As head of strategic investments at Spain-based Banco Sabadell’s InnoCells corporate venturing unit, Paula Blazquez Solano is effectively the hub of new digital ventures.
The strategic investments division works as active partners, supporting portfolio companies invested in at the seed to B-stages with between €500,000 to €3m with the corporate assets of a fully-fledged financial institution.
Banco Sabadell is the fourth largest bank in Spain, with operations in Spain, Mexico and UK (where it acquired TSB Bank).
Blazquez Solano said: “Within Innocells there are three main activities. First, we lead the digital agenda of the bank. Second, we create our own ventures from scratch under our venture building division. And, third, we make strategic Investments through our corporate venture vehicle in startups that have an strategic fit with the bank.
“InnoCells was created in January 2017, and we have walked a long way since then. The corporate venture vehicle was created in Q3 [July to September] 2017 and we have made two investments so far. The first one in UK startup Bud, a financial services platform, and Biometric Vox, a voice biometric startup.
“We have a robust pipeline of opportunities and we look into deals that offer a financial return but also strategic return to the bank. We have developed several pilots with our portfolio startups and the startups we have within or dealflow. We measure our success not only in terms of investments but also in terms of collaboration. We have gained an strategic positioning within the bank which is heavily betting in innovation (inside out and outside in).”
Other deals by Banco Sabadell include the $12m series B round for Spain-based sales assistance app developer ForceManager, Spain-based social commerce platform 21Buttons’ $10m series A round and Spain-based online recruitment marketplace CornerJob, which raised $19m in series C funding.
Before Innocells, Blazquez Solano had been fintech strategy manager at Banco Sabadell from March 2016. Earlier roles included as startup competition and acceleration manager at Finnovista and senior investment associate and investment analyst at Axon Partners Group and Hercules Technology Growth Capital, respectively, which make venture capital investments in the broad technology sector.
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