Q&A with Cristina Moyano de Navascués, investment manager, Amadeus Ventures

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 joined Amadeus two years ago and started to work in Suzanna Chiu’s team as investment manager in January 2019. Suzanna is the head of Amadeus Ventures, the corporate startup investment programme from Amadeus. My responsibilities as Investment Manager include sourcing new investment opportunities, managing portfolio companies and taking care of our overall communication strategy both internal and external.

Prior to working in CVC, I spend over 8 years as a strategic consultant first in Management Solutions and later in Korn Ferry. Relevant experience related to entrepreneurship: I was part of the founding team of Endeavor Spain (Head of Search, Selection and Services).

2. What attracted you to CVC? 

After working as a strategic consultant for 5 years between the US and Spain, I found myself changing New York City for Madrid to be part of the founding team of Endeavor in Spain. My role as Head of Search, Selection and Services required to identify the best high impact entrepreneurs, coach them to pass the international screening process, and if they passed, help them scale their business by giving them access to funding, markets and talent globally. It also meant implementing a scalable screening process to train future analysts to manage the funnel. The seven entrepreneurs we presented internationally were selected and are role models in entrepreneurship in Spain today.

It was my first interaction with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and I was fascinated by the agile, innovative and resilient mindset and talent of these entrepreneurs. Since then, I have always worked close to entrepreneurs and I mentor projects coming out of business schools like IE. It has been [two and a half] years since I joined Amadeus Ventures, and I have the pleasure to be part of the industry-leading corporate startup investment program in travel. CVC was a logical step for me where I could combine my over eight-year experience in big corporations as a consultant, and my four years of previous work with startups (mainly technology ones). It requires a varied skill set: on one side, strong analytical skills, strategic vision and the capacity to spot potential at its infancy but it also requires communication and people skills to do the internal sale of the investment opportunities. I am grateful to report to Suzanna Chiu from whom I learn every day and committed to finding the best startups that bring innovation to our sector, especially now that it is more important than ever.

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

If I were to point out my greatest successes, I would name the following:

  • In terms of investment, Refundit to me has been to date the one I feel most proud of, mainly because it was a very hard internal sale and because I see a lot of potentials to disrupt a big market that is ready to be digitalized. We were the lead investor of a $9.8m round in the company. This investment had Amadeus Ventures appear in the annual report that our CEO sends to investors every year.
  • I also manage the communication strategy for Amadeus Ventures. Here, I would say my biggest success has been to improve our KPIs with a modest amount of resources, to have found new channels (podcast) to communicate our message and expand our network, and, most importantly, to have managed to appear in a corporate campaign and bring our message to a podcast that will be broadcasted through Amadeus to an audience of over one million people. I believe communication activities are very important to bring awareness to the organization of the achievements of our CVC and to bring internal and external exposure to our portfolio companies.
  • I have brought jury opportunities to Amadeus in relevant events for the industry and with top tier business schools like IE Business School.

Since I joined in January 2019, I have closed two deals: Refundit (company digitalizing VAT refund for travellers) and Pana (corporate booking tool for non-employees) and I have also worked on the exit of Yapta (price optimization tool for airfares and hotel rates). I manage four portfolio companies: Situm (indoor positioning services company), Pana (corporate booking tool for non-employees), Refundit (company digitalizing VAT refund for travellers) and Betterez (a reservations and ticketing management software developer)

4. What have been your biggest challenges? 

If I were to name the biggest challenges I have faced in the CVC world I would say:

Mastering industry knowledge: When I started at Amadeus Ventures, I had never worked in the travel industry before, it is a complex sector with many different stakeholders involved. In my role, it is key to understand, anticipate and ultimately define where the sector is going and our company’s strategy to grow. It is important to know the challenges each BU is facing and anticipate the ones they will face in the future. This knowledge enables me to identify the best startups that will bring innovation and accelerate the growth of our company, those with the perfect strategic fit to create a win-win framework that brings value to both the startup and to Amadeus. I am an avid learner and my goal is to continue to master industry knowledge especially in these times where we have the opportunity to rebuild it better.

Being a small team of four people means we get to do very diverse tasks. As I mentioned, I am in charge of developing the communication strategy both internal and external, with a modest amount of resources. Under these circumstances, it is challenging to improve our reach. After an exercise of collecting both quantitative and qualitative feedback, I defined a strategy to improve our KPIs by generating relevant content, through new channels (i.e: podcast) or increasing the use of existing ones (LinkedIn) and negotiate with key stakeholders to play a significant role in relevant events. We have, in some cases, doubled our views in previous blog posts and webinars. We have also managed to appear in a corporate campaign and bring our message to a podcast that will be broadcasted through Amadeus to an audience of over one million people.

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

My main professional ambition is to become the best version of myself making a positive impact on the people I work with, being able to find diversification opportunities that will drive significant growth to Amadeus and ultimately contributing to rebuilding the travel industry in a more responsible, sustainable and inclusive way.

It would be a great achievement to see some of our portfolio companies become a BU within Amadeus.

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

The fact that a CVC also has strategic goals on top of financial ones makes it much more challenging to select the right entrepreneurs. I believe the CVC industry has already been proofed as a great strategic and innovative vehicle for corporations. However, there are still some challenges that being solved could make us stronger.

  • Communication & Marketing: often, we co-invest with financial VCs. The agility that startups and financial VCs have to close a deal cannot be compared to a CVC because they do not require the strategic fit and the internal buy-in. There is no success formula that can speed up a corporate investment to the pace of a financial VC unless it acts as a pure financial VC. However, CVCs bring tremendous value to startups and corporations and this value needs to be communicated more often both internally and externally.
  • Increase network effect: I am a believer that alone you go fast and together you go further. There are many benefits to creating a strong partner network with other CVCs where learnings can be shared. For this reason, I see a lot of value in companies like GCV that provide not only data but the intelligence to our industry and they give all CVCs a common playground to get together. 

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 sector has been one of the most impacted by the pandemic. There are human mobility restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus that affects the whole world. Travellers have lost their confidence and there is a great level of uncertainty as to when we will see people travelling again like they did in 2019. Under this environment, travellers demand to be better informed, secure and are seeking, more than ever, frictionless trips and memorable experiences. Our company is reacting to these changes in technology needs by offering demand stimulation solutions for airlines like convenient payment methods or touchless solutions for airports like self-check-in or self-bag drop. Biometric solutions and personalized offers are also being accelerated.

Our CVC has not stopped monitoring the entrepreneurial space that is more volatile than ever: with scaleups like Freebird or Rocketrip being sold, early-stage startups bringing new products and solutions to the market in record time and others pivoting to other sectors that have proofed to be more resilient. The main pain point we are facing right now is wining BU sponsorship for the many investment opportunities that arise when BU priorities are also constantly changing as the whole organization is adapting to the situation. At the same time, it is more important than ever to work in collaboration with startups and innovators and to fund projects that will help us recover more quickly and rebuild the industry better. We have not stopped our communication activities both internal and external to maintain employees and key stakeholders informed, we have explored new communication channels and participated in several virtual events and finally, we have focused on our portfolio companies and are happy to say that to date we have lost none.

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

I hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration from ICADE. Other academic qualifications include an Executive Program in Columbia, an AAS Marketing Degree from Parsons (NYC) where I graduated as part of the Dean’s list, and an EMBA from ISEM University of Navarra. One of my passions is travelling, in my free time I like to organize trips with friends and family, I am also a big fan of sports: I practice paddle tennis, ski, hiking, cycling and very recently I started yoga classes. Prior to covid, I also enjoyed trying new restaurants and going to the cinema or theatre with friends.