Carlos Blanco is one of the top investors in Spain, founder of Nuclio Venture Builder, the Encomenda Smart Capital investment fund and the Conector Startup Accelerator.
He undertook his first project in 1996 with Sports Internet Factory, creating Grupo ITnet, and since then he has developed many successful companies. In 2007, Blanco went from being an entrepreneur to a business angel. In 11 years as a startup investor, Carlos Blanco has participated in 85 companies in a personal capacity.
From his vast experience as an entrepreneur and, particularly, as an investor, we have extracted ten key points which we have set out below:
Surround yourself with people who you can learn from.
The importance of the team appears once again, but also of knowing how to surround yourself, throughout your career, with people who you can learn from. “When you’re a normal employee it is a good idea to surround yourself with good bosses who you can learn from, and try to choose where you can work, in what type of company, what type of field, etc. When I was an entrepreneur, I applied this the other way around, I wanted to have very good people around me, both as partners and workers”, explains Carlos Blanco.
Take care when selecting partners.
“We are no longer talking so much about people’s talent, but rather about values”, explains Blanco. “Choosing a business partner is one of the most important decisions a company can make and, unfortunately, it is one of the decisions that entrepreneurs take most lightly, they don’t attach enough importance to it. The decision of how to choose partners, who I choose and when, is fundamental”, he advises.
Analyse projects before investing.
Frequently, especially in the case of startups in the very early stages, investors are forced to work in very fast time frames. But even then, it is crucial to analyse the project before committing to it. “You shouldn’t invest in people and businesses just because you like them. You have to be much more analytical, much colder, and when you put on your investor hat, you have to forget feelings, forget friendships, forget that you know people”, argues the investor. “The fact that it’s a friend’s project doesn’t have to be the starting point of the investment proposal. It should be started up by the fact that the business is good”. Even though intuition is very important for success as an investor, “you have to be careful not to let yourself get too carried away by passion”, he recommends.
Distance yourself from a project when you aren’t motivated to continue.
Carlos Blanco doesn’t hesitate to highlight this as being one of the most difficult moments for entrepreneurs: identifying the right time to sell or put an end to a project into which time and enthusiasm have been invested. “I think that the time to sell is when the entrepreneur is no longer happy or when an offer is made that cannot be refused”, he explains. In some cases, it’s the investors themselves who decide to abandon a project, which means that selling becomes a necessity, “an entrepreneur has to be very aware that if he allows investors in, they will end up wanting to leave”.
The more partners, the more involvement in the company.
“In my experience, only 1 in 7 workers make the company their own as a worker and, by contrast, in a company where there are 20 workers and 4 partners, it is easier to find 6 or 7 people involved out of 20. When there are a lot of people involved, the levels of effort, motivation and commitment increase proportionally”, affirms the Nuclio founder.
The importance of the leader and the market choice.
Creating a team is one of the most important points for a startup, but it’s also important that there is a clear leader with leadership skills and the necessary qualities to be one. “Leadership means knowing how to manage a team, knowing how to create a team, a team of partners and a team of workers. I place a lot of value on this leader”; explains Blanco. As for the market, entrepreneurs should pay more attention to this than to their own idea and seek “a growing market, a long-lasting market, something that won’t change from one day to the next, like property or car sales, for example”.
Lack of entrepreneurial education.
Although increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are trained and understand more about how the ecosystem works, many others don’t know in what direction to go when they start their projects. “Part of our social work as entrepreneurs and investors is to continue to educate so that there is an understanding of the stages of entrepreneurial projects, the stages of investments and the errors that are committed”, explains Carlos Blanco. “Young people are strongly encouraged to be entrepreneurs, but this isn’t the only thing that should be encouraged. Entrepreneurship, teamwork and the importance of innovation should be highlighted. But it should be explained that, if they want to be entrepreneurs, the roadmap initially involves working for a few years with good people or in the field that interests them to find out more about it and make contacts. So, then, when you set up a company, you’ve already met other professionals and you’ll be more capable of choosing the ideal partners”, he says.
Not everybody is an entrepreneur.
“Everybody must analyse themselves to see if they fit the necessary criteria: I’m not a good leader, I’m not a good communicator, I’m not metrics-oriented… so I can’t be an entrepreneur. But I can be self-employed, a freelancer, a consultant. However, I cannot be an entrepreneur in a company that I want to make big”, says the investor and entrepreneur, “I can’t expect to lead if I don’t have the qualities to be a leader and many people without these qualities do this, because there’s no entrepreneurial education from the bottom”.
Copycats and knowledge of local business.
As an entrepreneur, one common practice is the copycat, creating companies that already exist. The key, in this case, is knowing how to adapt them to the local market in order to be successful. “Local entrepreneurs have the opportunity of creating a business in some countries where the big companies still haven’t entered. So, when this big company wants to access this market, it has to buy”, explains Blanco. “The copycat model isn’t so easy, there are thousands, and very few make it. It is based on implementation, not on investors.
There is talent, but it’s badly grouped together.
Experience is the key to this point. A worker who has been successful in e-commerce knows what types of job profiles are necessary to create a project with these characteristics. This is a point where many entrepreneurs often make a mistake, choosing teams that lack key profiles, even though the idea was good. “My role is making sure the projects are created with the perfect team in each case, If not, I won’t create it; I will only do it if I find the right people. Many people aren’t capable and they don’t know themselves. My role at Nuclio Ventures is grouping together the different profiles to create this company”, remarks Blanco.