Reflections on 2017 and my goals for the new year

By the end of the year, I love to reflect on how I did on the goals I had defined for myself 12 months ago. I trust it is a good exercise to look at my own reality from some distance and see how much the feared time-drains and daily routines pushed to take over my initially stated objectives.

Last year is bluntly stated:

For 2017,  I have only one goal: Do less but better. I like the idea from the Essentialism book, that priorities should be a singular word, we should have one single priority!.

And the most important thing for me is to enjoy the journey with the right balance between Family – CARTO – Extended Family/Friends – Ecosystem

Success for me will be measured by how my family enjoys 2017, not just copes with it.How we all have the time, the energy and the health to face the challenges with optimism and clear minds.

Seemed easy, right?, not too many goals and more importantly, expectations which appeared to be under in my sole command.

I ended my wishful post in December 2016, with this awesome mantra:

Set my priority right, postponing what is secondary and with FOCUS.
Thinking before speaking
Smile against adversities, smile more, and more.
Be thankful, a lot, for my privileges and the opportunity to be here, present now, to enjoy life to the fullest.

How did I do?

Well, all in all, 2017 has been a tough year, a rollercoaster full of steep ups and downs, but overall my feeling is quite positive. It has been, somehow, a year of completion, a change of a cycle after four years of full immersion into a never ending challenge.

I have, indeed, tried to do less things, as promised. I traveled less, for instance, and I almost achieved my goal of spending no single weekend out of home during the whole year. I have delegated so much more in CARTO that I ultimately realized that I was ready to move on into something different, with the proud feeling that my team is more than ready and capable to take over.

I went to less irrelevant ego-driven ecosystem events, which actually didn´t missed for a beat the fact that I did not attended, which is always a good sign to determine if you should go or not to an event.

I tried hard to think before speaking and while I didn’t manage to smile as much as I expected to, I have been immensely thankful for every moment of joy, creation, love, laughs with friends and time spent with my family, which this year has delivered to me.

After I told the team a few weeks ago that I was leaving CARTO, I got a lot of heavy hearted responses from my fellow colleagues, my dear friends. But there is something that struck me a lot and which I am very grateful for.

A leitmotif in many of the letters was, that I have had a lasting impact in them, not by being a hard-working maniac, or a controlling freak who knows about SaaS or Finance, or about relentless hustling and demand generation. BUT, because I have taught them to care deeply about others, to be open and humble, and always have a minute to help or focus in the challenges others are facing as if they were your own.

Those were not intended teachings, but it is what matters the most. Always.

In 2018, there are many changes approaching my horizon. I will get to meet new colleagues, join a very different organisation, travel to very different places I have never been to and try to have impact to make the lives of entrepreneurs easier all around the world. Again, what a privilege!.

With so much going on, I want to keep my 2018 goals short.

  1. Let go of the past and embrace the imperatives of the new situations, to prepare myself for a running start.
  2. Meet the expectations of my new stakeholders: my new boss/es, new colleagues, the ecosystem, but without missing the expectations and promises to my loved ones.
  3. Spend more time with friends and family – My marriage points account shall not be compromised in 2018, after all the strain I put into it over the last years. It is so important to nurture those who care deeply about yourself, your tribe, which would hold you if you fall, and not just follow you if you rise. They are just a handful of individuals, but they can surely change my world.
  4. Be humble, be realistic and remain a possibilist. Aim for the things that can be done considering the circumstances, my own skills and the balance between my needs, the needs of the ones I love and the never ending flow of external requests.
  5. And never forget the privilege I have to be here and now, present and ready to enjoy the challenges of the future.

Do less but better

Two titans of the national entrepreneurial ecosystem and true ninjas of work-life balance like Carina Szpilka and Arrola, sent me a book which is a MUST read: “Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of Less”.

First impression that struck me is that they must have seen in myself, a poor, desperate soul in need, when they had to run to deliver me the book before the Christmas break. And they are right. ;).

Second thought is that this ties nicely with my yearly post about my review of the last 12 months and the goals for the time to come. As I did last year here.

Let me pick back the goals I wrote for 2016 in my post:

Smile more, forgive more, judge less.
Take care of my team and delegate much, much more.
Spend much more time with my Mom and Dad.
Enjoy deeply the development of my family, caring more about Elena and the girls.
Go back into practicing sport regularly, at least 1-2 times per week.
Worry less and have much more fun, looking into the future with optimism.

