Meet Marisol Menendez. Power connector and innovation trailblazer. I have had the pleasure of working directly alongside Marisol as a former colleague at BBVA. While she was based in Madrid and I was living in NYC, we immediately bonded over our common vision around the crucial role that the broader ecosystem plays in incumbent success.
Throughout her career as a corporate player and entrepreneur, Marisol has continued to play a crucial role in the future of the industry and is a shining example of innovation initiatives done right. In a recent announcement on LinkedIn, Marisol shared that she was leaving her 12 year tenure with BBVA to take on the position of Chief Open Innovation Officer at Spain Startup. And thus, this week we will look into the role of a Chief Innovation Officer and how that role continues to be redefined by the macroeconomic pulls of the industry.
As we look at the future of tech, we have several players, each with their own role in the common mission of transforming the world. Startups provide ingenuity, passion, and new ways of solving complex problems. They have advantages with their ability to focus specifically on a problem, their speed, and their ability to be nimble. Corporations provide stability, scale, and data. They have the infrastructure, resources, and distribution channel to get new technology in the hands of the consumer at mass.
Investors and accelerators are the fuel that ignites the machine by injecting mentorship, network, and capital for growth. Universities generate and deliver knowledge through deep research while governments create the foundation, guidance, and regulation to ensure population safety and security. And then you have the connectors, organizations like Spain Startup that act as a meeting point for the other players to intersect. These organizations are so much more than a conference or event. They are the centralized entity that brings the ecosystem together to learn, debate, connect and grow to bring new opportunities to the future.
How/why did you get into tech?
I got my first professional job while I was studying industrial engineering. Since that very moment, my work has always been related to technology from different perspectives. I feel lucky to be alive in these times of disruption because, since the Y2K frenzyness until now, I’ve been part of the transformation. To be able to impact countries, companies and people is energetic and amazing.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
Open Innovation is my passion and expertise area. I’m a true believer in what Thomas Malone from MIT said once “True innovations will come not from new technologies, but from new ways of collaboration.”
I actively work to create new paths for collaboration among corporations, startups, investors, universities, governments and hubs, always with a focus for real business opportunities and innovations.
“True innovations will come not from new technologies, but from new ways of collaboration.”
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019?
New business models are increasingly focused around the human as the center and less so around a business vertical. Users are complex and their needs are rarely organized by vertical, so the main implication is that new successful business models blur the sectorial line. For me, the most exciting trend connects human values and mix-matching technologies and solutions that traditionally weren’t collaborating. Human values such as trust and emotions are the true differentiators on the success of new technologies.
Who is a person in tech that inspires you? Why?
All entrepreneurs who after 2-3 years of intense work keep on investing their energy, time, effort and life in making their dream come true. I meet with them continuously and it only humbles and energizes me. We need these people and this kind of energy to improve our world.
“We need these people and this kind of energy to improve our world.”
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into tech?
Always stay curious and open. Curiosity is the key to innovation. Keep asking yourself questions about the world that surrounds you. And stay open to new ideas, people, and insights because opportunity hits when you mix the right kind of ideas with the right teams. Stay open to connect with the people outside the norm. And finally, keep updated on what is happening in the industry to maximize the chance of having the right tool to make your project successful.
“Always stay curious and open. Curiosity is the key to innovation.”