From Barcelona to Silicon Valley. My 9 key learnings in founding a company

14 Mar 2016 in The Network, Alumni by Mireia Hernández Navarro

 From Barcelona to Silicon Valley. My 9 key learnings in founding a company

"UNITECH was one of the most enriching experiences in my education. It opened my mind to new ways of thinking and doing business. It has greatly contributed to me becoming the professional that I am today. ".Pepe Agell (UNITECH Alumnus 2006).

Haven’t you thought about founding your own company at some point in your career? To be able to provide solutions to some of the world’s problems which you clearly detect and you think are going unnoticed? What is it that is preventing you from doing so? Fear? Uncertainty? Rapid and constant change? Required Skills? Funding? Differentiation from competitors?

These were just a few of the aspects that were shared on February 25th in Barcelona during an event titled “From Barcelona to Silicon Valley. My 9 key learnings in founding a company”. Pepe Agell led this event and shared with us his experiences in founding Chartboost, company which he manages with his wife and currently employs more than 150 people.

Everything started at ETH Zurich, when Pepe was doing his UNITECH exchange. He got enrolled in a course named “New Enterprises for engineers”. This was the first time he had never heard the term “startup” and within this course he generated a business plan for a hypothetical company. In this course, he was able to meet exceptional teachers from whom he learnt a lot and with whom he still remains in contact today.

Who would have said that Pepe would be managing a company which years later would have offices in San Francisco, Tokyo and Amsterdam? Although Chartboost was competing with Google and Facebook, it found its way of differentiation. Chartboost acts as a business engine for mobile games, allowing video game developers to create customized interstitials and video ads promoting new games for the market. As of 2016, it has been integrated into more than 300,000 games with 40 billion game sessions per month.

“I’ve learned many things from the way business is done in Silicon Valley. With this talk, my goal was to share 9 key learnings from our journey". – Pepe Agell (UNITECH Alumnus 2006).

  1. Internationalize yourself
    More than just learning languages, Pepe encourages young professionals to think beyond borders, to explore horizons outside of their comfort zone. Meeting people, learning the different ways in which cultures and countries work and think, and being able to interconnect all of these, is good way to start.
  2. Define your global impact
    Do not look for local clients, local suppliers, and local needs. Pepe thinks that the most important thing nowadays is to think BIG. Thinking in a global way, defining a global impact with your business is the only way in which for success. Connectivity allows us to be everywhere we want to be. Thinking BIG is the way to do it.
  3. Stay local
    Every new business, however, will always end up in a good shake of hands (words of Pepe). Customers appreciate a unique treat. They appreciate small details that can prove that you take care of your clients and that you want them to feel special. An example to this was the Japanese website translation when Chartboost opened an office in Tokyo, Japan. A Japanese client will look at you differently if they see that you’ve a website only for their market. Small details count.
  4. Hire slow, fire fast
    Job descriptions, especially in fast-moving startups, can be outdated within one week. More than to look for someone that fits perfectly well to the job description, look for great talent that can adapt and grow in an ever changing environment. Take as much time as needed to make sure you’re hiring the right person. On the other hand, Pepe was clear in emphasizing that whenever there were doubts of an employee’s performance, the firing process had to be fast. The more time you wait for it to happen, the worse the end scenario.
  5. One team, one culture
    Define the team and the culture of the company is what can make all the difference. Competing with big companies such as Google and Facebook makes it quite challenging. These have enviable work places, with colorful balloon pools and amazing installations. How can you compete with that, Pepe asked himself? Chartboost, for example, promotes hobbies and activities during working hours. If 10 employees share a hobby, Chartboost offers a subsidy of up to 50% so that hobby can be boosted. Sharing activities which make employees happier and more comfortable in their workplaces can have an amazing impact on how they perform and how they value the company.
  6. Turn your clients into ambassadors
    More than investing resources in marketing campaigns, Pepe certified that what really makes you attractive is how clients talk about you. It is vital to turn your clients into ambassadors. Having them talking about your business in a good way can have 20 times as much impact as having an amazing marketing campaign.
  7. Build a strong company brand
    Early startups usually don’t think much about their external brand, but Pepe encouraged young entrepreneurs to define the aspects that make a company different: from culture and values to market positioning. In case of Chartboost they positioned the company to work on the side of the developer, rather than on the side of advertising companies.
  8. Choose your moment and jump
    Pepe agreed that it will never be the perfect time to start a business, just a it is never the perfect time to have a child. It is important to not let ideas disappear only because we believe it is not the time. Eventually, we all have to choose our moment and jump for it!
  9. Have fun!
    The most important thing in all this adventure Pepe emphasized is to have fun. In a project that you’ll probably spend more than 80% of your time in, it is important that you have fun in it. It is not an easy way to go, but Pepe encourages young professionals to go for it. Nothing is impossible. If you have talent, energy and ambition, you’ll get through it no matter what the difficulties of the process may be.

Company’s website

Media news:

“No somos españoles en Silicon Valley: aquí tienes que crear una empresa a la americana”
Internacionalizarte a ti mismo
Los españoles que lograron triunfar en Silicon Valley

Youtube videos:

From Barcelona to the world. Pepe Agell (Chartboost) - 4 Years From N
Interview with Pepe Agell of Chartboost
Pepe Agell, Chartboost
Player acquisition lessons from the mobile gaming leader. Panel by Pepe Agell - 4 Years From Now

With this story, we prove once more that UNITECH shapes young professionals into outstanding individuals keen in creating value for society. It is always a pleasure to witness the power of this network, amazing Alumni with amazing stories to tell.

"From Barcelona to Silicon Valley. Inspiring and sensational event. A boost of motivation to all of us." - Mireia Hernández (International Communication Officer).

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