Javier Jiménez (Lanzadera): "Valencia is the place to start a business"

The general manager of Juan Roig's (Mercadona) accelerator argues for the advantages of the capital of the Túria when it comes to setting up a startup

Javier Jiménez Marco, director general de Lanzadera, a l'estand de l'acceleradora al 4YFN
Javier Jiménez Marco, director general de Lanzadera, a l'estand de l'acceleradora al 4YFN

Since the beginning of 2013 when Lanzadera began operating, some 150 projects have passed through it. "Out of all of them 40 no longer exist, some 50 or 60 are doing well and the rest really well." Javier Jiménez Marco, general manager of Juan Roig's accelerator talks proudly of the "grain of sand" they try to contribute in turning Valencia into a point of reference in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Jiménez Marco worked for more than 10 years in Mercadona, first in the area of Purchasing and later as a financial head. However, his everyday work is now close to the sea and spent with young entrepreneurs who want to turn their ideas into reality. This week he was in Barcelona to take part in the Four Years From Now (4YFN), coinciding with the opening of a new inscription period. Those wanting to accelerate their startup in Valencia have the whole of March to present their applications.

Lanzadera has just turned four. Are you happy?
Yes, we are happy. There are always things to improve, but we have learnt a lot, which we hope will help the projects that join in the future.

Have the initial expectations been met?
Yes, we are pleased because the objectives we set are being met. But we are aware that we still have to improve a great deal. We have made mistakes and there is still a long way to go. In the end, we are also a startup, we haven't been going for long and we have to continue learning.

What mistakes have you made?
More than mistakes they are learning experiences. When we began we thought that the most important thing were the ideas; and we have realised that the truly important thing are the people. The capacity of people to carry out their ideas, the leadership of the CEO and that a startup needs a team with mutual understanding and the sum of their capabilities.

Where did the idea for Lanzadera come from?
It came from our patron and mentor, Juan Roig. A day came in his life when he decided that he wanted to give back to society part of what it had given him in the more than 40 years of his career. There is one thing he is passionate about and that he knows: doing business. He decided to set up this accelerator to draw on his knowledge, his resources and the proven quality business model of Mercadona. That way he could pass on all of his know-how with the aim of launching new companies on the market. We are great defenders of the idea that the more business people there are, there more companies there will be. If there are more companies, there will be more wealth and wellbeing for everyone.

You worked in Mercadona in the area of Purchasing and as a financial head. What was changing to managing an accelerator like?
One thing I learnt a long time ago is that the only thing that does not change is change itself. You have to be ready for change. To adapt oneself quickly, to learn a lot... It is a feeling I recommend, learning what you do not know. It forces you to learn in record time. It is a feeling that keeps you alive and alert.

There are now almost as many accelerators as startups. Why choose Lanzadera?
Because we have a number of competitive advantages. The first is that we pass on a proven business model that works: Mercadona's model of total quality, which brings together 40 years of learning, mistakes and some successes in dealing with the five components of all companies: clients, employees, suppliers, the society around and capital. Moreover, we have a mentor in Juan Roig, who invests his personal time in passing on all of his knowledge to the entrepreneurs.

What else?
Because we are in Valencia! Valencia is the place to start a business. Apart from the climate, it historically has a very significant entrepreneurial spirit. Before the rise of entrepreneurship, the Valencians were travelling the world selling oranges, furniture, toys and shoes, without the Internet and often without even speaking English. At Lanzadera we do not have to explain what entrepreneurship is to Valencians. Finally, Lanzadera is the place to come because we have a great team and we are in the Marina de Empresas business centre. It is a very important hub of innovation, training and investment with the aim of becoming a factory of companies.

Where do the projects taken on by Lanzadera come from?
They are from all over Spain and abroad. Last year we had a Dutch and a Swiss team. With social media and the Internet our inscription periods go all over the world.

Is there a sector in which you are specialising, which is more attractive to certain startups?
No, there is a little bit of everything. The world is what it is and it all revolves around the Internet. But we have everything from retail, medicine, video games... A bit of everything.

What do you demand from entrepreneurs who want to join Lanzadera?
The only thing we ask for, and it is unconditional, is effort. An entrepreneur has to make an effort to realise his dream, he has to put passion into it. After that, we ask them to show that they are capable of seeing it through.

You spoke about the advantages of starting a business in Valencia, which is the third city in Spain in terms of startups. Could it one day rival Barcelona and Madrid?
That is not the benchmark we follow. Our benchmark is the satisfaction of our entrepreneurs. But Valencia is not only about Lanzadera, there are other accelerators and public centres doing great things. Between all of us we are trying to turn Valencia into a place known for its entrepreneurship and innovation.

Yet, what role has Lanzadera played in establishing Valencia as the third startup hub in Spain?
We have contributed our grain of sand, but it must be remembered that we were the last to arrive. The first accelerator in Spain is called Business Bboster and it is in Valencia. Plug and play, which is the subsidiary of Silicon Valley, is also in Valencia. Demium, the first accelerator that matches talent and ideas, also.

Although they are independent, the relationship between Mercadona and Lanzadera has an air of Corporate Venturing. Should we get used to seeing large companies investing in startups rather than R&D departments?
The world is turning towards the need for immediate innovation, everything is for yesterday. Large corporations often have a lot to do that impedes innovation. That means they are beginning to rely on people like us because we can add talent to this innovation. We have just come to an agreement with Sony to develop games for the Play Station. We add our knowledge in managing teams and putting their quality into the development of the product.

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