In an interview with Insights Success, the CEO and the Co-founder of Libelium, Alicia Asín, shares her insights behind a rewarding voyage as an entrepreneur. This acknowledged industry leader has driven her company’s product offerings to a global scale with her modern and innovative management and operational expertise.
Below are highlights from the interview conducted between Alicia and Insights Success:
Give a brief overview of your background as an entrepreneur.
I founded Libelium in 2006 with my partner, David Gascón, when we were in the last course of Computer Engineering at the University of Zaragoza. From the beginning we saw an opportunity in the development of wireless sensor networks and from there we created a platform that integrates more than 120 sensors and is capable of transmitting information through any communication protocol to any cloud platform on the Internet. Today we have customers in 120 countries and the company employees around 60 people.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience?
Libelium’s IoT technology is completely horizontal because it offers solutions for applications as diverse as intelligent management of water supply, improvement of agricultural production, environmental control of air and noise in cities, intelligent parking systems, etc. We have two different business units in our sales team: the smart cities area and the green area, which includes customers from the agricultural and water sector. In an increasingly global world, with so many interactions between different productive sectors, it is important to offer each customer a complete solution as open and compatible as possible.
What were the challenges or roadblocks you faced as an entrepreneur?
Business and financial management are always the most difficult obstacles to entrepreneurship: too much bureaucracy, too much time for any small milestones and too little short-term results. The European economic crisis came in the first year of our business lifetime. We have always had in mind the profit and loss account as our objective. We don’t build the company on the basis of subsidies or external investors and this has allowed us to be realistic and seek income from the minute one through online sales. Exportations and the constant innovation of our solutions for intelligent cities, precision agriculture and digital health have brought us to where we are today.
It is curious that when we started, 12 years ago, we were told not to make hardware because it was a very difficult market, not to make a horizontal platform and specialize better in a single vertical and above all, to have investors and mentors or we could not compete in technology globally. We did just the opposite in everything.
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle competition in the market?
Libelium’s technology is very horizontal. This means that our solutions can be used in many sectors: agriculture, smart cities, environment, water management, logistics, and retail. That’s why we don’t have a single competitor that can be compared to us. Other companies focus their expertise on a single solution but the Libelium sensor platform is interoperable, allowing any sensor to be connected to any cloud through any communication protocol. That is the secret of success: to build a large ecosystem that involves all IoT partners.
The IoT is a revolution like the railroad or the steam engine. Our technology not only helps to improve the quality of life in the cities, but also of people and businesses. How? If we make agricultural crops more productive, we will improve the food production necessary to feed a growing world population. By improving the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, we improve people’s health while making cities more sustainable.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every entrepreneur should possess.
It is important to listen to everyone but also to have your own judgment in the decisions you make. The entrepreneur has to think about generating value for all the stakeholders: the more people who benefit from the existence of your company, the better and, of course, sacrifice and effort. Guts rarely happen, but they are not the only way to succeed as an entrepreneur. There are business stories created on the basis of many years of effort such as Inditex or Mercadona that I find much more attractive than the Instagram model.
What is your advice for budding and emerging entrepreneurs?
I would tell them to train for skills such as perseverance, decisiveness, clarity of ideas, in general, which are common features to many brave people who decide to start a business. And also skills such as analytical and communicational ability, temperance in times of adversity & success, curiosity for new market trends, and always & above all, enthusiasm in every task to perform are necessary.
The professional race is an endurance race, a long-distance race; it is not a matter of speed. The goal is not to reach the top and succeed at the first but in constant learning and in carving out one’s own path, learning from successes and failures with humility.
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are your future goals?
To think about the future we have to realize that we are living through a new industrial revolution that is going to radically change all sectors of the economy and even our behavior. Our technology is helping to monitor volcano activity to alert the nearby population in the event of an eruption, is measuring environmental parameters to prevent and act against climate change, is helping to improve crop productivity and is even bringing health closer to the population without access to health services.
We are going to live a revolution because technology is going to improve people’s quality of life. One of my highest goals is that all this “democratization” applied to smart cities will bring greater transparency in all aspects and thus better democracy.