Q&A with Pablo Moro Casquete, head of new business, Telefónica Innovation Ventures, and Andrés Saborido Scafati, managing director, Wayra

Guenia Gawendo, managing director of Telefónica Innovation Ventures, a corporate venture capital (CVC) unit of Spain-listed telecommunications firm Telefónica, said: “Pablo plays a key role in Telefónica Innovation Ventures, participating in all phases of the investment process.

“He works very closely with Telefonica business areas to identify their scouting needs, especially in financial technology, the internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity, and coordinates very well with our global network of funds to identify companies that can help cover these needs.

“Pablo has been also involved in closing key operations in Ventures (for example, Nozomi) and some others that will be announced soon, as well as launching new key strategic projects as for example the one to strengthen our investments in cybersecurity.

“Pablo is also responsible for Telefónica Innovation Ventures communication Strategy – both externally and internally in Telefonica.

“His business and ventures knowledge, combined with his proactive, constructive attitude is helping us build stronger relationships with our portfolio companies and capture new investments opportunities.”

Regarding Andrés Saborido, managing director of Wayra, another CVC arm of Telefónica, Miguel Arias, global entrepreneurship director of Telefónica, added: “Andrés has 10 years investing in startups and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems in Latin America (LatAm) and Europe.

“In 2011 he launched and led the Wayra Argentina office at a time when there was no consolidated start-up ecosystem in LatAm, being a key player in its development. That led him in 2014 to become country manager of Wayra Spain, with offices in Madrid and Barcelona. And from 2020 he manages the activity of all Wayra’s hubs (London, Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, San Pablo, Buenos Aires and Bogotá).

“Currently, he is in charge of a 500-plus active startups global portfolio and he was directly involved in more than 100 investments and more than 15 successful exits.

“He constantly understood the evolution of the industry updating and innovating in the value proposition for both, startups and corporates.

“He fostered digital transformation at Telefónica, integrating 30-plus startup products for internal use and resale. Two of these companies were recently acquired by Telefónica.

“He facilitated relevant business agreements between startups and large companies such as Movistar, TELEFE, MercadoLibre, Iberostar and Renfe. For the latter, he launched TrenLab in 2018 and positioned it as a leader mobility accelerator in Spain.”


Pablo Moro Q&A

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it?

I am head of new ventures at Telefónica Ventures, a CVC arm of Telefónica with a current portfolio of 11 startups directly invested and, as a limited partner through 11 venture capital funds, in more than 100 startups. I have been with Telefónica Ventures for almost two years.

Prior to that, I was Head of Innovation at Mutua Madrileña (MM), responsible for defining and launching new products and services to the market. MM is the second largest non-life insurance Group in Spain, with 5+ Bn€ premiums. I was also a member of Antai Ventures board of directors – the first Spanish venture builder that launched companies like Wallapop, Glovo, among others.

Before that, I worked for four years at Wayra, Telefónica’s seed-stage corporate venturing unit, managing the portfolio of 500-plus startups and partnerships between them and Telefónica. Also, I started my career working in several positions related to product management and business development in Telefónica Spain.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

I feel attracted to CVC as I strongly believe is the best and fast way to introduce innovation to the corporates, bring to the corporates emerging product and services and keep the company updated about the threats and opportunities ahead.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

I would like to highlight several projects of our team and during my previous experience. The launch of Telefónica Tech Ventures as our new venture capital vehicle to invest in 15 early and growth-stage cybersecurity startups, the recent investment in Smart Protection, as one of the most promising cyber startups in Spain are two of the 2020 projects I have been involved in. During the past few years, the investment of Mutua Madrileña in Antai Ventures, a leading venture builder in Spain, and prior to that, the 50-plus partnerships between Wayra Startups and Telefónica are some of the projects I am proud of.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

Establishing – defining and executing – an innovation process to enlarge the channel to establish partnerships between startups and Telefónica changing the system from outside – to inside – outscouting process. Starting from identifying the pain points of Telefónica and then going to the startups market to cover them, more than 70 partnerships between startups and Telefónica have been established through this methodology.

Also, at Mutua Madrileña, I designed an innovation and corporate venturing process from scratch. In one year and a half, I was able to build a corporate venturing unit investing in the best venture builder in Spain, Antai Ventures, and an external observatory to identify startups that could cover areas of interest of the insurance company.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

I would love to contribute to the best challenge of Telefónica related to new products, services and transformation in order to offer the best technology to our customers.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Flexibility and speed to be able to compete and collaborate with the best VCs of the planet, openness to be able to access and extract the best value of the brightest startups for the customers of our corporates and deeper alignment with the internal strategy and business areas to make more smoothly the way to the success of the startups within the corporates channels.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

Our pain points are focused on cybersecurity (cloud security, identity, cyber IoT, data protection, among others), cloud and IoT for B2B (business-to-business) customers, network (softwarisation), 5G use cases and digital customers (highlighting health, fintech and home).

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

I started my career working in several positions related to product management and business development in Telefónica Spain, a large enterprise unit. Executive MBA at IE Business School, master of marketing at ESIC Business School and business administration at Valladolid University and Buckinghamshire New University. I played football on the football team in my city, Valladolid.


