Business stories Interviews

Irene López de Vallejo on working with professors and start-ups

Dr. Irene López de Vallejo
Founding team member of Ocean Protocol
Director of Partnership and Business Development at DEX Pte Ltd
Co-founder of GivingStreets
Mentor IoTTribe accelerator
IoT London Mentor at Startupbootcamp accelerator

ABOUT BUSINESS
You have twenty years of experience bringing people together to make innovation happen. What are your best practices when collaborating with businesses, start-ups and professors?

I have always thought that this is all about people. And collaboration. And being patient, listening to others, and trying to find opportunities for win-win situations. This applies to innovation, tech, and also life in general!!

How do you find business leaders, start-ups and professors to work with?
Super interesting and challenging in equal measure. Businesses are typically more mature, have processes already in place, and understand their role in whatever ecosystem they have placed themselves in. Start-ups don’t, and that creates tensions in terms of collaboration, but they are really inspiring to work with. Working with academics, if they are good and open to collaboration, can be a delightful experience  for knowledge absorption and idea growth. Having those 3 groups collaborating smoothly is really powerful.

Which project would you like to do with a business? And with a professor?
If by a business we mean a more mature, larger organisation, I would say a project where they can leverage their assets – say data and people – for collaboration with a clear impact in society and the local economy. With a professor, a project would imply bringing him/her out of their comfort zone and in touch with real problems where they can deploy and test their ideas. I love the whole “Knowledge on X in the Wild” approach. Incredibly powerful ideas typically remain ideas because of a lack of translators and/or translating structures that allow them to be transformed into, say, real products.

You have a huge network and are a very good networker. How do you do this? Do you have a secret recipe?
I smile a lot, listen, and always smell good?

After many years of co-working with start-ups, you are now a co-founder of one start-up called GivingStreets as of nine months ago. How did you make the decision and become a co-founder? What is your role in the start-up?
I was lucky to engage with my cofounders. Some of us had met and worked together before and we came together around to this idea of helping people that are left out of the cashless society and the technology necessary to access it. This has opened up a whole host of new relationships and new angles to look at reality, at least for me, and to be more sensitive to how other people live. We all can help and we are on a crusade to do it! My role is – guess! – building collaborations and increasing Giving Streets visibility in the communities that we want to help: wider citizenship, people living in the streets, street artists…

ABOUT INNOVATION
How are you dealing with innovation at DEX and at Ocean Protocol? How do you stay ahead of the competition?

Both DEX and Ocean Protocol are innovative organisations and organisations that are at the forefront of innovation in their domains. From an organisational point of view, it is about putting processes in place that allow for autonomy and for a culture of “failing is good.” As organisations at the forefront of their arenas, it is about having thought leaders that can provide a guide and a path into the future, and we are lucky to have such people on board.

What is currently the main challenge for the data science and AI areas? Digitalization of the process? Standardization? Integration with RFID, AI or blockchain? Do you see some bottlenecks?
I won’t get into the technology side, but there’s interesting progress and solutions are being produced as we speak. From the point of view of business and regulators’ culture, that is where a lot of education and onboarding needs to be done. We at Ocean Protocol are bringing together blockchain AI and data, and the most difficult part is to make these stakeholders understand the impact that the new digital economy being built at this time will have on them and their constituencies.

What is your vision of the future from your perspective for DEX, Ocean Protocol and GivingStreets?
I am working for a better, more egalitarian world. I don’t want to live forever. I want more people to have their basic needs satisfied and to be able to stand on two feet, looking around and smiling.

ABOUT LIFE
What is the main achievement that you are most proud of? And a major failure that you learned the most from?

My main achievement is definitely being a mother. My major failure is yet to come, I’m sure of that!!!

You lived in London almost half of your life before you lived in the Basque Country in Spain. How did you feel the cultural transition and working style differences?
I also lived in Coimbra in Portugal for a year. I love different places and people and cultures. It feeds me at my core. There is always something to learn from others- things they do better- and being flexible is key. Although no food is quite like Basque Country food!

Books recommended by Irene López de Vallejo:
I recommend reading! As Cervantes said “ Those who read a lot and travel a lot, know a lot and see a lot”. So, read and travel my friends!!

Coming soon: TALK podcast by Irene López de Vallejo.

Read the Golden Rules of Living of Irene, here.

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