María Lorenzo (Programme for Directors ‘21): “The unique advantage of Esade BAN is the guidance it provides”
With more than 25 years of senior management experience in the financial sector and as a leader of innovation projects, she is involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem through mentoring activities and as an investor. We spoke with her about innovation and talent.
With more than 25 years of experience in senior management, what prompted you to invest in startups?
Before I started investing, it started as professional curiosity about disruptive models that challenge traditional industries – the essence of startups – especially in the financial sector, given my professional background. Later I became interested in sharing my experience as a mentor and, at the same time, taking advantage of the opportunity to invest as a complement to my existing portfolio, in search of a higher return on investment. Finally, I completed a specific programme on investing in startups, where I connected with other investors and created the AWASI investment platform. It has been a journey of learning and enriching experiences.
You have an international perspective and a 360° strategic vision, thanks to your personal and professional background. What does entrepreneurial talent mean to you?
Nowadays, entrepreneurial talent accounts for just a fraction of the Spanish economy, but no one can doubt that it is poised to see exponential growth and become a fundamental driver of the country’s economy. Large companies seek out professionals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are capable of driving change and innovation. This sort of talent is increasingly sought-after. We need to generate greater traction at both the business and institutional levels. This can only be achieved through an education system that stresses the importance of entrepreneurship and creates an ecosystem that fosters innovation.
What does Esade BAN mean to you? What are the advantages of belonging to this network?
Esade BAN is the leading investment forum for entrepreneurs, business angels, companies and venture capitalists. Its unique advantage is the guidance it provides, which is especially important for people who want to start investing in startups. In most cases, the investment rounds, including meetings with the startup, are coordinated by an expert in the sector. Members are trained in investing as business angels and have access to a repository of information that is essential for analysis. In other words, there is a specific investor support process that facilitates decision-making.
Why is it important to have a contact network in the investment world, and how can we get the most out of the network?
A contact network is essential – and not just in the investment world. Information, opinion, verification and access are important characteristics for the business world, contributing to the creation of a competitive growth process for everyone involved. That’s why solid and well-informed investment forums like Esade BAN are important. The quality of the members of the network is an important factor. Most members are executives or entrepreneurs with a diverse range profiles, which allows them to share opinions from various angles. Behind each investment project, there is a detailed analysis, for which it is essential to have reliable sources of information and expert opinion.
Is now a good time to invest?
With prudence and quality information, it is always a good time to invest in startups. Last year, for example, valuations were quite high, yet we continued to see record numbers of transactions. That said, it is true that the market context has changed a bit with inflation and rising interest rates. We are also seeing a return to reasonable valuations. Business angels and venture capitalists are starting to show some restraint, and some investment rounds are not reaching 100% of expectations. As always, we need to stay calm and prudent – but keep moving forward.
“Behind each investment project, there is a detailed analysis, for which it is essential to have reliable sources of information and expert opinion”
What does your experience as a board member bring to your role as an investor in startups?
I invest jointly with other investors through our platform, AWASI. We are committed to raising the visibility of good governance practices in startups. This includes, among other things, strengthening financial reporting to shareholders, maintaining financial balance, having a balanced shareholder agreement and tending to social aspects such as diversity. In short, it’s about supporting entrepreneurial teams who are preparing to scale their companies and become more professional.
In your view, how has women’s participation in the investment ecosystem evolved?
In my circles, I have seen a substantial increase in the participation of women in every corner of the system: mentors, venture capitalists, business angels and business angels networks. Networks of women investors are growing in number – and in number of participants. Even in venture capital and private equity, there are more and more women every day. This will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs. This growth in participation is proportional to greater visibility – a key factor in attracting more women investors.
Sharing experiences is a key part of this activity. Why is it important to attend investment forums?
Forums play a fundamental role in connecting entrepreneurs with investors and experts. They facilitate the sharing of opinions, knowledge and trends. They also act as a vehicle for promotion and learning for everyone involved.
“In my circles, I have seen a substantial increase in the participation of women in every corner of the system: mentors, venture capitalists, business angels and business angels networks”
You participated in Esade’s Programme for Directors and have experience as a mentor. How would you like to strengthen your ties to Esade Alumni to create value for the community?
I would like to keep supporting the excellent work that Esade is doing in high-level business education and, of course, take part in forums and promote new initiatives. As I said, a good contact network is important, and Esade Alumni is an excellent venue for meeting other professionals and developing as a person.