Andrés Saborido Q&A

1. Give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it for?

I run Wayra, Telefónica’s open innovation hub that invests in startups from all around the world. Wayra was a pioneering project that began 10 years ago as an accelerator of startups and evolved into a CVC. When Wayra began the startup ecosystem was very embryonic in Spain, and elsewhere, and we have spearheaded its development such that now most corporates are following in our footsteps. Today Wayra has offices in London, Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Bogotá. And we have invested in over 700 startups and had more than 70 successful exits.

I have been with Wayra since the beginning. Initially, I was in charge of launching Wayra Argentina in 2011 and I led this operation for three years. In 2014, I was appointed country manager of Wayra Spain, with offices in Madrid and Barcelona.

Each hub is dedicated to scouting the best tech-startups in our focus areas, investing in startups, and managing the portfolio to generate relevant exits.

My role now is to manage the activity of all the Wayra hubs, fostering businesses between the startups and Telefónica with the aim of driving innovation to the company and our customers.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

In 2003, I won a scholarship from the Carolina Foundation to study for a master’s degree in telecommunications, e-business and new business models in Spain. That year was the start of the digital revolution and an exciting time – I wanted to be part of it. I knew that my future would be related to technology, digital entrepreneurship and venture capital.

When I returned to LatAm, I led the deployment of broadband in Argentina, with the goal of reaching the first million subscribers. I quickly understood the significance of the digital market that was being created through massively connecting people and companies to the Internet. And, I could also see that this market of connected people was beginning to be relevant in a way that was unlike the “dot com” world of a few years earlier.

When I saw the opportunity to lead Wayra from Argentina I did not hesitate. I understood that this was an opportunity to create, for the first time, an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and venture capital in LatAm.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

i. Building entrepreneurial ecosystems from scratch. Wayra was a pioneer in the corporate world investing in seed-stage startups from 2011. And in many regions, we were also pioneers by building local ecosystems. I helped to build from scratch the VC and CVC ecosystem in LatAm, where companies like MercadoLibre later came to partner and co-invest with Wayra. In the same way in Europe, we opened a path that was later followed by other companies, some of them, like Renfe, by associating with Wayra.

ii. Investing and divesting. Today we have carried out more than 70 successful exits -and in several of them, I was directly involved. One example was ComentaTV, now known as Wayin. I remember this startup fondly because this was the first exit from our global portfolio, and it came from Argentina, where I was in charge of our operations.

iii. Bringing value to Telefónica: When I took over as country manager in Spain we did not generate business between the startups in our portfolio and Telefónica. And now, after my years as the head of that operation, we have generated almost  €100m of business, mainly through the resale of innovative products. Two notable examples are Smart Protection or Voicemod. And this year, Telefónica decided to fully acquire two other companies from the portfolio whose products were being resold by Telefónica: Govertis and Ihacklabs.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

It would have been easy to dismiss open innovation as just a sexy project, and it was a major challenge to make it a long-term priority for Telefónica. The results now speak for themselves and its relevance is clear, but in the early days, we had to work hard at driving this message. In order for our relevance to be understood effectively, we had the additional challenge of developing an agile, entrepreneurial mindset from within one of the largest corporates in Spain. We did this by keeping top management fully involved in what we were doing. So that they could see the opportunities that could come from working with startups and begin to re-think the overall business and generate new revenue streams.

We established pioneering agile corporate processes to work with startups, designed new purchasing and contracting processes, generating APIs to connect startups products and aligning employees’ incentives to take risks.

All this allowed senior management from Telefónica to learn from our startups. We started to see how to improve our time to market, to be more efficient in acquiring clients. But especially, we learned that if we are able to work well with a small partner, we will be able to work well with big ones as well.

Clearly, we met these challenges since we have been able to invest uninterruptedly in more than one startup per week for over 10 years!

5.What is your main professional ambition for the future?

To create my own venture capital fund focused on ed-tech technologies. I think there are enormous opportunities in this field – both financial, but also in terms of creating a positive impact on the world. My overarching goal is to improve access to opportunities for everyone, and I can think of no better way to achieve this than by leveraging technology to drive better education.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Through Wayra we learned that when there is a clear fit between the projects we invest in and Telefónica’s core activities, the more likely it is that the partnership is successful.

I think this is a lesson that all CVCs could benefit from. They should aim to be more aligned with their corporate parent’s core business areas in order to bring innovation closer to the business and its customers, using and resealing the technology of the startups they invest in to drive their business and to bring scale to the startups at the same time.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

We invest in our corporate parent’s focus areas: cybersecurity, IoT, big data, AI, XR, cloud, among other technologies.

This year, and especially during the pandemic, we have not stopped investing and disinvesting, although changes in habits generated by the pandemic have made us intensify the search for pure digital and remote first companies, especially in sectors such as ed-tech, remote work and contactless interphases. We are also launching a new vehicle to invest in B2C (business-to-consumer) startups from this new economy.

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

Before entering the CVC world, I worked in strategy and M&A. I analysed startups for acquisition and participated in the acquisition of Telecom Colombia by Telefónica.

In 2001 I took part in the toughest test of my life, both physically and mentally. The Columbia Cruce de Los Andes is a running race like no other. It covers 100 kilometres at altitudes above 4000 metres and stretches over three days. The route varies each year but it always unites Argentina and Chile by way of the Andes mountain range.

Running three days in the mountains with a small backpack makes you see how little we need to live and how motivation is more important than physical preparation to reach the goal.

This incredible experience shaped the person I am today. It gave me a perspective on life, on motivation and a different sense of what really matters. In fact, the experience was so amazing that I repeated it. Five times!