Sourcing Tech Talent in Spain: Q&A with Pablo Viguera

CEO and Co-Founder, Groopify

When a group of former high school friends decided that there needs to be a new way to meet other young people with similar interests, the idea for Groopify was born. Groopify is an app that allows groups of young people who don’t know each other to meet up for a drink or dinner. Initially launched in Madrid, Groopify has now expanded to 44 cities across Spain with over 100,000 users. In December, the company announced that it had closed a new round of funding worth €800,000 (or $900,000). The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation recently caught up with Chicago Booth graduate, Pablo Viguera, MBA ’13, CEO and cofounder of Groopify, to learn more about what it takes to source tech talent in Spain and what 2016 hopes to bring for this thriving start-up.

Polsky Center: Where did you get your inspiration for starting Groopify?

Viguera: Upon graduating from Booth in the summer of 2013 and returning to Spain with the intention of setting up my own venture, my co-founders and I started off from a common pain we felt when it came to meeting new people with similar interests in a social context. As millennials and true believers in the power of technology to put the world at our finger tips, we felt that while online/mobile social networks were meant to bring us closer together and expand our networks (and therefore make us more complete and happier human beings), they were actually drawing us further apart. More connections, sure. But more tangential and ephemeral as well. And with less presence where these matter the most and generate greatest value: offline. We also saw there was huge potential at the intersection of mobile technology, social networks, entertainment and data to revolutionize the way in which we establish social connections in the real world.

Polsky Center: Who is on your team? And what are your backgrounds?

Viguera: The co-founding team (comprised of Miguel García-Santesmases, Alejandro Coca, and I) has experience in companies such as Merrill Lynch, Rocket Internet, Amazon, Banco Santander and Indra Sistemas (a leading software and tech consulting firm based in Spain). Miguel is a Physics major who had spent most of his career as a data analyst, Alejandro studied Computer Science and came from Amazon, and I came from a finance and business background.

Polsky Center: Where did you meet?

Viguera: We met in high school about 15 years ago. We’ve always been best friends, played on the same soccer team, went on to study completely different things in college and work in complementary fields (data, investment banking, software, e-commerce, etc.), but always kept in touch about things we could potentially do together. That’s one of the reasons why we saw our co-founding had so much potential — we had the great personal and professional/skills fit, combined with a shared ambition and vision to do great things together.

Polsky Center: What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?

Viguera: One could argue it very much depends on the phase we’ve found ourselves in. Launching and validating our model was tough, especially given our limited resources as we bootstrapped for a while. Overall, though, being based in Spain has many advantages, but also some drawbacks. I would say culture (when it comes to talent) and bureaucracy are major hurdles to getting anything off the ground and rolling. Although things are changing here, and there is fantastic technical talent in Spain, tech start-ups are still not as appealing as other sectors when it comes to finding a job. Talent is drawn to more stable jobs rather than to those offering more uncertainty and risk. As we grow, we’re definitely getting better at it but overall talent attraction has been tough.

Polsky Center: How many are on the team today?

Viguera: Right now we have a team of 20 awesome and incredibly talented individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and roles including software development, customer support, online marketing, sales, and operations.

Polsky Center: What else do you feel is different about launching a start-up in Spain?

Viguera: Overall bureaucracy, which can take on many forms, can be a challenge here. Examples range from how long it takes (and how tedious it is) to file for incorporation; the lack of flexibility when it comes to hiring/firing and labor contractual relations in general; having to go through a notary public for all relevant governance and corporate proceedings such as capital raisings, shareholders agreements, etc. Those things make the environment less agile than other places I’ve seen.

Polsky Center: Despite that environment, you have been able to raise capital, correct?

Viguera: Yes. We just closed a €800,000 (or $900,000) round and our total funding to date is roughly $1.5 million.

Polsky Center: What’s your big priority for that funding in 2016?

Viguera: In 2015, we focused on consolidating our presence and reaching a critical mass in Spain. In 2016, we will start to focus on our international expansion.

Pablo Viguera is CEO and co-founder of Groopify, a social discovery app that allows groups of young people who don’t know each other to meet up for a drink or dinner. Before starting Groopify, Pablo earned his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concentrating in entrepreneurship. He spent the summer internship working in Kuala Lumpur at OfficeFab, a high-growth e-commerce platform launched in June 2012 under the Rocket Internet GmbH umbrella. Prior to business school, Pablo worked in investment banking at Merrill Lynch where he covered the Internet and Media sectors. He earned his B.S. in finance and management from Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Spain.