26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Guenia Gawendo, managing director, Telefónica Innovation Ventures; Irene Gómez, connected open innovation director, Telefónica

Guenia Gawendo is the director of Telefónica Innovation Ventures (TIV), a corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for Spain-based telecommunications firm Telefónica. In this role, her mission is to identify new business opportunities and foster strategic partnerships aligned with Telefónica’s global strategy by scouting and investing in technological startups directly or through a network of leading venture capital funds in key markets in which TIV participate as a limited partner (LP).

Currently, TIV has 10 active portfolio companies invested directly and more than 80 startups invested through nine VC funds in key markets for Telefónica.

Irene Gómez, on the other hand, is the director of Telefónica’s Connected Open Innovation, which is an open innovation network formed in January 2020 by the firm. She had previously concentrated on big data and artificial intelligence (AI) nearly four years for the Telefónica’s AI platform, Aura, having spent more than a decade in total at the group in various roles.

Regarding Gómez’s achievements, Chema Alonso, chief digital commercial officer at Telefónica, said: “In its almost 100 years of history, Telefónica has been always in constant change, adapting itself to new business models and technologies and always aiming to fulfil our customers’ needs.

“The connected open innovation area, with the new units that Irene has set up – Fast Track and Venture Builder – our company is better prepared to the challenges our society is facing, allowing Telefónica to offer more digital products through digital channels and enhancing its leading position within the industry.

“At Telefónica, we believe it is people that give purpose to technology, and creating quality connections is our reason for being. Connections that bring us together. Connections that are secure and put you in control. Connections that encourage openness and leave no one behind. Open innovation plays a key role in this mission.”

Regarding her Telefónica’s recent innovation strategy, Gómez said: “In the last year, Telefónica’s open innovation initiatives are better prepared through the creation of two new units which will support Telefónica’s strategy: Venture Studio – our internal Venture Builder initiative – and fast Track Funnel – our internal initiative to boost startups products in the B2C (business-to-consumer) segment; in addition to Wayra – our micro-CVC program focused on business development, Open Future – our network of incubation spaces with public partners – and the Activation Programs – our initiative aiming to bring our platforms and technology closer to the startups.”

For the rest of the year, Gómez and her team will expand the Venture Builder activities and support its portfolio startups during the novel coronavirus crisis. She added: “Also, Telefonica is having a key role in supporting the governments in its footprint by the creation of phone apps to help control and monitor Covid-19 positive cases.”

The main challenge remains driving innovation into the corporation, according to Gómez, who said: “After more than nine years of working with startups, we have been able to build simpler interfaces for them to work with Telefónica Group: a more agile corporate mindset, smoother and quicker processes and more open platforms.

“There are no shortcuts for this: what corporations have as a unique value proposition is business development opportunities for the innovators. I believe all the corporations doing CVC should focus on working with their investees and bringing them value in the form of business.”

Meanwhile, Gawendo’s TIV in the past year has invested in management software producer Altiostar, high-volume transaction system developer Clear and three VC funds: Brazil-based Redpoint eVentures, Israel-based Vintage Investment Partners and US-based Alter Venture Partners.

Like Gómez, Gawendo also pledged to continue investing in startups in the core business of Telefónica and integrating startups from VCs in which it has made LP commitments.

Gawendo had led Telefónica’s Silicon Valley presence from its office in Menlo Park in the US state of California from 2016 to 2018, having previously worked as a business manager to the chief commercial and digital officer. There, she was responsible for the operations of the advertising vertical at the firm’s other innovation arm, Telefónica Digital, where she led the expansion of Telefónica’s mobile advertising business from Europe to Latin America.

Gawendo joined Telefónica 18 years ago as corporate strategy manager and has held other global positions since then, such as head of global marketing for best practices and senior manager for commercial development.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF