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By Pilar Romero Barello
Four years ago, Fernando decided to become an entrepreneur and set up Spotbros with three friends and former classmates from Universidad de Deusto. Today we arranged to meet to talk about his latest brainchild, IMbox.me, a messaging service for businesses “that offers greater urgency and immediacy than e-mail”, he told us. “Employees don't have to use their personal phone number, they can also access it from their computer and share all types of files easily”, he added. They already have over 1,000 SMEs registered on the platform and the first paying customers using the service. But he will tell us the story.
How did the idea of IMbox.me come about?
The idea popped up after the launch of the latest version of Spotbros (our public instant messaging app). In that version we added the possibility of sharing any type of file. Two weeks later we began to receive phone calls from companies interested in using the service for internal communication purposes, and we saw the opportunity.
Is it possible to innovate in mobile messaging or has everything been invented?
There is room for innovation. We've done it by taking messaging to the corporate world, in the belief that messaging will also become one of the main means of communication in companies. In fact, this is already happening (just look at the use of Whatsapp at the professional level) and we believe that this trend will consolidate in the future around 2-3 great global leaders focused on the professional world. We want to be one of those leaders.
What are the next challenges for IMbox.me?
The short-term challenge is to consolidate our position in Spain so we can later move on to other markets.
In this line of business, if you don't give your company an English name, are you lost?
Not only in this one, but in any other business, if you want to be global. More important than being in English, it should be easy to pronounce by the greatest number of people possible.
Why did you decide to set up your own business?
I've always toyed with the idea of running my own business, although it is true that a few years ago I wouldn't have thought of setting up a technology company. I had been working for a multinational consultancy firm for five years and I felt it was the right time to take the plunge and try my luck. Neither did I spend too much time thinking about it, I just did it.
Do you think that entrepreneurship is a passing fad or the most likely future?
I don't think it's a passing fad, in fact it's not even new. There have always been entrepreneurs: from my parents, who set up their consulting office, to the grocer around the corner. What's fashionable nowadays is to use the words "entrepreneur" and "entrepreneurship", and I'm not even sure what they mean any more. The only difference between a traditional and a technological entrepreneur is that the latter generally has a more global aspiration, as the business is based on software.
In your opinion, what is Spain's place on the innovation map?
I think there's an increasing number of projects and a favorable ecosystem is emerging for fueling the innovation process (mutual funds, accelerators, private companies funding projects, events, etc.), but it's also true that we're still light years away from countries like the United States or Israel.
Can you think of any benchmark in the world of technology/innovation?
Anyone who has built an empire from scratch. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the founders of Google... And here in Spain, Amancio Ortega, the Inditex founder, who has also been an innovator. I find it amazing that he started selling a few shirts made in a home shop and ended up building a fashion empire.
What piece of advice you've been given for becoming an entrepreneur would you cast aside? And which has been the most useful?
The truth is that we've never been given much advice, we learned along the way (and there's still much to learn) through a process of trial and error. If I had to choose a piece of advice I would mention a quote by Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's founder: "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late”. Basically, move quickly, put the product on the market, measure and analyze what your users/customers are doing in order to improve the product and tailor it to their needs.