Q&A, Q&A- Investors / Corporates

7 Questions with Manuel Silva Martínez of Santander InnoVentures

Manuel Silva Martinez is among the investors who will be on stage sharing insights and investment trends in European FinTech at the 12th FinTech Forum, 19th Nov. 2020 in Frankfurt: https://ftf12.eventbrite.com

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.

I am Manuel Silva Martínez and run the Investments team at Santander InnoVentures. At work, I have built a team that oozes dynamism and intellectual curiosity. We are a very lean structure where free speech and constructive opinions are the basis for our team dynamics and decision-making as investors. In my spare time, I am an avid traveller (70 countries and counting), long-distance hiker (Camino de Santiago several times, Inca Trail in Peru, Kumano Kodo in Japan…) and love to discover new restaurants and foods in East London, where I live.

2. What are your focus areas, overall and within the FinTech space?

We are primarily Fintech investors. As a team, we cover all aspects of the financial services value chain, from the main businesses of the industry (payments, lending, capital markets) to the different layers of the stack (back-end infrastructure, processes, channel technology, direct-to-consumer propositions), and we have quite a bit of exposure to the new technologies that are changing financial services, such as blockchain or AI.

3. Any recent deals that you would like to share with us, and why you invested?

There are a number of undisclosed deals we have done recently (so stay tuned for those). Out of the newer ones, we are very excited about the progress that our Mexican ‘neobank meets credit’ Klar has been doing not only in building a great brand but also educating the emerging middle class into the credit cycle. We are also very excited about German-based Crosslend, that is trying to bring alternative originators and investors together to revolutionize European capital markets. But, again, stay tuned for a few new investments!

4. Which are the trends to watch out for in the next 6-18 months, and how is the Corona crisis affecting that?

  • COVID-19 presents a unique challenge to VCs and start-ups alike. FinTech still has an important role to play on a global scale: the crisis is dislocating global supply chains and the associated payments, and the transfers of risk among productive agents.
  • Short term: Accepting ‘new normal’ may not be the same as the past. Seeing some early wins (Ex: Start-ups who are digitising customer journeys in the mortgage space, auto finance, logistics or ecommerce)
  • Long term: Harder to call, in the future will need to consider FinTechs enabling new customer journeys, the emergence of new services for telemedicine, telework, new ways of transportation, delivering content, organising work and improving productivity may constitute new business opportunities.

5. Your advice to European founders looking to scale up and raise funds?

In the current environment, my main advice is: stress-test your vision and polish the fundamentals of your business. There is a lot of literature on how ‘cash is king’ and preserving cash is certainly a key strategy in this day and age. Having said that, having cash will make you go through the storm, whereas spending time thinking and rethinking the core pillar of your company, having a crisp value proposition, and really stripping down your product to what makes it really unique, will make you a winner in the ‘new normal’ – and you will need that to convince increasingly demanding investors.

6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?

I am a social scientist by training, and usually what is lingering around home are books analyzing social trends and how they affect our day to day. I just finished Byung-Chul Han’s “Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power”, which is an interesting account of the limits of neoliberalism and how the ever growing importance of technology is altering the concept of freedom. Also just bought John Gray’s “The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry Into Human Freedom”, touching on similar concepts. Very relevant topics in the current crisis. I am also a sucker for science fiction that also portrays alternative societies.

7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?

Any place with a view or where I can people-watch is a natural choice. As I travel lots, I have some go-to-places in the main cities I go to, including Café Comercial in Madrid, Café Einstein in Berlin, or Café Flore in San Francisco. I also love the vibe of the old East London’s pubs on a weekend (the real East!).