Pep Gómez got an early start in entrepreneurship.
Having started his first company at age 14, as soon as he left school the native of Castellón headed off to do an internship in Silicon Valley, where he founded live-entertainment discovery platform Fever in 2011.
Fever weathered the coronavirus lockdowns, and has seen revenues grow by 10x since 2019. It joined the unicorn herd in January this year, after a $227 million raise in a round led by Goldman Sachs, the biggest amount of funding ever raised by a live-event startup.
In 2018, he launched sustainable mobility startup Reby. He is also an investor, former chairman of venture capital for the Mobile World Capital Foundation, and sits on a bunch of corporate advisory boards.
Now at the ripe old age of 29, Gómez sat down with Tech.eu to talk about getting Fever off the ground, revving up Reby, and lessons he has learned about himself along the way.
How tough was it to find investment to launch Fever at age 18?
I was living in Silicon Valley in 2010 and 2011 and working for Bernardo Hernandez at Solon Investment fund. I told him I want to start this company, and he said to me, “okay then quit your job and start your company.” Bernardo was one of the first investors, but he was not the first investor.
Back in the day, a mobile app would take you one year to build because it was super difficult. So I built a deck, I built a demo. A friend of mine who was a designer in Google helped me design the app and once we had that I went out on the road trying to raise money. It was very difficult, because many people would say no to me.
Entrepreneurs sometimes don't like to accept failure and of course, when you go to talk to investors, the majority of time they will tell you no. I'm used to people telling me no. I don't really care if I believe in something. And I have zero fear of writing to people... For me, building companies is about having a very long-term mentality.
How did your parents feel about you going to the US and skipping the traditional university path after school?
I learned a lot of things from my parents. My father has a history degree and did rural tourism, and my mother is a psychologist. They are people who are very curious and very intelligent. I'm very grateful that my parents were the way they were.
They were not super permissive. They were pushing me. I played piano for over 15 years. If I wanted to buy a computer, I needed to find my way to do it.
You’re now amongst Spain’s top tech entrepreneurs. Do you think that you would have had this success if you had stayed in Spain back then?
Here's the thing: I went to Silicon Valley when I was 18 years old, when nobody was talking about entrepreneurs in Spain, in Italy, in France… nowhere. If you ask me today, I think that Spain is a very good place for the entrepreneurship community. There are three very good hubs — Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid — with entrepreneurs, talent, good universities, and accelerators that teach you how to start companies now.
Was it a big leap to go from making an app for live events to launching a shared mobility company, in what is a pretty crowded, regulated space?
For me, it is exactly the same. When I started this thing in events, there was Timeout, Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, many companies, but nobody had really figured out how to do it in a profitable, sustainable way.
That's what motivates me: to build things in markets, where people have already been, failed, and essentially, they believe it is not there anymore. To me, that's an opportunity. The market for mobility is great. I just think that the companies at play in the space are doing it wrongly from a sustainability and profitability point of view.
Many of the e-scooter startups are making a big point of sustainability, so what’s different about Reby?
Sustainability can mean many things. You can say I am 100% carbon neutral, but then maybe you're not sustainable economically, because you're just throwing the scooters in cities competing with another ten companies and nobody's really using you.
Social sustainability is that you actually build things that are good for the city. Reby is like a decentralised network of local hubs, where every city is run by local people, and we're providers of the technology but they are the ones operating the scooters. We design and manufacture scooters, bikes, and mopeds, then provide the client partner with them and with playbooks on how to run a shared-mobility business in their city. This has driven us to a model where the unit economics are better because the people are local and understand where to place the scooters.
The other one is environmental sustainability, which we also do: we’re carbon free, we recycle the batteries, they're rechargeable, and we also do a lot of R&D focused on sustainability. For example, all our scooters have a pollution sensor that we patented, and we share via open data with the city, the most polluted streets, so they have raw data of the levels of contamination per street.
And then there’s economical sustainability: we only operate in cities where we think we can be profitable, in cities that are regulated, and where for example, they understand that you cannot have 10 companies in a city.
You’re also an investor in other companies, what are your criteria or what are you most interested in?
I have invested in many different companies, usually at an early stage. I like a lot anything related to KYC , AML , FinTech… To be honest, I'm very agnostic, but I normally go by seasons and explore by specific industry.
I'm also looking at a company now called NUE Life Health (a digital mental-health platform using psychedelics therapies like esketamine). If you think about it, it is an incredible moment, because 70% of people in the world have depression at some point of their life.
What have you discovered about yourself in the last 10 years about yourself as a business leader?
You need to be surrounded by good people with values and ethics.
Of course, the older I became, I learned to be more patient and more casual, and so on, because I'm very hyperactive. The hardest thing has been kind of just evolving into being more patient. It's very important to understand failure and understand that when somebody tells you no, like, for investment, not to take it personally.
You make mistakes every day. For example, with Fever it took me five years until making it into a €200 million+ company. With Reby, it’s probably going to take me two years now to do that. So there's a learning curve to do that, because I already learned many lessons that I can apply to my future.
(This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)