Ideas on paper

Thoughts by José Luis Agell

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

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! 🙂

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.

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!

Conociendo a Isak Andic

Hoy he tenido el placer de compartir comida con Isak Andic, fundador y presidente de Mango, y 10 empresarios más gracias a una iniciativa de Barcelona Activa. Ha sido un rato de conversación interesantísima que me ha cargado las pilas.

Isak Andic es un emprendedor en mayúsculas. Ha logrado convertir una pequeña empresa importadora de productos de ropa en una de las grandes de la moda que, además, no traiciona a su origen barcelonés. Su testimonio no deja indiferente. En un momento de crisis generalizada, en que las empresas tienden a cerrar el puño, Mango ha implementado uno de los planes más expansivos de su historia. Sólo en 2010, abrió más de 400 tiendas en todo el mundo.

Pero también nos ha hablado de sus crisis, porque como él mismo dice “sólo se aprende cuando las cosas van mal”. Dice que atravesaron una profunda crisis interna en el 2000 de la que aprendieron y mejoraron tanto que se sienten muy fuertes en estos momentos en que la coyuntura económica no acompaña.

Ha hablado de cómo después de su declive del 2000, crearon un nuevo consejo y comité de dirección, reforzaron su imagen de marca con la ayuda de algunas celebridades y reestructuraron los recursos humanos; pero sobre todo, ha hablado de pasión y de talento, dos elementos imprescindibles para cualquier aventura empresarial.

Gracias Isak por compartir tu testimonio con este entusiasmo. A ver si algún día Mango e Innovalley hacen algo grande juntos.