And let´s evaluate how I did.

Smile more, forgive more, judge less.

I had less reasons to smile in 2016, but I tried my best, and I certainly judged less. But I still feel that I have lots to improve in this aspect. I give myself a 6.

Take care of my team and delegate much, much more.

I was able to delegate much more in some functions: Operations, Finance, Solutions, thanks to our talented managers, but was not so successful in Sales, where we hired the right talent only on the second half of the year. But I do feel I am clearly on the path to full delegation there for 2017. So let´s call it a 7.

Spend much more time with my Mom and Dad.

I blocked a weekly lunch with my folks every Friday in my calendar this year, and only managed to succeed 30% of those (with all the travels and last minute meetings). I think the effort was in the right direction, but this only deserves a 4.

Enjoy deeply the development of my family, caring more about Elena and the girls.

I did enjoy the beautiful two little persons that my daughters are becoming immensely. While all the traveling and stress had an adverse impact in our family’s well being.  A 6.

Go back into practicing sport regularly, at least 1-2 times per week.

I started swimming!, twice a week. And while my bi-polar NYC-Madrid schedule didn´t allow me to be as consistent as I would like to, I think this was a massive improvement compared to 2015. Let´s indulge myself a 7.

Worry less and have much more fun, looking into the future with optimism.

Well, this year has been several orders of magnitude harder than 2015 both on a professional and personal level. I had more reasons to worry, both from a macro, micro and nano-perspectives and less triggers to have fun. But I still look into the future with lots of optimism. I like how Greg McKeown, states in his “Essentialism” book that the secret lies in having the “power of choice” and I chose to have much more fun next year.

Looking into CARTO in detail, we did far too many things as a company after the series B and the digestion of all these activities and projects has proven hard. Over the last 12 months we accomplished great milestones such as:

  • Repositioning of the company
  • Rebranding of the company, from CartoDB to CARTO
  • New product launch: CARTO Builder
  • Our first acquisition and integration, Nutiteq & launch of CARTO’s Mobile SDK
  • Hiring experienced and talented SVPs of sales, marketing & Engineering to join our exec
  • Pricing changes to simplify our offering and adapt it to the enterprise
  • Our first $1M deal
  • New Madrid, DC & London offices
  • Growing the team to approx 100 people

And, of course, we had some relevant misses.

Our Sales objectives were pretty optimistic back in January, considering our stage of development, and we had to revamp our sales team mid year through. While we were not successful in our 1st VP of sales hiring iteration. Jason Lemkin is ALWAYS right.

We had delays in product delivery and were a bit naïve about the added complexity of a new product launch with an installed based on 250K users and 1200 paying customers. And we experienced a decrease in efficiency across the organization due to hyper-growth and new hires in several locations without clearly defined roles.

For 2017,  I have only one goal: Do less but better. I like the idea from the Essentialism book, that priorities should be a singular word, we should have one single priority!.

And the most important thing for me is to enjoy the journey with the right balance between Family – CARTO – Extended Family/Friends – Ecosystem

Success for me will be measured by how my family enjoys 2017, not just copes with it. How we all have the time, the energy and the health to face the challenges with optimism and clear minds.

I am sure this will also help CARTO and my professional challenges. CARTO will grow to become an adult this year, leaving the uncertainties of teenage to become a global SaaS player with tremendous optionality in 2017. We will consolidate the efforts and initiatives of the last months, and follow the same principle I will apply to myself, focus on less things. Where organizational design will play a key role to shape the company we want to work in.

I would like these thoughts to be my mantra:

Set my priority right, postponing what is secondary and with FOCUS.
Thinking before speaking
Smile against adversities, smile more, and more.
Be thankful, a lot, for my privileges and the opportunity to be here, present now, to enjoy life to the fullest.



CartoDB series B, some personal thoughts

What a ride!.

Since I joined CartoDB full-time, almost 2 years ago, months are running around me and I cannot avoid a certain dizziness, mixed with lots of excitement and some doses of panic.

We are overcoming milestones at an absurd pace, over 130.000 users, 1000 paying customers, 50 team members… And now, we enjoy another important moment in our short history, we just announced $23 million of new funding and what is more important, great new partners joining the CartoDB family: Accel Partners and Salesforce Ventures.

During our funding process we always stated that our main goal was to optimize for people, finding an awesome new board member and lead investor which would help and support us in this new phase, and we simply put Ciaran O’Leary from Earlybird, as a role model of how luckily successful we were in our series A last year.

