Being transparent, honest and true to your values gives you the energy needed to be a better professional and person. I find it very disrespectful when people reject an idea, an option, or a plan without extending feedback that I can learn from.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura González-Estéfani. Laura is the founder and CEO of TheVentureCity — an operator-led venture accelerator designed to make the global entrepreneurial ecosystem more diverse and accessible to fair capital. Her work extends across European, Latin American and U.S. innovation hubs. An early employee of Facebook, Laura spent nine years supporting international growth initiatives from Silicon Valley, Miami and Spain. During her tenure, Facebook grew more than 30x; prior to Facebook, Laura held management roles at eBay and Siemens, and co-founded Esplaya.com in 2000, the first beach tourism digital platform in Spain. An active equal rights advocate, mentor, and board member, Laura was recently appointed to the European Commission’s Innovation Council by the European Union.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was an accident! I had just finished my college degree in communications when the internet took off in Spain. I thought it would be something new and interesting to explore, so a few friends and I co-founded esplaya.com, the first beach tourism site in Europe at the time. Sadly, we were victims of the dot-com crash in 2000. From there I jumped to Siemens, then to eBay, and finally to Facebook in the very early days of the company. I was at Facebook from 2008 to 2017. During that time I supported the platform’s international growth initiatives in Silicon Valley, Miami and Spain. So I am not an engineer by profession, but I always like to say that I am ingenious!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
While in Silicon Valley, I realized that the best entrepreneurs don’t always get access to capital. Instead, those with a better local network were the ones who had access to the most resources. This helped shape my vision for TheVentureCity. TheVentureCity invests and helps companies grow in emerging tech hubs around the world — such as Miami, Madrid, Lisbon, Mexico City or Sao Paulo. We believe the gap between talent and capital creates a big opportunity, so we look to invest in cities that are exploding with opportunity and entrepreneurship outside of Silicon Valley. Since our inception three years ago, TheVentureCity has held strong to a belief in capital efficiency. Our founders build amazing businesses with a fraction of the capital found in Silicon Valley, but with the same impact.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I have had many angels in my career, including Eduardo Montes, Javier Olivan, Meenal Balar and Laurence Fontinoy. All of them have always pushed me to my limits. They have all been my boss and yet understood very well that I needed my own space to make things happen. I have always been very independent, persistent, and creative, and all of them knew that I would get things done most likely in unconventional ways. I am not standard at all, I believe I can do anything and I am tremendously optimistic by design, so it is not easy to work with me — they put up with my sometimes exhaustive ways!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- People — At the end of the day, companies are made by people. Trusting others and getting their trust in return is what matters to push the business forward. People over business, always.
- Feedback — Being transparent, honest and true to your values gives you the energy needed to be a better professional and person. I find it very disrespectful when people reject an idea, an option, or a plan without extending feedback that I can learn from.
- Authenticity — Be yourself at all times. Authenticity gives me freedom, energy, and makes me feel powerful. If I fail, I do so with peace of mind knowing that I did not only my best, but that I did it in my own way. I am a learner.
How are you going to shake things up next?
Questioning — I love to question everything. I don’t follow, I lead. I am always curious, always asking, always trying to find the most efficient way to make things happen. I have been told so many times that TheVentureCity was too ambitious, too unrealistic, too hard to accomplish, and now when I look back and I see what we have been able to build, I can’t stop thinking that TheVentureCity is setting a whole new level of expectations. We are changing the emerging tech scene and accelerator landscape one investment at a time.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I love to read and to listen to podcasts, but what I enjoy the most and how I learn the most is when I talk to founders. Nothing beats spending time with founders. In particular, I especially enjoy working with founders when they are going through their toughest times. I love to solve problems and to be useful when things are going down. That feeling of ‘challenge’ is what I enjoy the most! The easy route is not for me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would encourage people to be brave. Brave people get to where they want to be. Be authentic, don’t be afraid, fight for what you want and don’t condescend. Fight and prove yourself! Quit the job that makes you unhappy, tell your team how extraordinary they are when they are performing well, and don’t be afraid to reprimand when needed. Tell your friends and family how much you love them, and your colleagues how much you enjoy working with them. Be grateful, and brave. Allow yourself to be you at all times!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson quote is from my dad who was an entrepreneur. The only thing he wanted for my sister and for me is for us to be independent, strong women. We were raised like that, without limits or fears. And here we are . . . fearless and feeling powerful!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Linkedin: Laura Gonzalez-Estefani
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!