Behind Business (BB) - What kind of entrepreneur are you?
Jaime - I would say that there is only one kind of entrepreneur, the one that makes things happen.
Are you an entrepreneur or a businessman?
Well, it's an excellent question… I would say that I started as an entrepreneur not caring about profitability or even revenues. I just wanted to do stuff. Along the way, I think I've become a businessman to sustain the push for ideas. Now I think that I'm both; I care about the financial side of it, and mostly about the growth.
How long have you been defining yourself as an entrepreneur?
I think it goes back to 2008, as it was the first project that can be considered as a startup kind of initiative.
Why you decided to become an entrepreneur and to have a business instead of having a “normal” job?
I have always felt the need for doing things. Even when I was young I liked to arrange things, gather people for playing football, finding the field to play, and so on; I was very active organising things. For instance, I started that project in 2008 I mentioned before with some friends and ex-colleagues from the consultancy company I was working on at that time, and it was about creating a company on the field of augmented reality. We actually made a pilot about that idea. It was focused on monuments, and the business models involved the connection with restaurants.
At that time we didn't have the time and the courage to pursue that. As you know, in consulting we work a lot, our involvement in the consultancy projects is very demanding, all of us were on the same page, having the same time constraints. So, spending two or three hours a week is never enough. It won’t become a real thing as we haven’t decided to make that jump, to be 100% committed to that.
What does it take to make the jump to that step?
In my case it was when I had things more evident in my mind, that I wanted to dedicate some time to a personal venture, full-time focused on that. I wanted to test.
"There is no such thing as a limited set of values of every entrepreneur. Each one will have their own. In my case, I can say that is honesty, collaboration and persistence. Happiness is also an important one, also followed by the desire of doing something that you really want to pursue."
Did you want us to test yourself or your idea?
Both. I wanted to test myself to prove that I could do it. Part of me felt that I had nothing to lose. Going to be basics of our needs, I saw that I had nothing to lose.
What was the project that made you do that jump?
It was Viable through the MBA. It was the first time in my life that I didn't have a contract with the company, so I decided to dedicate one year, one year and a half, without a contract with anyone, to fully focus on that project.
Do you think that the entrepreneurial spirit was born with you or do you think that can be developed, perhaps through an MBA?
Both. I always felt the need of doing something or create something. Along the way, I was trying and testing other things and, at the same time, I was conscious of what I didn't want to do. So I followed a course towards to be a better entrepreneur. I did the MBA not to continue pursuing my career at that moment, but with the aim of changing. I wanted to do an MBA to change and to have the tools I needed to create my own companies.
Which was the failure that you learn the most from?
It was when during that augmented reality project I mentioned before. It was terrible timing, and it turned out to be really difficult to identify the market potential for it, but I realised that if I wanted to do it, I would have to do it. Then, from Viable I learned a lot: it was a failure, but we learned a lot. For example, I realised the value and importance of having the right team in this kind of ventures and discovered that the assessment of the product-market fit is crucial to creating the products that the market demands.
If you had the opportunity to start Viable all over again, would you do everything again?
With the knowledge we have, we could never do the same but... would we be able to make it work this time? We considered Portugal the place to test that idea but it turned out that is was not, after all. Unfortunately, we still don't have the proper supply and the appropriate demand for that. But we wanted to do it anyway, we wanted to try. The Viable project is more suitable for other markets, like the US, and maybe the UK. So, the timing was not the best, as many similar initiatives were starting, the team would be probably different as well, and the market to test it. I actually considered moving to Silicon Valley. I spent there one month analysing how it all works. Then I felt I didn’t want to move there for the long-term and that was a limitation.
What are the best and the worst side of being an entrepreneur?
The thing I value the most is the freedom of choice. It is not that I am working less now; actually, I end up working more than when I was working for a company.
Because it is your baby…
Yes, exactly! Now imagine the work as if you had 4 babies at the same time, all of them running all over the place! But the point is that you have the freedom to choose on your own. If you decided wrongly, well, at least you had the freedom to do so. Then you have the flexibility to travel. The worst point is that you have to be always connected. I would say I can’t even remember which was the last day I had done anything related to my projects! I cannot disconnect. Not even on holidays. Never. I don’t find a gap. But I learned to live with that.
Do you think the values and self-discipline play an important role in that kind of way of living?
Definitely. I have my habits, for instance, I wake up every day at the same time, I try to have my days fully organised, but that is part of the flexibility. I can define a time slot for bike riding, for instance. Flexibility doesn't mean that I do whatever I want when I want. It says that if I want to bike ride during the week, I can do it, but I will need to organise myself for that in advance. When I was working in consulting, I couldn’t do it! I now have a very organized schedule.
What are the most important values an entrepreneur must have?
There is no such thing as a limited set of values of every entrepreneur. Each one will have their own. In my case, I can say that is honesty, collaboration and persistence. Happiness is also an important one, also followed by the desire of doing something that you really want to pursue.
If you had to write a book about yourself, what would be the title, the subtitle and who would write the preface?
I have never thought about that… I would say that the title and subtitle could be “Entrepreneur - Your Life.” About the preface, if I would manage to get an inspiring person… I would say, Richard Branson. I would tell that these guys, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, have an extraordinary ability which is not available for the most of us which are to be willing to have an uncomfortable life. There was a time in my life I felt I had nothing to lose but… I am used to, let’s say, having a comfortable life and these guys don’t really care - they are willing to have a total uncomfortable life. Richard Branson bought an island without having a house, sleeping in his former record store. And I feel I am not able to do it, and the same for the most people I know. Of course, those who do not want to jump from their stable job and position into entrepreneurship is because they do not want to lose that comfortable way of life, they are not willing to not knowing where they will sleep tomorrow. This is the real entrepreneur, feeling that he/she does not have anything to lose. If you have that, that capacity, you can build great things. It is the main difference from those prominent entrepreneurs, to push hard on themselves.
What is the definition of success?
I did a Master Thesis about that, actually, studying different factors that contribute to a company to be successful. The main conclusion is that a company is successful when it has sustainable profitability that grows along the time. Many factors contribute to that, for instance having the right team and executing brilliantly, reaching a point where the profits are sustained and the ‘growth machine’ has been built. From a personal perspective, for me, it is to have health and energy every morning to do whatever I need and want to do.
Let’s say we have two teleport devices, and you can place them in two different places. Where would you put them?
So first hypothesis is: if there would be a replica of Earth somewhere and with fewer people, it would be there one of them. Otherwise, being more realistic nowadays would be in Lisbon and San Francisco. I love California as a whole, and of course, I love the entrepreneurial spirit there. But I also like skating, surfing, the punk/hardcore music from the west coast, the cinema, all the art coming from there... I love Cascais and Lisboa as well, but if I could have breakfast in LA right now, I’d not hesitate.
How do see the world 10 years from now?
Unfortunately, a little bit worse than now. How I see it is that we are controlled entirely by the economic power, represented by the big corporations, the ‘system’ - which we have corrupted, and, thus, I feel we live really conditioned in the world. At the same time, people are not entirely aware of their negative impact in the world and the consequences of their actions; in 10 years from now, unless we do something radically different, we will meet the worst. It is not an option anymore, we have to be social, which we are by nature. Unfortunately, people are only considering the present moment, their current comfort, neglecting the future.
If you wanted to give some advice to people that want to become an entrepreneur, what would you say to her/him?
I would highlight the message “if you want to do it, do it”. Otherwise, you will regret your entire life. I would also say to value other things than just the financial side, although that is very difficult because we live in a society that is built for that - it is essential to balance the needs and wishes.