The entrepreneurial journey of Juan Margenat: from PlanB! to Marfeel and beyond

Juan Margenat is a serial entrepreneur and investor who has been part of the Spanish startup scene for more than a decade. He co-founded PlanB!, a gift box company that was later acquired, and Marfeel, a software company that helps publishers monetize and engage mobile audiences. He has also backed more than 10 internet companies as a business angel, such as Kantox, Habitissimo, Offerum or Deporvillage.


Juan Margenat

We had the opportunity to chat with him about his entrepreneurial journey, the current status of the Spanish startup ecosystem and his thoughts on accelerators.


What motivated you to create Marfeel? What market opportunity did you see?

In fact it was my co-founder Xavi Beumala who came up with the idea. He shared it with me and since we both love reading and technology, we thought we could improve a lot the reading experience in mobile devices. On top of that we knew that publishers were not able to really monetize their mobile audience, so we thought we could even turn our passion into a great business.


Marfeel was recently chosen by Google as an approved partner for mobile solutions. What does this mean for Marfeel as a company and for what you’re trying to build?

When we started Marfeel we could not even imagine in our wildest dreams that Google would certify us. This is a great recognition of our hard work for the past three years and it shows that we are on the right track and here to make a difference. It’s not easy to change the world from Barcelona, so having Google’s certification helps us overcome any hesitation from our customers and close more deals.


Marfeel went through both SeedRocket and Wayra. Were those two experiences significant in the growth of Marfeel as a company?

It looks like it was ages ago that we went through their programs… but both of them have been significant in our growth. I would say that SeedRocket allowed us to get in touch with top founders and investors and it was through SeedRocket that I met Xavi (as I am a mentor in the accelerator). Also, many of SeedRocket’s angels are still investors in the company. And the good thing about Wayra is the visibility it provides to all their startups, we even met the King of Spain!


What advice would you give to founders that are currently considering joining an accelerator?

I think accelerators can be very helpful for early-stage startups, especially if they provide access to mentors, investors and potential customers. However, I would also advise founders to do their homework and research which accelerator fits best their needs and expectations. Not all accelerators are equal and some may have better track records or networks than others. Also, founders should be aware of the terms and conditions of each accelerator, such as equity stake, duration or location.


You have been a business angel since 2008. What are the main criteria you use to evaluate startups and founders?

I only invest in founders that I get along with and that I trust. I think this is very important because investing is not only about money but also about building long-term relationships. I also look for startups that have a clear value proposition, a scalable business model and a large market opportunity. And of course, I try to invest in sectors that I know well or that I find interesting.


How do you see the Spanish startup ecosystem evolving in the next years? What are the main challenges and opportunities?

I think the Spanish startup ecosystem has improved a lot in the last years and it is becoming more mature and competitive. We have seen some great success stories such as Glovo, Cabify or Wallapop that have inspired many other entrepreneurs to start their own ventures. We also have more talent, more capital and more support from institutions and corporates than ever before.

However, we still face some challenges such as attracting more international talent and investors, fostering more innovation and diversity, or improving the regulatory framework and taxation for startups. I think these are some of the areas where we need to work harder to become a leading startup hub in Europe.


What are some of the trends or sectors that you find most exciting or promising for the future?

I think there are many sectors that are ripe for disruption or innovation thanks to technology. Some of them are fintech, healthtech, edtech, e-commerce or mobility. I also think that artificial intelligence, blockchain or biotechnology are some of the technologies that will have a huge impact on many industries and society in general.

I’m always curious to learn about new ideas and projects that can make a positive difference in the world.

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We hope you enjoyed this Q&A with Juan Margenat and learned something valuable from his experience and insights. Juan is a great example of an entrepreneur who has built and invested in successful companies from Barcelona, and who is passionate about helping the Spanish startup ecosystem grow and thrive. If you want to know more about him or Marfeel, you can follow him on Twitter or visit Marfeel’s website.

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