Q&A  | 

Victor Canivell: how real world experience can help you get ahead in the tech sector


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Victor Canivell is a Co-Founder of Qilimanjaro Quantum Tech. He has worked in numerous countries over the course of his career, and has helped to establish start-ups in both the UK and Spain. Victor talked to us about his background in the tech industry and highlighted the importance of tech transfer for emerging start-ups.

What does your role as Co-Founder of Qilimanjaro Quantum Tech entail?

Qilimanjaro is a quantum computing start-up based in Barcelona. My work as Co-Founder basically involves managing the coordination of the technology team, which comprises both hardware and software. 


I also dedicate a lot of time to aspects of business management, such as finance and developing partnerships with large organisations. I’m actively involved in the recruitment process too, since hiring the right people is absolutely crucial for the success of the company.

Could you tell us about your background in technology?

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career working for large IT industry multinationals based in Europe and Silicon Valley. For the last decade, however, my focus has been almost entirely on technology start-ups in both the UK and Spain. These entities have been largely software based, including SaaS start-ups.


Aside from that, I’ve also been a board member of several biotech companies. Although I’m not involved in the biotech industry per se, several of these boards formed part of the start-ups I collaborated with, which is what led me to take up those positions.

You’ve started several new businesses from scratch over the course of your career. Could you share some of these initiatives with us?

I started out by creating several cybersecurity businesses, which is a hugely lucrative industry nowadays. One of these businesses was actually created at UPC Barcelona, however it was sold to a public NASDAQ company in the US shortly after my departure. The business itself was focused on online identity and digital signature management, which is an issue that still troubles many business owners. 


This particular venture prompted me to reflect on the differences between European and North American perspectives with regards to identity verification. It became clear to me that Europeans want more control than their American counterparts. For example, Europeans use identity cards while people in the U.S. misuse driving licenses to identify themselves, in lieu of an official document.  


I was also involved in a security joint venture between a Swiss company and a team based in northern Spain, where my role was more business based. Shortly after that, I got involved in a bioinformatics start-up which aimed to help better manage data produced by genome sequencing devices.


Now, I’m in quantum computing. Originally I’m a quantum physicist, but it was not until recently that I began dedicating those abilities to my everyday work. The project I’m currently working on is extremely deep tech and takes a long time to develop, but I think it’ll be very disruptive in the future.

You’re also a business advisor for several start-ups. Could you share some advice on how spinoffs can approach corporations?

Big corporations are always open to innovation and new ideas; that’s why they all have their own innovation departments. However, start-ups need to be able to come up with realistic use cases in order for these multinationals to actually take their ideas seriously. They need to convincingly explain why customers are going to be willing to use the product or service, and bridge this gap between technology and real world application.


In terms of catching the eye of large corporations, I’d say conferences are key. It’s also a good idea to try to find a partner in your target industry that can help to give your project added visibility and make it stand out from the competition.

How important is tech transfer? What opportunities does it present to new start-ups?

It’s a great initiative, because researchers in academia tend to be very bright and hardworking, but they’re very focused on the theoretical side of things. This means that they often don’t have the business acumen to get their product or service to market, so they might miss the boat on some of the opportunities out there. It’s therefore important that these links between the research and business communities are nurtured.

Why are initiatives like The Collider important?

Initiatives such as The Collider are able to assist researchers with investment opportunities, and point them in the direction of conferences where they’re likely to make valuable contacts. They essentially help them to successfully break into the business world, defend their assets, and get ahead.


Although I know some of the managers at The Collider, I don’t actually have any direct affiliation. However, I’ve recently been acting as a mentor to some of the start-ups they’re collaborating with.

Could you please share with us a source of inspiration and/or a mentor to you over the course of your career?

I had a manager many years ago when I worked at Hewlett Packard, who was very bright and worked extremely hard. What impressed me the most about him was his will to stand his ground and take calculated risks. This really set him apart, because he dared to defy the status quo if he believed it was the right way to go. Of course, you need to be a good team player too—but sometimes I think you need to buck the trend and inspire others to do the same.

What’s a quote that you live and/or work by?

Something that has stayed with me is this idea I was exposed to when I joined Hewlett Packard. The founders came up with what they call the ‘HP way’. It’s a simple concept: to always show respect for employees, customers, and for all of your stakeholders. The principle of respect is extremely important to me, and something that I’ve carried with me into organisations of many kinds.

Today, what professional advice did you wish you knew when you started?

Well, I think it’s crucial to do the things that motivate you. For people who enjoy technology, mathematics or science, I think there are heaps of opportunities out there right now, but there are plenty of things out there that all of us can do. It’s a great time to be in intrapreneurship and technology—and we have a shared responsibility to ensure that technology is used for the greater good.

Qilimanjaro Quantum Tech has been awarded the Senén Vilaró Prize for the most innovative company for 2021. They were also named one of Catalonia’s most disruptive companies by the Generalitat de Catalunya this year, and are included in the Catalonia Exponential Leaders 2021.