Q&A  | 

Xavier Simo: Building the deep-tech ecosystem


Reading Time: 4 minutes

Xavier Simó is a business leader, investor and mentor in the tech sector, and an Associate Professor at the IQS, which is inside Universitat Ramon Llull. He’s also a Collider collaborator, and he shared some insights from his extensive experience in tech transfer with us, including some important advice for sector newcomers.

You are an investor currently focusing on deep tech. What got you interested in these tech startups?

My background is in IT and more specifically in display, networking, sensoring and mobile applications. More recently, I have been involved with blockchain, artificial intelligence, and new technologies around visualisations. By nature, I am also very curious. Due to my background, career, and general curiosities, I have constantly wondered and researched what’s next. I have been so interested in understanding how new technologies and businesses can change the current market.

What kind of smart capital do you offer to startups besides funding?

The first thing that we can offer to them is knowledge of the market. Inlea, the company that I founded 16 years ago, is headquartered in the US, but we also have a presence in Brazil, Russia, India, Spain, Canada, and the UK. We have people in 23 countries, so I have a general view of a lot of markets. My partners and I can share these global views and new trends with The Collider and with the people doing projects with universities. I’ve been in this industry for 35 years, and I know how the corporate world works, so I also share my experience with startups.

Do you think investors need deep technical knowledge to invest in deep tech?

I think deep tech investors at least need a technical background or tech experience, because that’s how one understands the market. Deep tech is all about experience in the industry, so some sort of experience is necessary.

As an investor, what are the three main questions you typically ask entrepreneurs during the first meeting?

First, we ask what their value proposition is. Secondly, what’s their target market? We also ask general questions about the market, such as how big it is and what are some potential clients? The third question is, what are the legal barriers that you can address to protect you and the investment? But before this we always review the people, the team. What makes a difference is always a person, someone who understands the place of this deep tech in the market. It’s always a person who decides which direction the technology is going to be taken, and this is the key.

What is your favourite aspect of your role as an investor?

That’s a difficult question, and every case is different. But if I had to pick one thing I would say focusing on the sales goal. I’m always reminding the team to focus on the sales goal. Sometimes, people in deep tech get caught up purely in the technology and the benefits the product will provide, but I think it’s so important to focus on sales, clients and the market.

What is your relationship with The Collider?

I started to collaborate with The Collider about two years ago, in several capacities. I was a mentor, an investor, and part of the investment-selection jury. I have an excellent relationship with the team and with the organisation; the people at The Collider are extremely motivated and open-minded.

Do you have any predictions for Spain when it comes to tech transfer? What opportunities are there for startups?

The technology is there, but we have a very low number of patents in Spain compared to other countries. Countries like Germany, France, and Italy currently run the technology industry in Europe. In Spain, we don’t have a strong network to receive the technology from universities. Because of this, we don’t yet have a strong tech culture or tradition. Startups often collaborate with big corporations, but the majority of these corporations are outside Spain. We need time to develop this tech culture and to broaden our network. 


The universities in Spain also need the motivation to get involved and support this tech ecosystem – they don’t always even minimally support tech projects they’ve been researching when it comes to financing them. So there are opportunities in Spain, but we need more time to develop this deep-tech culture, create patents, and protect the technology. The Collider does an excellent job at leading and guiding this movement.

Have you had a great mentor or a source of inspiration throughout your career?

I have met different people who have supported me and inspired me throughout my career. The first person was Tomeu Serra of the University of the Balearic Islands. He was always two steps ahead of the curve, and encouraged me to create something disruptive in the market. Another person who has inspired me is one of my partners in the US, Aman Johar. He’s located in Silicon Valley and again, is always thinking two steps ahead. I would consider all of my mentors to be smarter than me because they certainly inspire me, support me and encourage me to keep moving forward.

Do you have a quote that you live or work by?

Not really, but one thing I’ve focused on as I’m learning and growing is “less is more.” It’s more of a concept, but especially in this field, it’s a wonderful exercise to try to simplify something. A great example is looking at an application. The fewer clicks or steps you make a user take to complete an action, the more user-friendly and therefore successful the model. When a startup is just forming its roots, it’s great to perfect one thing and to focus on that. Then, as the company grows, you can and should diversify.

Do you have any professional advice you would give to people just starting out and maybe considering a trajectory similar to yours?

I’m a lecturer at Spanish universities and vocational schools, and one thing I often say is that the last skill a robot can learn is empathy. A robot needs to understand who he or she is first, and then understand who others are and how they might think. It’s important when starting a career to try to understand how others think and what they feel. If you want a successful career, learn to be empathetic and to put yourself in another person’s shoes. The key is to listen, understand, and absorb.