Josean Borge is the CEO & founder of the Dreamers Factory Innovation Outpost. He holds a Political Sciences & Administration Degree and an Executive MBA by Eseune Business School- Georgetown (Washington DC). He is a serial entrepreneur as former founder of DataSurfHouse/Aquadat, innovUp Creative Center, CX Surfboards and “El Señor de la Red”. He has also been a member of IT Companies such as Getronics-Tecnocom, Grupo Versia, Grupo Eroski or Sermicro as Project Manager. USEC had a unique opportunity to hold this exclusive interview with Josean to discuss entrepreneurship in the US.
1) You are the founder of The Dreamers Factory, which helps entrepreneurs and companies develop startups and identify innovative talent, operating from Boston and Bilbao. Can you explain in a few words the mission of your organization?
The Dreamers Factory is an innovation outpost that brings together startups and corporations, helps companies innovate, and promotes the development of a global and sustainable business ecosystem in Spain
2) What is different from The Dreamers Factory as opposed to other innovation accelerator concepts being followed by other organizations in the US?
The Dreamers Factory is not a startup accelerator; it is a Hub where startups collaborate with consolidated companies. In Dreamers, we know that corporations require the talent and ideas of rising entrepreneurs and these require the economic resources and management of large companies. It’s the perfect mix to accelerate projects, even more than any academic-style acceleration program. We help companies by changing the mentalities of their managers, not only teaching them to work with agile methodologies, but transforming them into agile people and mixing them with emerging talent. The result is more speed at both ends. It’s the real win-win.
3) A unique aspect of The Dreamers Factory is its international perspective, bringing together key players from the US and Spain. How can this element provide value in this process?
The USA is the main innovation market in the world. It is where ideas are generated at a higher speed, and where the entrepreneurial culture and the culture of risk to invest in entrepreneurs has the deepest roots. In the USA, people are the most important thing, and failure is not failure: it is an opportunity to learn.
It doesn’t matter the metrics at the beginning; it doesn’t matter if you want to get 100 million users on a digital platform, what matters is how you’re going to get the first thousand. Implementing this mentality in entrepreneurs and executives in Spain will help us create dynamic ecosystems. The combination of talent from Spain with talent from Universities, Technology Centers or Startups in the USA is our contribution.
4) Some differences in the start-up ecosystems of the US and Spain are mentioned often, specifically on aspects like risk tolerance or access to venture capital, typically presented as reasons for a lower level of innovation in Spain. How much truth do you think is there in these views?
As I explained earlier, there is some truth in those views. The ability to make decisions, invest capital in building a team, take risks, learn fast from failure and correct course are some of the virtues of the entrepreneurial culture in the US. In Spain, we are taught never to fail. Many times we focus on finding an immediate solution to a problem, and that makes us slow because of that fear of failure. If you rethink the problem and work it in a collaborative environment (open innovation), several solutions usually emerge. I would never promote a person who has never had any failure and learned from it. It is better that they fail before reaching a top position or the failure can be much more expensive.
5) Many countries have tried to replicate the Silicon Valley model in their homeland with limited success. What are the main challenges of such efforts in your opinion and what can be done to replicate the model in Spain?
I am sure it is impossible to replicate the model in Spain. It is not only about investing money, it is about business, entrepreneurial culture and education. Public administrations in Spain have a strong presence in the process of creating a business ecosystem. This helps to generate companies but the cultural change must take place in another way. The Hubs should emerge in a natural way; it is very difficult to create them artificially. We can do something similar at each stage of that process, but there will always be a big difference with “historical” ecosystems. Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, Chicago are always going to be faster than Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia or Bilbao. In my opinion this difference represents an innovation gap
6) There are some great examples of Spaniards who have become successful technology entrepreneurs in the US, like Bernardo Hernández or Iñaki Berenguer. What would you highlight as skills or talents that can make entrepreneurs from Spain successful in the US and what would you recommend as a path for anybody interested in starting a company in the US.
Not only Berbardo or Iñaki. Hasier Larrea (Ori in Boston), Alfonso de la Nuez (UserZoom in San Jose) and many others. All of them have great leadership skills and perseverance to execute their vision, which is fundamental. At Dreamers Factory, we recommend entrepreneurs to contrast their business model in Spain before starting a company in the USA. They should consider the USA as a place to scale, and not a place to launch: It is very difficult to reach the USA and get clients and investors if you have not achieved something in your home country before. I remember one of the first pieces of advice I received in the USA: “If you come to raise money, you will get advice. If you come for advice, probably you will get money.”
7) Which do you think will be the main engines of innovation in the next decade?
Cryptocurrency Mining, Blockchain, AI, Robotics/Drones, Mixed Reality, Genetics or Medical Devices. I believe that they are already the engines of innovation and they will be even more in the next decade. The best way to predict the future is to invent it, and what these technologies do is exactly that: invent the future.