As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Urquizu, CEO & Partner of Red Points.
Laura Urquizu has held executive positions in consulting, banking and venture capital, where she played an important role in building the Spanish tech eco-system. She was the director of Eurecan, one of the first venture capital firms in Spain to invest in tech startups, and has held positions on the board of more than 15 tech start ups. Laura joined Red Points in 2014 and has grown sales and clients exponentially — under her leadership, the team has surged from 10 to over 200 people.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My career path was a natural evolution, and I was not always an entrepreneur. In fact, I became an entrepreneur less than a decade ago in 2014. Prior to that, I held executive and management positions in different companies and banks including Arthur Andersen, Caja Navarra & CAN Corporation. I also had the opportunity to be a member on numerous board of directors for European technology start-ups, and I advised several investment groups on technology companies. That’s when my career path in the tech ecosystem began, and when I decided to build a tech company
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
It’s hard to name just one! But I guess one of the most interesting stories was when we got a formal request to protect the IP rights of the most important, famous and international religious figure known. I won’t name drop, but it’s something that I could have never imagined happening to me — what an honor!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Everyday we make mistakes, and that’s why everyday is a school day. When a new project begins, it’s common to make mistakes. It’s the best way to learn.
In 2016 when I started my SaaS company, investors would ask me about KPIs. I didn’t know what a KPI was at that time. So I worked together with my Sales and Finance directors to quickly develop our KPIs. Thankfully we had amazing [and patient] investors who supported my company and taught us a lot. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something, it just means you have an opportunity to learn something new that will help strengthen your career.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for my team. I would have not been able to achieve what I’ve achieved if I did not have the team to support my vision. Red Points is a successful company thanks to the team we have built — from the individual contributors to the C-Level: everyone plays a key role in our company.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
About two years ago, I began meditating every morning. Thanks to being mindful, I have prioritized my thoughts and I’m able to identify what’s important and what’s not important in my life. I strongly recommend a ten minute meditation to everyone, not just executives.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity is incredibly important for businesses and organizations, especially gender diversity. An impressive move for a company is to have a team that is 50% women and 50% men. If not, you are leaving 50% of talent out of your team. I believe that other types of diversity (religion, race, etc.) are equally as important. For a company it’s crucial to have a team full of people that have different backgrounds. This brings more innovation and tolerance to the teams and to society in general. From my experience, diverse teams perform better: cognitively diverse teams solve problems faster than teams of cognitively similar people.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
In order to be more inclusive, we need to be aware what diversity means. By diversity we should understand diverse backgrounds, religions, race, etc. and have these concepts in mind when hiring people. Sadly, when companies do not proactively have diversity and inclusion in mind, governments need to put laws in place in order to encourage diversity in companies. At Red Points we believe companies are a picture of societies. If diversity is not a part of it, then it does not represent the reality.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO does. But in just a few words can you explain what a CEO does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
A CEO is an orchestra conductor: our goal is to make sure that everyone plays a beautiful melody in unison. If you have great musicians, but they decide to play the melody as they want, without aligning with the other musicians, it can turn into chaos quickly. A CEO must look at the team’s harmony, their collaboration, and offer the training and tools the employees need to be successful, as well as set up a clear strategy and goals.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO. Can you explain what you mean?
Some people think that CEOs and executives in general have an easy life, without stress — that’s a myth. If you are a CEO who cares about your company, you give your team and customers 200%, not 100%. The days are long, and the nights can be even longer. There isn’t a time table, you always take work home. Honestly, there’s no difference between home and work. There’s always a lot of work to do and the pressure is hot and the stress can be high. But at the same time, it’s the greatest feeling in the world to see your company evolve and grow, and to know that all your hard work pays off.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
One thing that I’ve never understood is why people are constantly asking women [executives and non-executives] how they balance work and family, yet those same people never ask a man that question. We need more women in executive positions, this visibility is crucial for young girls to know that they too can become a female leader. Without women executives as role models, it will be challenging for the next generation of girls to believe that nothing can stop them.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Honestly, I never spent time thinking about what my job would be like — I had no preconceived notions. At Red Points, we always say that one day is like one week, one week like one month and one month like one year. We say this because everything is constantly changing. Comfort zones do not exist. Seven years ago, I could not have never imagined that change would be the only constant.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
An executive is a leader. Leadership is not a quality that you decide you have or you don’t have — it is assigned to you, because you are able to persuade, motivate and influence others. There are a few leaders that they are only leaders because their job title says so, but they lack the traits mentioned above.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
To all leaders out there: your team is the center of everything. Always be the one that motivates them, that establishes clear guidelines for their team to follow, and always be open to listen to them. Active listening will help to avoid many problems in the future. Additionally, surround yourself with all the members of your team: from the individual contributors to the management team. Specifically for women leaders, know that you can do it, always. Very often we (women) tend to limit ourselves, fall into the impostor syndrome, and attribute our success to luck. It’s time to believe more in ourselves, and don’t wait for external approval because you can do it.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Being the CEO of Red Points is already a big step in making the world a better place, we take down counterfeits being sold online. By doing so, we are reducing health problems — fake products put consumers at risk as they are often riddled with a huge variety of toxic ingredients — and helping the environment, counterfeits are produced in unregulated circumstances with manufacturers creating fake goods using pollution-creating and dangerous machinery and materials.
On a personal level, I’m involved in many associations that drive women leadership progress in economy, business and society in general, including the International Women’s Forum.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
I’d love to go for lunch with Elon Musk. He’s probably one of the few people that still keeps surprising me. I’d love to know more about him, and learn as much as possible from him.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could, I would start a movement that would help every child, and provide education, motivation and help with any type of abuse they might suffer from. Children are the future, it’s very concerning when I see children suffering in any way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One thing that I’ve learned as I get older is that “life lessons” not only come from mentors or colleagues, but they start with your parents. When you are young, you don’t realize that your parents are giving you “life lessons”, only when you get older can you appreciate how important they are — good parents are the first mentors in your life.