Investors are crucial team members, and you need to find the right fit for the each phase of your startup. In our case, local investors, ready to take risks betting on people, were absolutely great for our starting steps, thank you Arrola and Aquilino!.

In October last year, with Ciaran, we added a smart, supportive, experienced and connected person on board, which is the phone number you call first when you have challenges and shit starts to hit the fan.

And now we felt the same chemistry with Harry Nelis from Accel, he is the kind of person who will remain calm during turbulences, sharing the right piece of advice with perfect timing. I am sure he will be paramount in helping us become a truly global enterprise SaaS player.

It will be hard to decide who will get the difficult calls from now on :).

CartoDB is not just an innovative location intelligence platform. Technology matters, indeed, but we are, moreover, a community. Our hard-working team members, our enthusiastic power users, the groups of journalists, financial services analysts, biodiversity experts, educators, big data scientists…, who use us daily and gather together to share experiences and become better mappers and location data analysts are the reason we built CartoDB in the first place.

I am extremely thankful to all of you, and especially to the families of our team members, to my own patient family ;)!, for their incredible support and understanding.

It is really inspiring to see how each of the members of the community has a unique way of telling the stories that really matter, providing information for better decision making and coming up with innovative ideas on how we can provide a better service.

I experience, proudly envious, how, week over week, each team member is growing and learning how to punch way over his weight, from our CEO, Javier, who gets the hard thing about hard things ;); Sergio, who does magic defining the product every day; Andrew, who equally innovates relentlessly and excites communities worldwide; to Santana, keeping our feet on the ground while delivering dreams with daily production deployments.

Our roadmap is full of new exciting paths to explore, we are eager to bring incredibly talented individuals from all over the globe on board and be closer to where our customers and users are in over 65 countries. The new funding we have secured will help us to achieve all this, to create a better CartoDB.

It is a privilege to be able to live these times, with these top tier partners, incredible team and top-notch technology. I am grateful for the opportunity and of course, frightened about the responsibility. We have a grand vision and now we need to execute and deliver to the expectations.

Scaling up a startup is actually not about doing many more things, but about focusing on the crucial issues and challenges you are facing every day. Doing less but better, and spending wisely, ambitiously but without extravagances.

We are just getting started, we need to prove that we deserve the attention and the resources we got so far and we have a long way and extreme effort ahead of us, before we can call it a day.

But it is also important to celebrate the milestones, enjoy the path and be humble to recognize how big the role is, that luck plays in all this game.

Thank you for your support!.

Stay tuned for more awesomeness coming from the CartoDB team!

P.s.- More info about the announcement can be found here:




1. Como vender una startup: Los pasos previos (1-8)

Vender el proyecto en el que has depositado tantas ilusiones y energía, no es fácil. Es un proceso duro, muy emocional y extenuante. Así que prepárate con tiempo, al menos un año antes, si es posible.

El motivo inicial por el que un emprendedor inicia su proyecto, no suele ser para venderlo, si no para construir algo propio y cambiar las cosas. No es difícil tener conversaciones previas y flirtear sobre la posibilidad de llegar a vender tu “tesoro”, pero cuando llega el momento de firmar en la línea de puntos, es una situación mucho más compleja, que te obliga a revisar todas tus motivaciones y expectativas.

Para empezar, es fundamental que conozcas a tus posibles compradores y aún más importante, que ellos te conozcan a ti.

Ten una presencia constante y activa en los grupos de linkedin por donde merodean todos los “who is who” de tu mercado. Escribe sobre vuestros avances de forma metódica: menciona ese nuevo gran cliente, tu acuerdo internacional de la pera o tu crecimiento exponencial de ventas. Eso sí (y repetiré esto muchas veces) ¡no mientas nunca!. En alemán dicen: “Lügen haben kurze Beine” (las mentiras tienen las piernas muy cortas), y no hay nada más demoledor para destrozar un proceso de compra-venta que encontrar mentiras en los cajones, que rompen la confianza de forma irreversible.

Acude a los congresos más importantes de tu sector y demuestra a todo el mundo lo competente que es tu equipo, tu mismo y vuestra capacidad tecnológica diferencial. No tengas miedo de compartir cierta información y establecer relaciones personales, viéndote con tus competidores o posibles Partners donde estén, en cualquier lugar del mundo. La competencia constructiva es muy habitual en Silicon Valley, aunque aquí nos parezca tan peligrosa.

