Five years ago Guillermo Lopez Taboada was a young associate professor of Computer Engineering at Spain’s University of A Coruña. Today, he’s the CEO of real-time processing and analytics pioneers Torusware, with a team of 19, and investment totalling one million euros.
Based in A Coruña, in the north west of Spain, Torusware provides high-performance Big Data and DevOps processing platforms. Guillermo explains in layman’s terms: “Data is the new oil, and as with oil, data-rich companies need platforms to extract the oil. That’s us! We provide the platforms and the engineering to bring the data to the surface. Our clients can then concentrate on what they do best, which is refining the data and getting full value from insight and analysis.” Today, those clients range from telecommunications giant Telefonica to newly founded startups, and strategic partners include sector leaders Microsoft Azure, Amazon, Docker and Hortonworks.
On route to current annual revenues in the region of one million euros, the Torusware senior management team have spent time in London and Silicon Valley and have achieved a clutch of top entrepreneurial and business awards that recognise the company’s disruptive and innovative potential. In 2014, Torusware was selected by the European Commission as one of the top 20 most promising IT companies in Europe and a year later, in 2015, was the first Spanish company invited to participate in London’s FinTech Innovation Lab. It was an award from major Spanish bank, La Caixa, which connected Torusware with Cambridge Judge Business School in 2014. Included in the prize was a place for founding CEO Guillermo Lopez Taboada on the School’s intensive one-week training programme for aspiring entrepreneurs, Ignite.
Mentors are invaluable and inspirational
Guillermo came to entrepreneurship in a way that’s not untypical for an academic at the forefront of his field. Torusware is a spin-off company, born from his team’s research projects at the Computer Architecture Group at the University of A Coruña and supported by the Science Fund of Spain’s prestigious Fundación Barrié. Guillermo himself is author of many papers and holds a patent for technology enabling efficient messaging on clusters of multi-core processors. When they left academia to set up Torusware, he and his founding team spoke coding language Java fluently, but didn’t have much grasp of the business skills they’d need to commercialise their innovative technology. Guillermo says the team found Ignite had an immediate impact:
On day one I was blown away by the quality of the people. We were two years old at that stage, but Ignite was the first programme that gave us the opportunity to discuss and shape our plans with mentors. It was our first exposure to strategic advice.
In addition to lectures from academics and subject specialists, the Ignite programme opens the door to Cambridge’s unique academic and entrepreneurial ecosystem, offering participants access to inspirational role models and pioneers. Guillermo points to a memorable conversation with Raspberry Pi founder, Eben Upton, as pivotal in his transition from academic to successful entrepreneur, “His advice on understanding the value of our technology and how that related to price was absolutely invaluable.”
The beauty of simplicity
During his time at Cambridge Judge, Guillermo remembers being very aware of the 96 Nobel Prizes awarded to academics associated with the University. He says, “At Cambridge, with its worldwide reputation for understanding complexity, I discovered the beauty of simplicity. As an academic, I had thought that the idea was always paramount. On the Ignite programme, mentors and faculty stressed that, on the contrary, in business the idea alone isn’t the most important thing. Yes, as the inventor and academic I must think at the highest level, but as CEO of Torusware I realised that it was my job to translate that complexity into the easiest possible solution for my customers.”
Angels, masterclasses and millionaires
A session with members of Cambridge Angels, influenced and informed Guillermo’s subsequent investment strategy. The Cambridge Angels are a group of successful software, Internet, technology and biotechnology entrepreneurs who work together to invest in the new generation of startups. Key to their involvement is a strong belief in sharing the benefit of their experience with those who are just starting out. “I had the opportunity to meet some Cambridge Angels and talk to the companies they’d invested in,” says Guillermo. “Although I wasn’t seeking investment at that time, I came to understand that investors like the Angels could potentially bring a company like Torusware more value than conventional VCs. Now, although much of our funding comes from grants, our investors are local angels here in the A Coruña region. It’s a strategy that’s working very well for us.”
Another strategy that’s working very well for Torusware, particularly as the company gears up for international expansion in 2018, is building and maintaining an active network of connections. And the Ignite programme, Guillermo asserts, accelerated what he now refers to as his ‘vast network’.
For entrepreneurs, time is gold. In just a week, as well as attending inspirational masterclasses, I connected with entrepreneurs, academics and millionaires. Now when I need to reach out, the community of peers and mentors that I started to build in Cambridge gives me access to just about anyone.