Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Aleix Valls

Aleix Tomas Valls was recently named CEO of H-Farm BCN, an innovation platform for new business models and digital transformation aimed at the Spanish market. A mathematician, Valls has a MSc in civil engineering from the University of Barcelona and a Ph.D. in Computational Fluid Dynamics from the Technical University of Catalonia. In 2000 he started his career as a researcher at the International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering. During this same period, he also joined a spin-off company from Barcelona Tech University called Compass Ingenieria y Sistemas, which develops high performance numerical simulation software for engineering applications. Between 2006 and 2015 Valls worked for several consulting firms including Accenture, helping corporates deploy strategy roadmaps and new businesses. In December 2015 Valls was named CEO of Mobile World Capital Barcelona ,overseeing the launch of 4YFN, a conference and global digital innovation platform with more than 50,000 members, a €15 million seed investment fund and the mVenturesBcn acceleration programs. He left Mobile World Capital in 2017 to launch Liquid, a Barcelona-based consultancy that specializes in helping clients like Zurich Insurance Group with digital business and digital transformation. Liquid has now been rolled into H-Farm BCN. H-Farm BCN is 51% owned by H-Farm, a global innovation hub on the outskirts of Venice, Italy that combines innovation, entrepreneurship and education. The campus, which is built on farm land, fosters the creation of new business models and helps large corporations with digital transformation, strategies and open innovation. Valls recently spoke to The Innovator about what he sees as the biggest digital transformation challenges for B2B companies.

Q : What trends are you seeing in the market ?

AV : The digital-based economy is already firmly entrenched and the big platforms have captured the biggest amount of value in B2C. We are now starting a second phase : the digital industrial economy. What we saw with B2C is starting to happen on the B2B market. The value proposition must now focus on using digital to engage with clients. A big question a lot of companies are now facing is what am I going to do with existing sales partners and sales distribution strategies ?

Q : What are some of the biggest mistakes that companies make ?

AV : A lot of B2B companies use distributors so their clients are not the end-users. Now they suddenly think they can move from being B2B to B2B2C. But if I am a manufacturing company and I want to tap into the share of a consumer’s wallet I have to create a good reason why the user needs to spend his money with me. You don’t want to end up in a marketplace that offers discounted pricing, low engagement and no clear value proposition. Look at the banking industry. They have invested a lot of money and effort into building marketplaces to add value-added services and it hasn’t worked. Just creating marketplaces is not enough. You need to have a clear strategy on the way you acquire users and engage these users.

Q : What do you see as the biggest challenge for corporates ?

AV : For banks and other sorts of big corporates the user is not the central focus of the company. The central focus is dividends for shareholders. This has to change. Digital transformation is not just about digitalization. It requires rethinking your business and your distribution channels and for this you need to invest. It means telling shareholders that due to digital transformation we are going to put the user first and for years to come this will impact the size of the dividend. This is the biggest challenge for the CEOs of public listed companies. They need to come up with a new narrative and paint a vision for the company they would like to build in a way that will gain the confidence and support of the shareholders.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.