De todos modos, creo que lo más importante en esta fase previa es “hacer las cosas bien”. Si estás creciendo en facturación, captando talento internacional y ganando contratos frente a tu competencia, seguro que de un modo u otro, oirán hablar de ti.

Creo que para tener éxito en la venta de una empresa, es importante estar preparado, pero aún más importante es mantener el foco en tu negocio. Y tener una actitud muy zen al respecto, si al final se llega a un acuerdo; perfecto, pero si no (como ocurre en más del 50 % de los casos) no pasa nada, habrás seguido creciendo y ya llegarán otras oportunidades en el futuro, que llegan, creedme.

Hay un tema que se suele olvidar y que puede ser relevante más adelante, y es tener un pacto de socios, sobre todo si tienes socios minoritarios, inversores externos, etc. Una vez que tengas una oferta interesante sobre la mesa, querrás evitar introducir incertidumbres innecesarias, y para ello, tener una cláusula de drag along o derecho de arrastre, puede ser vital (más info sobre claúsulas de este tipo, en este post), ya que permite al socio mayoritario negociar la venta en nombre de todos los demás.

Un último consejo para empezar a prepararte es que te informes mucho sobre M&A en general y sobre tu caso particular. Lee blogs, habla con mucha gente y sobre todo, encuentra un par de mentores de alto nivel, con los que tengas mucha confianza y que hayan pasado por alguna situación similar en el pasado. Te ayudarán después, en todo el proceso, para darte una visión menos emocional y desde fuera, para indicarte estándares de mercado en la negociaciónn o para evitar que cometas errores de principiante.

En general, suele ser la primera vez y quizá la única que vendes tu negocio, así que rodéate de gente con experiencia y que no tenga nada que ganar con todo esto, más que un interés altruista y una invitación a comer (verás más adelante que los asesores pagados son útiles, pero tienen sus propios objetivos y estrategias). Un mentor experimentado y de confianza es IMPORTANTÍSIMO. Ah, y en España, de los buenos, hay muy pocos (yo he tenido la gran fortuna de contar con algunos de los mejores!).

Espero que os haya gustado el primer artículo de la serie, “stay tuned for more” las próximas semanas.

P.s.- Para los muy cafeteros, incluyo una lista de cosas que sería bueno empezar a hacer con tiempo, para facilitar un proceso de venta:

1. Ten sistemas y procesos documentados y repetibles. Esto también implica delegar en mandos intermedios de confianza. Aunque la venta de una start-up siempre va acompañada de una adquisición de talento y es muy importante que los fundadores sigan dirigiendo el equipo y el desarrollo de negocio, es bueno que el conocimiento del día a día y su estrategia no esté en manos únicamente de los fundadores.

2. Es muy importante que tu negocio tenga un modelo de negocio recurrente, es decir que vendas un producto o servicio que sea repetible y estandarizado en lo posible. Ah, igual no lo he comentado antes, pero tener ingresos es un requisito imprescindible para vender una startup en España. El caso americano de M&A sin modelo de negocio nos queda muy, muy lejos.

3. Auditoría y papeles en orden

Empieza desde ya a auditar tus cuentas, ten procesos establecidos de firma de contratos, aceptación de órdenes de trabajo, confirmación de entregas, facturación  e imputación de ingresos y gastos, etc. No estoy de acuerdo con el gran François Derbaix, en que sea imprescindible contratar a una de las big four. Hay despachos de auditoría medianos, con profesionales muy competentes y con costes mucho más asequibles para una start-up. Eso sí, evita el chiringuito de tu primo Manolo, que hizo un curso de contabilidad por internet.

4. LOPD y propiedad intelectual revisada por expertos.

Lo mismo que con los contratos, etc. Una revisión de los procesos de protección de datos, seguridad informática y propiedad intelectual te pueden evitar sorpresas en la due diligence, que den lugar a contingencias y garantías desmesuradas en el contrato final.

5. Presentación de venta y sumario ejecutivo

No hace falta que tengas un cuaderno de venta de una empresa cotizada, pero sí que tienes que preparar un slide deck, con 10-15 diapositivas clave sobre tu negocio. Y adapta esa presentación para cada posible comprador, indicando cuales son las sinergias de la integración, cómo vais a crecer juntos, cuales son los puntos complementarios de los equipos, las tecnologías, los mercados, etc. Puedes encontrar un post sobre este tema aquí