Iker Marcaide is one in every of Spain’s most energetic entrepreneurs. Since stepping away from Flywire, the primary Spanish startup to go public on the Nasdaq, Marcaide has centered his consideration on affect investing, creating new startups along with his firm Zubi Group, constructing a faculty, and designing an eco-neighbourhood.
In 2021, Forbes named him as one in every of Spain’s 100 Most Creative enterprise folks.
Marcaide meets us in a 60-hectare plot of land dotted with bushes on the outskirts of town of Valencia on a sunny, chilly January morning. That is La Pinada, the location the place he’ll construct a sustainable neighbourhood (“barrio” in Spanish) comprising houses, faculties, co-works, and neighborhood areas.
Right this moment, wood cabins on the location are crammed with folks engaged on Zubi Group startup tasks. Throughout a wood bridge by the bushes, the Think about Montessori faculty that Marcaide opened in 2016 is seen.
As an adviser to TNW’s first conference in ValènciaMarcaide shall be talking about affect investing at our occasion in March. Within the meantime, we’re right here to speak to him about founding the foreign-currency cost platform Flywire, why he left the corporate, and his ambitions for Zubi Group.
Born of frustration
Marcaide got here up with the thought for Flywire (then referred to as peerTransfer) in 2009 while learning for his Grasp’s levels in Enterprise Administration (MBA) and Engineering at MIT. He says he didn’t consider himself as an entrepreneur again then, nor did he come from an entrepreneurial background, however he needed to create firms that “in a roundabout way resonated with me and my wants, issues I skilled first-hand.”
Again then, he was experiencing the stress and expense of getting scholarship cash transferred to him at MIT from a Spanish basis.
“I assumed, ‘That is unfair, as a result of the those who have the least buying energy are literally paying all these banking charges… What if we create an alternative choice to the banking wires in a approach that’s more economical, extra dependable, and extra honest?’”
Marcaide determined that whereas they would wish gross sales and enterprise growth groups on the bottom in several markets, it could be good to consolidate capabilities globally, and selected Valencia as the primary workplace for issues like administration, tech, and product growth.
The corporate is headquartered in Boston, and has since grown into a frontrunner in cross-border tuition cost transfers for universities. It has additionally branched into journey, healthcare, and different enterprise sectors. Flywire went public in 2021 at a $3.5 billion valuation.
So what led Marcaide to step again as CEO of Flywire in 2013, when issues have been actually hovering?
“It was a giant determination, however a number of issues lined up at the moment,” he says. “I realised which you can solely be CEO of 1 firm, and assuming you need to be engaged in fixing completely different issues, being CEO of 1 firm wouldn’t be an choice.”
“Once I create firms, I all the time assume that apart from being your child, it has to have a lifetime of its personal,” he provides. “As a founder, not turning into a bottleneck is form of your primary position.”
The Zubi journey
The entrepreneur was already serious about enterprise constructing and the way he needed to give attention to firms that, past being good monetary alternatives, may additionally play a social or environmental position.
His first large undertaking was enterprise builder Zubi Labs in 2014, which creates from scratch tech firms that target social or environmental affect. Two years later, he based the personal Think about Montessori faculty, on the identical land that can home La Pinada eco-neighbourhood.
In 2017, the idea and plans for La Pinada started, adopted by the creation of an open innovation centre for sustainability, referred to as La Pinada Lab, in 2020.
In 2021, Marcaide launched Zubi Capital to spend money on exterior firms as the primary affect fund aimed toward enterprise debt in Europe. All these firms and enterprise items are a part of Zubi Group, which numbers over 200 folks.
Valencia’s potential affect
Having been born in Boston, raised in Granada, and lived in Madrid, London and the US, Marcaide rightly sees himself as a worldwide citizen. Now his dream is that Valencia will change into a hotspot for affect and sustainability.
“You can begin one thing superb from wherever on the earth, however you must be very related. For me, spending time internationally, then being in Valencia as a part of a worldwide firm, opened my eyes when it comes to what it means to be globally related,” he says. “It’s only a query of plugging in and connecting with like-minded folks, of whom there are numerous.”
He believes that whereas Valencia can’t maybe change into the most important tech hub on the earth, it may change into probably the most articulated, related and useful one — not less than, that’s what he wish to see occur.
“Once I was coming to Valencia in 2010 and assembly the ecosystem, I form of lacked that sense of world connection and international ambition — I believe that has modified utterly,” he says.
Subject of goals
Marcaide says he can be completely satisfied to interrupt floor on Barrio la Pinada tomorrow, however is awaiting constructing permits from the Valencian authorities. In the meanwhile, there’s no scheduled date of when the entrepreneur’s brainchild would open its doorways.
La Pinada has been designed as a self-contained carbon-neutral neighborhood. By consulting with folks about how they want their every day lives to look, the Zubi staff realised that everybody needed issues to be less complicated when it comes to how they stay, work, choose up youngsters from faculty, and so forth.
“Cities aren’t organised that approach, usually you reside someplace, you’re employed someplace completely different, the varsity is some place else, and also you spend half of your day shifting round — a number of social and environmental points are exactly derived from that,” Marcaide explains.
The Pinada undertaking has created alternatives for brand new startups that might assist this dream, ones working in areas like vitality, waste, and the round financial system. In addition to housing, the aim is to have faculties, co-working areas, dwelling areas, and a broad neighborhood mixture of younger and older folks, professionals, households, and singles.
“At Zubi Group, I believe we’re at that hockey stick level, while you begin placing the items collectively and delivering worth a lot faster,” Marcaide says. “We’ve been placing in a number of the foundations and the staff, so Zubi in 10 years shall be much more international, a special order of magnitude to the place we’re right now.”
If you wish to expertise València’s ecosystem for your self and hearken to Iker Marcaide talking on stage, we’ve bought one thing particular for our loyal readers. Use the promo code TNWVAL30 and get a 30% low cost in your conference business pass for TNW Valencia.