A Spanish ‘unicorn’ who wants to grow up
On the other side of the screen is Pedro Bados (Zaragoza, 41 years old), entrepreneur and founder of Nexthink. It is early in Boston, from the room you can see the snowy roofs: “There in the distance is Harvard, and there MIT.” A year ago he moved with his family to develop the American market in his technology company. “It was a week before the pandemic broke out. I took my daughters to kindergarten one day and it was the last ”. Despite all these months they have been very productive: Nexthink just received 180 million dollars (147 million euros) of the Permira fund and has signed a former CEO of Adobe. With 700 employees and a turnover of more than 100 million dollars annually, that means that on paper the company is valued at 1.100 million dollars thanks to a software management that helps companies deliver a better digital experience and computing resources to their employees.
Telecommunications Engineer, the only job that Bados had before embarking on the adventure of undertaking was as a researcher for two years in Lausanne, where he completed the final stage of the degree. He was trying to model the behavior of computers and people to detect security problems. But in Switzerland he also realized how poor technology service was in very large companies. “We wanted to ensure a good quality of service and we developed a technology that allows the IT department solve all the problems before users complain. That saves a lot of costs and allows employees to have a good quality of service ”. Without money, he asked for a loan of 100,000 euros, a lot for 2005. “At that time there was not so much access to investors. It motivated me a lot to get up in the morning and work ”.
Although the real leap was made from 2012. “Then we were 50 employees, we quickly became 200, then 300 …”. They opened offices around the world, began to add new clients (Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte, PWC, 3M …) to add a thousand companies in 70 countries. “You have to hire more expert people in their domain and put them above people who have been in the company for a long time, generate stress, you have to open markets. You have more than 1,000 clients to whom to ensure good support ”. He continues to trust his technology terribly, and more now, with half the world telecommuting, so he has decided to go public in the United States in a period of three to five years. For that, he wants to turn it into a company with more than 5,000 million valuation. “We have quite important prospects, because now we reach between 5% and 10% of the market that we could cover.”
He believes his steps could inspire other entrepreneurs to take the leap, to show that large tech companies can be founded in Europe. And with the same philosophy as the big ones in Silicon Valley, in that controversial idea that it is not necessary to make money. “It is a wrong debate. We have always tended to balance in the cash flow, there are years that we invest a lot, so we need to do it in advance and there is no accounting benefit ”. What matters to him is to grow. “A company that grows 40% or 60% per year is always going to be in deficit because it needs investments in advance. The problem is if you don’t grow, then you have to have benefits. Sometimes in Europe companies are valued by the angle of profits, but they are not important when a company grows to a high level. The important thing is to be the market leader, because once you do it, putting the company in profit is really simple ”. The bottom of private equity who has bet on him hopes that with the IPO he will recover the investment multiplied by three or five.
Bados is not one of those who regrets that in Spain there is little support for entrepreneurship. “I think it is partly an excuse from the entrepreneur. The investor goes where there is a good opportunity, it does not matter if it is Spain, Morocco, Switzerland or the US A good entrepreneur in Spain with an important idea can raise capital, send an email to the hundreds of investors and they will read it. ” Another thing is that it is a good enough opportunity with a good enough market, he adds. “And that this entrepreneur has the energy to sell it. If those conditions really are there, there are fantastic funds in Europe ”. And what do they see in an entrepreneur? “The first investors never invest in the project, they invest in the person. They know very well that you don’t know how the business is going to go… it is very uncertain, but they see something special. They see passion, the possibility that there is a great market, that the team gets along ”.
Then other types of investors will arrive who will analyze the market, the company’s metrics, the trends. The trick, he insists, is to be a leader. Make a product that those who use it will love. “Traditionally, B2B products (for companies and for companies) are ugly, because companies have considered that employees have to use them anyway, so they don’t care if they have a good or bad time. On the other hand, people who use Nexthink love it ”. So he applies that same philosophy in the internal environment, with unlimited vacations for those who need or want to take them, bonuses on the company’s global objectives and an open culture. “There are times when you have to set goals and I don’t hesitate to make difficult decisions, but always respecting employees and trying to be more helpful than a boss.”
In ten years, Bados sees himself in Spain, where the company has 80 employees, the engineering and support area. “In the future I want to help found other start-ups, try to transmit what I have learned ”.