Business 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 GivingStreets
Mentor IoTTribe accelerator
IoT London Mentor Startupbootcamp accelerator

You have twenty years of experience in bringing people together to make innovation happen. Which are your best practises while collaborating with business, start-ups and professors?

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

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

Which project you will like to do with a business? And with a professor?
If by a business we understand a more mature larger organisation, I would say a project where they can leverage their assets – say data and people – in a collaboration that has clear impact in society and the local economy. With a professor a project would imply to bring him/her out of their confort 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 stay as ideas for lack fo translators/translating structures that allow for them to be moved say into real products.

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

After many years co-working with start-ups, you are now a co-founder of one start-up called GivingStreets since nine months ago. How did you made 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 before and we came together around this idea of helping people that are left out of the cashless society and using technology to do that. This has opened up a whole host of new relations and new angles to look at reality, at least for me and 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 getting Giving Streets visibility in the communities that we want to help. Wider citizenship, people living in the streets, street artists…

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 organisation point of view is putting processes in place that allow for autonomy and a culture of “failing is good”. As organisations at the forefront of their areas, 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 or integration with RFID, AI or blockchain? Do you see some bottlenecks?
I wouldn’t get into the technology side. There is interesting progress and solutions produced as we speak. From a cultural, business and regulators point of view, 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 the new digital economy is being built at the minute 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 able to stand on two feet look around and smile.

What is your main achievement you are more proud of? And your major failure you have learnt the most?

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

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

Books recommended by Irene López de Vallejo:
I can recommend to read, 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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