Interview with Roberto Touza, Expert in Business Creation and Investments
While the rest of the world was learning what a startup was, Roberto Touza already knew perfectly all that was behind that word. Expert in Lean Startup and in business creation and investments, Touza has years of experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and has the keys to reduce investment and risk as much as possible. His method is “to learn very quickly” and to experiment in order to always find the most appropriate way. Additionally, he is the director of several masters degree classes in the area of IEBS Entrepreneurship, a speaker in multiple forums, has developed full startup acceleration programs and assiduously collaborates as a mentor in various activities. His job is to accompany startups in their search for a business and investment model.
Why did you decide to get into the world of entrepreneurship?
The world of business and entrepreneurship has always attracted me. I had a business before startups were trending. Then I began an acceleration program when the word startup had almost never been heard. We were there about 9 months with the support of 20,000 euros, and I advanced with that business project.
What is the Lean Startup method?
The Lean Startup method is a way to tackle projects that allows you to evolve as much as possible with the lowest possible risk. The projects face a lot of uncertainty, be it a consolidated company or one that is just beginning. Obviously if you launch a project, you have to define who the client is, what your product is, what type of business model you are going to use, what are the expenses, what you should protect to put the project into motion, and Lean Startup is based on creating hypotheses and doing experiments with the lowest possible cost to see if those hypotheses are valid or not.
What are the positive points of this method?
You reduce the risk and investment to the minimum possible. In the end you have a certain economic capacity and with that you have to set up a business project. All your resources should not be spent on the first card because if you lose it, then you lose your hand. You have to keep trying, and you are going to need a path. The best thing is to invest little by little and to keep learning as much as possible, and when what you have in your hand is what you want, that is when the strong investments come. Another very good advantage is that, if you have internalized it well and you are capable of being very close to your client, then you create a solution that fits with your needs, and that is a very large competitive advantage.
Why should you start?
Because of motivation. The crisis has taught us. Many people have started to undertake and create business projects without motivation and, instead, out of necessity. That, in my opinion, is counterproductive because there are a lot of difficulties and without motivation it is much more difficult. In fact, preparation is not as important, if your project motivates you, you can overcome many more difficulties. And also in the end, it is seen in all age ranges.
What role do startup accelerators play?
Accelerators should have the objective of helping to create projects on a global scale. If we want to position ourselves better and try to bring in countries like the UK, Holland, and Germany, it is the best that we can do. From the point of view of the startup, an accelerator must be a facilitator to help the startup grow and consolidate its business model.
What are your opinions on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Spain?
There are several views. There are some who say that here in Spain there is no ecosystem and everyone goes it alone. For example, with accelerators this is happening. There are probably too many because there are not enough good projects for so many accelerators. It is true that it is a bit disorganized; there is not a clear strategic line about “the startup ecosystem in Spain.” But for example, a lot of work has been done in the field of entrepreneurs. There are many people that have learned and attended courses or programs that have created projects, it has generated a good image around the creation of companies… All of that is very positive. But on the contrary we find there are many people that start out of necessity or that throw themselves into the ring to start. In the end, the result is that the rate of failure for recently created companies has increased. After these years where there was talk of the bubble, it turns out that businesses have a higher mortality rate than before. Given this, several conclusions can be reached: that people start out of necessity or that they have not been trained correctly. Also it happens that there are people that were not well prepared and a business project had been set up. We are better than a few years ago, but we must continue improving.
Tell me three traits of a good entrepreneur.
Self-Confidence: if you do not have confidence in yourself and in your project, it is impossible to grow because you need to transmit passion into your project.
Also, an entrepreneur must be very hardworking. I’ve been in this for seven years and I can affirm that this world is work, work, and more work.
And the third trait would be self-knowledge, in other words, to be conscious of your abilities. It is important to know your virtues, but also your shortcomings. And also, to be aware of where you can and where you cannot reach.
What are the benefits of being an entrepreneur?
The greatest benefit is to have the freedom to be able to construct and create something of your own and to make it a reality. There is no greater satisfaction in a business project than seeing your first sale or your first client or to see that objectives are met. It is a cliché, but in the end the company is like your child, that you see be born and grow, and you are there teaching and directing them, or something similar. There are things that are out of your control, just like with a child.
It also turns out to be a hard road on some occasions, how are the problems overcome?
With self-confidence. There are always hard parts. But, just like in your personal life how there are moments that are easy and others that are difficult, the same occurs in the business world. If you work well when things go well, when thing go badly, you have to work twice as hard to overcome the challenge and continue on. It is also true that if a certain moment arrives where a project closes because it must, in the end life is like that too. It is not a drama. Obviously if a project fails, then what can you do? Even though I am more of the opinion that one should create companies, I think that a businessman is an entrepreneur that generates a project and if it works, perfect, and if not, then move to another company. The most important advice is that if you are an entrepreneur, develop your project, but never forget your personal finances and have both well separated. You must never forget your personal plans.