The adrenaline surge of continually launching enterprises seeking to change society is what has driven Marc Bonavia to experience success and failure in several business projects and to share his experiences with other young entrepreneurs. Marc arrives at EADA as a new Board member, ready to contribute with his extensive knowledge of entrepreneurship and to say loud and clear that we should follow our passion.
It is never too late to turnaround our professional career. You are a good example, as after graduating in Pharmacy you discovered your real passion was being an entrepreneur.
That’s right. I studied Pharmacy because it’s a field I was always interested in. However, after working in genetic research at a laboratory in the Netherlands, I realized this work didn’t thrill me and, as a result, I wouldn’t be a good scientist. At the same time, I started turning over an idea with a friend of mine to launch a business related to e-commerce, an area that was only emerging fifteen years ago.
What was your project?
We thought of a website that would be an offer aggregator. The problem was that we did not have a large enough budget to publicize it, and it probably wasn’t the right time for this type of business. But it was the right moment for free text messaging over the internet. Aware of this, what we did was to offer the possibility of sending free text messages from our website as a strategy to attract visitor traffic. Text messaging was the excuse we used so people would visit the offers on our website and end up buying. This strategy worked well until 2001 when fees were introduced for all text messages; this required us to also market this service. So we decided to pivot the business and started building a platform to provide a corporate communication service via mobile, what are known nowadays as mobile marketing campaigns.
What started as a failed business has become a successful company with worldwide presence that was recently bought by Australian group Soprano Design.
Exactly, our origins were a failed e-commerce endeavour. When the text messaging market changed and charges were introduced, instead of giving up we decided to make the most of a still emerging sector with great potential. We offered companies the possibility of communicating with their target market at the right time, reinforcing their brand and improving their sales. This has been the key to the success of a business that has managed to attract companies from all over the world, and that was acquired two years ago by Australian giant Soprano Design, the leading mobile messaging technology supplier.
What lesson did you learn from your first business experience?
When you are an entrepreneur you face your own limitations, what you are not good at. For some people it may be communication or people management. For others financial management or planning. But you end up doing all these things well, because you realize that you will pay a very high price if you don’t. That’s why you seek help and start building a team around the project, and that is how you create a business. You also discover you’re not as bad at some things as you thought. Being an entrepreneur is a real process of self-knowledge.
Being an entrepreneur is a real process of self-knowledge
What do you think you will bring to EADA’s Board of Trustees?
I can contribute with my outlook and experience in young entrepreneurship, the good and the bad I have experienced, since I started in a room in Alella (Barcelona) up to the time of the company’s growth and international expansion. It is very useful for students to learn not only about business success stories, but also about all the failures that must be overcome to reach that point. Without a doubt, a failure may be a ‘pre-success’. I am also going to continue working on the idea that EADA communicates so well in all its programmes, that the companies with a future are those that resolve social needs, i.e., companies that generate other types of wealth aside from economic profit. And I would add to this the importance of each student working on their self-knowledge in the sense of discovering what they are really passionate about, what they are really good at. We must have a compass pointing us in the direction of a goal to achieve. We have to run from the idea of doing things just because it’s our lot.
In what way is a lack of self-knowledge one of the key challenges facing executives today?
I think it is the greatest challenge they face. When a sailor is fully present and conscious of their capacities they can better interpret the sea. The sea symbolizes the volatility of the market, globalization, but also work colleagues, motivation or if there is a sense of purpose in a project that makes it worthwhile to perform at our best.
This is executive high performance, something you know very well not only due to your professional career but also because you are finishing EADA’s MA in Executive High Performance (MARD in Spanish).
What I have learned over time and during this year studying the Master is that executive high performance is not only about giving your best version of yourself but also about nurturing your team to also give their best. The MARD programme is very much based on ‘learning by doing’, it is very focussed on seeking the experiences that will enable you to integrate theoretical knowledge. Learning can only be experiential. The MARD programme enables you to give your best version of yourself as an executive through sport, a healthy diet, emotional management tools like mindfulness and the practical application of knowledge derived from neuroscience research.
Technological acceleration entails a speed of change that demands increasing business leadership in this sense.
In your opinion, what differentiates a manager from a leader?
A manager is focussed on solving problems. In order to achieve this, a manager defines responsibilities, processes, follow-up and assessments. A leader, on the other hand, is focused on change, so a leader will create visions that inspire and empower those who must execute them. Technological acceleration entails a speed of change that demands increasing business leadership in this sense.
Understanding the current giddying rhythm of change is one of the challenges of the Singularity University located in Silicon Valley, where you completed an Executive Programme this year. Tell us about your experience.
It has been an excellent experience because it has allowed me to become aware of the exponential technologies that will appear in the coming years and will modify the world as we know it today.
It’s a world that is constantly transforming as a result of the dizzying speed of technological innovation, from artificial intelligence to robotics or genetic editing. What this university studies is how this technological tsunami may be an opportunity to create a better world.
Our differential value is increasingly talent
In this changing world, is talent valued more or less?
I am very certain that we are moving towards a talent economy. Nowadays, everything is volatile, any industry may be overshadowed by another with greater technological innovation. This is going to become more and more common. New software is also going to appear that will perform the tasks now carried out by many people in companies. And not just that, another person may carry out our work at a lower cost. In this context, you either have added value to contribute or you will face serious difficulties in continuing in the labour market, because you will be competing with software or with a person in any part of the world prepared to work at a lower cost. That is why our differential value is increasingly talent.
Will this talent economy remove the barriers women continue to face in seeking the same career opportunities as men?
In this economic model it makes no sense to separate men and women. There are no barriers for a person to develop their talent. In the same way that in this new context the former industrial paradigm based on a hierarchical structure, characterized by “order and obey”, makes little sense. In fact, training and development used to be based on this model too, in the sense of providing the same training for everyone. Fortunately that is changing. Now you don’t have to wait to receive orders, we must all put what we do well at the service of the world.