Interview with Daniel Pardo, CEO of Ceit-IK4 spin-off Farsens and named one of the 10 top innovators of 2015 by MIT

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In 2008, a number of researchers from Ceit-IK4 created the spin-off Farsens, with Daniel Pardo at the helm. The company started with an initiative that had been developed at the Basque technology centre for improving radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and looked for ways to take advantage of the technology in order to power sensors that were capable of fulfilling many functions.

Seven years later, the company’s work has garnered a number of successes. Pardo, whose entrepreneurial initiatives could improve the lives of those who most need it, was chosen by MIT Technology Review as one of the 10 Top Innovators under 35 in Spain for 2015. He also just published a study in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University, the University of Washington and Duke University on the use of integrated sensors in drone and robots with UHF RFID readers. And of top of all this Farsens has been recognised for having one of the top 50 digital ideas by Spanish newspaper Expansión.

Question: First of all, congratulations on the recognition. Are you happy?

Daniel Pardo: Yes, I’m really happy. It’s not every day that you get news like this!

You’ve been named one of the top 10 young innovators in Spain. How do you feel when you hear that?

DP: I don’t know if it’s an accurate reflection of reality, since the real innovators are the team that we have at Farsens, despite the recognition being given in my name. I’m so proud of the great team we have!

How does one go about starting a business these days and finding success?

DP: We didn’t go in with a recipe for success. We’ve been doing this for seven years, and the only recipe for success is to have a great team. At the same time we don’t feel that we’ve completed anything. On the contrary, the road ahead is long and difficult, but we are moving forward with the same excitement we had on day one.

What do you need to do this? Determination, luck, hard work, training?

DP: The first thing, as I said before, is to have an excellent team. Then some partners that support you and believe in you, who help you along the long journey. This has been key for us. From there, you need what’s needed for any project: determination, excitement, perseverance, ambition...and a little bit of luck!

What would you say to students and entrepreneurs who are considering embarking on this type of adventure now?

DP: They shouldn’t be afraid to dive in, but they also shouldn’t expect everything to be rosy. It seems that everything that is related to entrepreneurship is wonderful, but the reality is different and on occasion very hard. Everything is felt quite intensely, at least in our case, both the good and the bad. I love it, but not everybody thinks the way I do.

What challenges and difficulties have you faced along the way?

DP: The challenge continues to be competing globally with a disruptive technology. To do that we’ve had to overcome difficulties like a lack of funding, a lack of sales experience, creating prestige in the face of competition, etc.

How do you see the future?

DP: I’m hopeful, and there are good prospects ahead, even though it will be difficult and highly competitive.

How do you view the current panorama for Spanish companies, both in Spain and abroad?

DP: I don’t think I’m qualified to give a general answer, but from my perspective, in our sector foreign companies have always been more receptive to new technologies, like the ones that Farsens offers. Fortunately we are seeing that this is starting to change, we’re seeing that in Spain there is more interest and less fear. I don’t know if that’s because of the improved economic situation or for other reasons, but that’s our perception.

How do you balance your work and your personal life?

DP: I try to balance them as much as possible, but it’s not always easy to disconnect.