Teo Ortega is a contrarian builder who is not afraid of deviating from what is considered common knowledge. He likes to take things apart and understand how they work and put them back together in a new way as a way to understand their fundamentals — a form of reverse engineering if you will.
Hi Teo, it's a pleasure to have you join — could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for having me. I was originally born and raised in Germany, studied computer science and then moved to Spain. I lived there for the last 15 plus years and made the career choice of moving over to product management. Since then, I've been on the product side for different companies, in different roles and at different levels.
A couple of years ago the founding bug bit me and I started two companies in Spain: the first one was around for 12 months, but we had to shut it down since it didn't have enough traction; and a second one which was an electric kick-scooter sharing company — the first one of its kind to operate in Spain. We launched in Zaragoza — Spain's fifth biggest city. We bet on two main fronts: speed which translates to a short time to market — we were the first ones to launch; and finally, we bet very early on public affairs in order to develop a very strong relationship with the municipalities.
Those two bets worked out pretty well because they allowed us to win public tenders both in Zaragoza and in Madrid, and they allowed us to secure permits and licenses which constituted a barrier to entry against our competition.
The company was acquired two years ago by Circ, a company from Berlin, and while my idea at the time was to immediately jump into the founding route again, one of my investors (who's invested in another company in Madrid which builds smart lockers for the residential space) asked me for help with their product team. I went there and ended up spending the last two years leading their product, hardware and software, and design teams.
How did you come across Antler and what made you apply?
Three months ago, one of Antler Berlin's partners contacted me and that's how I first got introduced to Antler.
As a former founder, one of the things I find really hard in terms of starting a company is finding the right co-founding team. I know many great people who are really strong in their fields. The issue is that if they're strong, then they usually are in high demand, meaning they have good salaries, consequently making it hard to convince them to leave their job and take the risk to start a company. Bringing together a cohort of seasoned professionals who all have left their jobs and are committed to building a company right now is a great value that Antler provides.
How has your experience at Antler been so far?
It has been really good and intense for some reasons. First, it is happening in almost, but not fully, post-COVID time — I wasn't used to being physically around so many people at the same time which is making this experience interesting and energizing at the same time. Second, we're getting to know people who are really strong in their fields, which is really inspiring and contributes to my drive.
So far, I'm a big fan of the different team challenges Antler has been organizing for us, allowing the founders to work on different types of projects with different people and team settings. This is how you can actually understand whom you can work with especially well. This special combination of people generates energy that takes you further and enables you to build something and stick to it when things get tough.
This is what I'm looking for, and all the challenges I've participated in have helped me get invaluable information that allows me to evaluate these metrics. I am looking forward to moving beyond the phase of connecting and exploring and going deep on building businesses together.
Can you tell us a bit more about the company you will be building?
I actually have a list of ideas that I am working on — I have yet to decide on what to pursue. I find that there are a couple of topics that I find interesting and I've met several groups of people who solve problems I'm interested in too.
These are clustered around the sustainability space — such as solar and electrification -, the FinTech space — geared towards younger demographics -, and the Founder space — focused on helping founders eliminate some of the risk of the founding process since this journey is very risky both for founders and investors.
Nonetheless, I'm open to other ideas and I make it dependent on the team. For me, it's team first. So when I find a team that works very well together, generates positive energy and is able to produce something really big and impactful then I think it makes sense to figure out the ideas we want to develop as a group.
What are some of your passions, both professionally and personally?
Professionally, I consider myself a builder. I've, throughout my career, been a developer, product manager and company builder and at the end of the day, what I enjoy the most is understanding a problem and building a solution that is useful for somebody. It gives me a childlike joy — to see someone that I don't know, use one of my products because they find it useful and get value out of it. My professional passion revolves around that.
On a personal level, I like travelling and I'd like to pick that habit up again at some point. I am also a fan of motorbikes and food tasting. Finally, I used to play football, but I have put that aside for a while due to injuries — so I've been more of a gym goer lately. This is what I do to keep my mind afloat and apart from work-life.