Instilling a digital mindset
Didac Lee Each Monday at 6.30pm, El Punt Avui TV airs Going native, the series in which Neil interviews prominent Catalans in English.
Give us a general overview of your businesses.
I am a digital entrepreneur. My group is made up of nine software and e-commerce companies, employing 400 people with a turnover of 40 million.
Is business easy here?
Business is complicated everywhere. But people here are open-minded and business-driven. In my experience, Catalonia is a great place to start your business, especially if your business is based on the new economy.
What is it that makes it a good place to do business?
The great thing about digital businesses is that you can set up your business anywhere. A place like Catalonia has good connections to other countries and there is a good balance between work and personal life. It also easier to attract talent. If we want to make an offer to an engineer from abroad, we bring him to Barcelona. Catalonia is a good place to live and raise a family.
Where else do you do business?
In Argentina, Mexico, China, the US, and other countries. It allows me to travel a lot, and Catalonia is the best place for that because you are in the middle, between Silicon Valley and China, for example. In the new economy, all companies work as if part of a network. So, your development department might be located in Argentina, but you can manage your operation from Barcelona, and then sell to Brazil or the US, for instance. That's the great thing about the new economy.
How has the crisis affected things?
The crisis affects everyone but it affects the new economy less, because it is a fast-growing economy. All my friends in the industry have continued to grow during the past few years. Perhaps without the crisis the growth might have been greater but even with the crisis we have continued to grow.
You also lend your expertise to FC Barcelona.
I'm the board member in charge of the digital area. FC Barcelona is a global brand with fans all over the world. We have around 400 million fans and the only way to engage with all of them is through digital technology. So what the club asks of me is to use technology, social networks, websites, mobile apps, and so on, to gather the global audience and engage them. At the moment FC Barcelona is number one in social networks, Facebook, Instagram, and so on.
How long have you done that?
Four and a half years. When I started we had a very old website and the club did not have a digital mindset. What I feel most proud of is putting digital into the club's DNA. Every bit of content we now produce, in every area of the club, is digitalised. I feel proud and it is an honour.
Was it hard to change the club's thinking?
That was the challenge. With a start-up it's easy because with 10 of you, all you do is say that from now on we are going to do this and everybody does it. But in a large corporation with lots of areas, changing the mindset and ways of working is harder.
How did you manage that?
I'm very persistent, but the key thing is not to create a digital area with lots of people but to implant digital workers in all areas. The digital department might be 10 people, but we have 40 others around the club's areas. If you have people working in your department and you are directly managing this digital resource, it becomes part of everyday work.
What's your next challenge?
The first challenge was to digitalise all our content and products, such as producing websites, and we now have nine local websites. I mean the Chinese website, for example, is not a translation of the Catalan one, it's its own thing. Then we look for an audience for those local websites, and we currently have some 160 million followers on various networks. And the third phase is to monetise it all. From the point of view of the fans, the next challenge is to ensure they get interesting content. Normally the club's content is very institutional but we are trying to produce entertaining and engaging content. We are not a traditional entertainment company, like Disney, but our revenue streams are similar: they have Disneyland we have Cap Nou, they produce cartoons and we have our TV rights, they sell merchandising and so do we, they have Mickey Mouse and we have Leo Messi.
Finally, what is the secret of your success?
There's no secret; just work 20 hours a day and you'll achieve it. If you put a lot of time into something you are passionate about, success is likely. I am no genius, I am not especially talented, I have average intelligence, but I work a lot. It must be something to do with the mix of Chinese and Catalan cultures, both have a reputation for hard work.
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