Q&A with Juan Margenat: building companies and investing from Barcelona
Juan Margenat has been part of the Spanish startup scene for quite some time, both as an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded PlanB!, which was later acquired, and more recently Marfeel, a software company that helps publishers monetize and engage mobile audiences.
To know more about his career, the current status of the Spanish startup scene and his thoughts on accelerators, we sat down with him. What follows is an edited version of
For those who don’t know you, who is Juan Margenat and what’s Marfeel?
Marfeel is a technology company that helps publishers monetize and engage their mobile audience.
As for me, I’m a civil engineer that spent his first professional years as a real estate consultant at Jones Lang LaSalle. I founded my first company in 2006, Bongo, which was later sold to Smartbox. PlanB! was my second company and I recently co-founded my third one, Marfeel, to help the publishing industry. I’ve also been a business angel since 2008, having backed more than 10 internet companies, such as Kantox, Habitissimo, Offerum or Deporvillage.
What motivated you to create Marfeel? What market opportunity did you see?
In fact it was my co-founder Xavi Beumala the one who came up with the idea. He shared it with me and since we both love reading and technology, we thought we could improve a lot the reading experience in mobile devices. On top of that we knew that publishers were not able to really monetize their mobile audience, so we thought we could even turn our passion into a great business.
Marfeel was recently chosen by Google as an approved partner for mobile solutions. What does this mean for Marfeel as a company and for what you’re trying to build?
When we started Marfeel we could not even imagine in our wildest dreams that Google would certify us. It is the best reward for three years of very hard work and it means that we are doing things the right way and that we are here to stay. Trying to change the world from Barcelona is sometimes difficult, so whenever a customer has any doubts about working with a Spanish company, the fact that Google has certified us makes closing deals much easier.
Marfeel went through both SeedRocket and Wayra. Were those two experiences significant in the growth of Marfeel as a company?
It looks like it was ages ago that we went through their programs… but both of them have been significant in our growth. I would say that SeedRocket allowed us to get in touch with top founders and investors and it was through SeedRocket that I met Xavi (as I am a mentor in the accelerator). Also, many of SeedRocket’s angels are still investors in the company. And the good thing about Wayra is the visibility it provides to all their startups, we even met the King of Spain!
What advice would you give to founders that are currently considering joining an accelerator? Should all consider joining one?
Accelerators are not for everyone. Unless you really plan to build a fast growing startup there is no need for that. But if that is your goal, going through one of those programs can save you a lot of headaches and time.
My advice to founders that are thinking about applying to any would be: do your homework and understand why you want to go through their programs. Once you have your answers it will be easier to choose which one is the best fit for you. Also, get in touch with companies that have been through the program, they will provide the best and most honest feedback.
Besides being the co-founder of Marfeel, you’re also a business angel, with investments in several companies. What kind of companies are you interested in and how would you describe yourself from an investor’s perspective?
I don’t have as much time as I would like for my investments but it’s certainly a part of my professional life that I enjoy a lot. I am interested in technology companies, the more scalable the better, and also looking for very ambitious and international teams. I am a hands-on investor, I like to know what my companies are doing and try to provide as much help as I can: contacts, advice, experience, etc.
“Accelerators are not for everyone. Unless you really plan to build a fast growing startup there is no need for that” Juan Margenat
Last but not least, it has to be a pleasant experience so I only invest in founders that I get along with. That way, even in case the company goes belly up, it will have been worth it.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to founders who are currently (or think of) fundraising?
Focus yourself on the business, build something unique, get the best team, get traction and funds will follow.