You might bump into him while walking around Manhattan. Determined, with a winner's smile, at 40 years old, Iñaki Berenguer has made dreams come true for many people... time and time again. His last invention, CoverWallet, is a tool for consolidating company insurance policies with a 100% digital service. It has received more than 10 million dollars in funding and has a working team of 30 people located between New York and Madrid.
Berenguer, a telecommunications engineer for the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and Emprende Ideas UPV Ambassador, sold Pixable in September 2012, his first big project, for 26.5 million dollars.
What does a person feel when their dream comes true?
(He smiles) Well, actually, the dream does not exist. I mean, there is not a point in which you can say: I did it. I have achieved several milestones and I feel very proud of them: I completed a doctorate, founded a company, expanded it and we reached the point when someone bigger came and bought it for an amount which today is still incredible for me. But I still hope to achieve several significant milestones. I have objectives every week.
Is feeling comfortable dangerous?
Actually, it is. We all know many elite athletes that at the age of 30, settle into their situation, lose their drive and motivation to be better and must look for a new field to excel in. However, I think in the world of technology, you are never totally happy or comfortable because it changes quicker than you can imagine.
What is your next challenge?
The company I have now at hand. In my twenties and until my early thirties, my life was totally committed to the university. I did my Master and Doctorate Degrees. Then, I founded two companies and now I am with the third one, where I am investing 120% of my time. It is called CoverWallet, a technological company which is trying to reinvent the SME insurances world. It works by combining data, technology, design and the user's experience. Now, we are 30 people working on it, half in New York and half here, in Madrid. The engineering team is mostly here in Spain, where there are many very well-trained and very good engineers. We have been working for 18 months and I want this to continue growing... until when and to where, I don't know, but I hope someday it can go public.
When you start a new project, do you put other successful projects aside or do you do them simultaneously?
Pixable, the first company I founded after I graduated from MIT in Boston, was acquired three years after being founded. From there, I was with them for a short period of time, just during the integration process, but the parent company wanted to have the team and technology, so I moved to the next company, Contactive, a big data company. Together, many of us engineers were able to make it grow. It was a very innovative platform to optimize telephone calls. A company from Boston bought us and I spent 6 months with them in order to help with the team integration and technology. Now I am with the next one. When I am dedicated to something, it is like when I was studying Telecommunications at UPV, I am 120% committed to it. For me, that is the only way it will work out well when beginning from zero, when you are not an expert in that industry, when you have nothing to build on and the only thing you have is a dream. You must be committed 120% to it or you'll never succeed.
What do you remember from UPV?
(He smiles again) First of all, I fondly remember my days as a student because those years define you as a person, and how you will be for the rest of your life. What I remember most is the number of hours I spent studying. Here, the careers are demanding. In Telecommunications, I studied nights, weekends, and during the week. Fortunately, I chose a career I loved and I enjoyed while studying. It would have been great to spend more time with my friends at the pool during summer and in May and June; however, when I began at university, I studied something I enjoyed, albeit for long hours. I clearly remember the demanding teaching staff, which was good for me later, because during my Doctorate at Cambridge, my Master's Degree at MIT and my research period at Columbia, I excelled and that was thanks in part to the demand from my Telecommunications Degree here in UPV.
Do you think with the base that UPV gives you, later you can succeed at Cambridge, MIT...?
Of course. What people here need to know is that they don¿t need to put limits on themselves. Recently, a friend told me that a lot of Spanish people see themselves like chicken; they have wings but they never fly. They should set the foundation here and when they go abroad, realize that limits don't exist. The limit is what you want to do, how hard you want to work and the efforts you are willing to make to achieve a specific objective. Unfortunately, there are people that never realize that. They never reach that place because they think there was a limit. Hopefully, they listen to me and know that the only limits are those that you put on yourself.
Lastly, is Spain too far behind to offer you what New York does right now?
I think we must be aware of the tools we have in our geographic area. For example, if you are in Hollywood, it is fantastic for making films, but not for work in technology. For technology, you are better off in Boston, Silicon Valley and New York. If you work in fashion, Paris and Milan are better cities. What we must know is what talent can provide us in each area. Right now, in 21st century, we live in a globalized world and no country has a monopoly on ideas. Information is available to everyone online. For that reason, what the world needs is talent to convert the ideas into companies, implement them and make them grow, both in entrepreneurship and in the academic world. It is important to know that one single person cannot succeed by themselves and that we need teams of 10, 15 or 20 people and, if they grow, 100 people. In Valencia, perhaps there is talent to do certain things, but not others. In addition, whoever knows how to accurately measure the risk assumed in a project is the one that will succeed.