to prepare for success. Because the entrepreneurial life is made of ups and downs. We need to have both to succeed.

I have the feeling that entrepreneurship is becoming a popular trend nowadays (especially in Spain). This is great on one hand: we need to change the way traditional companies work. However I believe that most people have a romantic concept of starting a company. It is actually an exciting adventure but it’s not sexy at all. Start-ups take long-hour workdays, economic efforts, tons of creativity, persistence and, of course, failures. So, we all need to embrace failure and, when things are not going as expected, find the way to pivot, reformulate the value proposition or restructure the team without being discouraged.

In this sense, I’d like to share the wise words of Vinod Khosla at FailCon 2011:

We better stop being afraid of failure and get used to talk about it with the pride that we talk about our successes! 🙂

Half Dome, September 2011

This was a remarkable weekend. After too much time, I reconciled with the mountains and I met the challenge of climbing the Half Dome. This granite mass of more than 2600 meters is probably one of the most emblematic mountains of California. The truth is that its more than 1400 meters above the valley floor and its steep slopes make this summit impressive.

It was a day of experiences and emotions. In fact, climbing a mountain is like condensing some of the most relevant feelings of a lifetime in only one day.

  • You need to have an ambitious goal
  • Starting the trail is always exciting though you might be doubtful
  • There are moments of weakness
  • There are moments of fullfillment
  • You experience fear
  • You’re not alone
  • Sometimes you don’t see it but you know that you’re walking towards the summit
  • When you’re on the top, you experience a deep feeling of freedom and happiness

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Thanks Francesc, Montse, Silvia, Guillem, Oriol, Roger and Maria for being such great fellow adventurers! 🙂

Trying to understand startup dynamics

The startup world is chaos. Everybody knows it.

If we had a way to predict the success of  technology ventures and diagnose easy solutions to their problems, entrepreneurship would die. However, many people are trying to detect and understand some of the patterns that determine startup behaviors.

A first attempt was led by Younoodle  a litle bit more than 2 years ago. They surprised the startup community with the Younoodle score, a complex algorithm that, given certain values and data, was able to evaluate the success rate of a startup. The company planned to license this tool to the venture capitalism sector as a way to rate their investments and their potential. I personally don’t think they succeeded but they were able to generate some buzz at that time.

Today, the Blackbox team launched a new tool: the startup Genome Compass. I had the chance to test a first version of it when I applied to the EU Demo night. But today, I took some time to redo the benchmarking questionnaire for Innovalley. The results were very surprising.

Of course, I didn’t get a secret recipe to boost our business, but it’s useful to compare some important metrics against more than 3200 startups. You get a sense on where you stand regarding customer acquisition costs, distribution channels, customer growth…

Moreover, the startup Genome algorithm classifies startups in 4 types and 6 stages depending on the answers to the benchmarking questionnaire. Innovalley has been classified as a Challenger:

The Challenger / Type 3

These startups are focused on closing high paying customers in large but fragmented markets. They are highly dependent on a small number of deals being successful and usually operate in complex and rigid markets. To be successful they need to find a repeatable and scalable sales process.

If you’re interested in how you compare your startup to other early stage ventures, they summarized their results in a report  Startup Genome Report Extra: Premature Scaling. One of the biggest surprises is that success isn’t about size of funding or team. It turns out premature scaling is the leading cause of failure. These startups, called inconsistent, are those who try to scale before they have reached product/market fit and streamlined their customer acquisition process.

  • The team size of startups that scale prematurely is 3 times bigger than the consistent startups at the same stage
  • 74% of high growth Internet startups fail due to premature scaling
  • Startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster than startups that scale prematurely
  • 93% of startups that scale prematurely never break the $100k revenue per month threshold

I am sure these insights will be valuable for all of us. Great job Blackbox!