Alicia Asín, co-founder of Libelium and EU Innovative Women Award: “Everyone knows what a doctor or a lawyer does, but not the variety of outputs of an engineer”
Alicia Asín is co-founder and CEO of Libelium, a company that designs and manufactures wireless sensors for the so-called ‘internet of things’. This engineer has a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering and Computer Science from the Polytechnic Center of the University of Zaragoza and is a graduate of Cambridge Judge Business School and ESADE and has been awarded multiple times for her business merits and technological innovation.
Young, engineer, entrepreneur and woman, it seems sad that it is a ‘rare avis’ but feels comfortable in the role of role model, that in which girls can be inspired to bet on technical studies for their professional career. In this interview we review his professional career and his expectations for the future.
-It’s been 11 years since you formed your company. What is your assessment of this journey?
-The road of entrepreneurship is full of sacrifices and constant effort to achieve balance between curves and obstacles that must be overcome on a daily basis. The balance is very positive because the hard moments we have had to overcome, such as the fire of our facilities in 2014 or the adverse financial results at the beginning, are compensated with the satisfaction of having built a source of wealth generation and employment in Spain
. I have learned that nothing lasts forever, nor are potholes impassable, and successes allow you to relax, you have to have emotional stability when running a business.
– How did Lebelium? What has been the simplest and most complicated part of this adventure?
-Simple has not been anything. When my partner, David Gascón, and I were students, we set up this start-up and we still were not aware of the trajectory we had before us. The sensor networks offered countless applications and based on that potential we decided to bet on the design of hardware devices when everyone told us that the key was in the software and nobody knew what is now called ‘the Internet of Things ‘ What we are most proud of is that we have managed to design a sensor platform that is compatible with all the major multinationals such as IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson, Telit, Indra and up to 54 cloud partners that make our technology capable of connecting any sensor to the Internet. through any wireless communication protocol.
«I am aware that I have unusual qualities in the sector; it’s sad to be a ‘rara avis’ »
-He has received many awards, such as Jaime I in the Entrepreneur category, and was the first woman to receive the CEAJE award called the Young Entrepreneur National Award. She has recently been recognized as one of the best innovative women in the EU. What do all these awards mean? Do they help? Do you stay with any of them?
-All the prizes have been important for me and for Libelium. Not only because of the recognition they imply for our work or for the economic endowment that they entail, but also for the repercussion that we have achieved thanks to them so that Libelium is known inside and outside our borders. In addition, with each award we feel the responsibility to continue growing and improving our results to correspond to the entities that grant it to us. When you are awarded a prize you remain in debt to prove your merit eternally.
-The majority of Libelium’s business is international. Is it difficult to do international business from Spain?
-The origins of Libelium on the threshold of the crisis led us to an international vocation. From the beginning we plan the entire structure of the company and the documentation of our products for the international market. We have clients in more than 120 countries and we have a network of 37 distributors in the five continents that contribute to our technology being present in large-scale projects in which the experience of a local partner is needed. In addition, our positioning on the Internet has allowed us to reach different types of clients, from Universities that seek to equip their laboratories with our devices, to large system integrators that are deploying sensor networks in smart cities projects around the world.
– There is a lot of talk about the absence of women in the technology sector. You are an engineer, entrepreneur, young man and woman. Do you feel ‘role model’?
-I am aware that I have many qualities that are not very common but the sad thing is that it is a “rare avis” in an increasingly technological world and in which greater equality is demanded. I would like to be the mirror so that the young women who have to choose their professional future will see a model of inspiration with which to achieve everything that they propose.
If we want to achieve wage equality, women have to choose positions of greater responsibility in companies and that is more easily achieved by studying engineering and scientific-technical careers in this increasingly digital world. The figure of women in artistic professions is highly promoted and when they are small they all want to be teachers, nurses, hairdressers or actresses.
“Everyone knows what a doctor or a lawyer does, but not the variety of outputs of an engineer”
– Do you think this type of figure is necessary? How can we get more girls interested in STEM?
-I’ve never been in favor of joint quotas and it bothers me a lot when the condition of a woman stands out when I receive a prize because they do not give it to me for being a woman but for the merits achieved. However, I do consider it necessary to promote equality so that future generations see in the technological sector and in scientific and mathematical studies their projection platform. For that, it is also necessary that the education sector promotes the figure of the great teachers of subjects such as mathematics, physics or chemistry that consolidate the base of the students. Many flee from these disciplines as a result of having had a bad teacher in their teenage years. And that does a lot when it comes to choosing future studies.
Also on the part of the Universities it is necessary to approach the young people towards those professions of the future so that they imagine themselves in their professional life. Everyone knows what a doctor, a fireman or a lawyer does but few people imagine the varied professional career of an engineer.
– Where do you see in 5 years? What objective or challenge would you like to achieve?
– In our sector a year is already a long time to predict what will happen. My future project is to continue to grow Libelium to position it in the first position of IoT technology in the world.