October Speaker Series Barcelona: Alfons Cornella – Hints From the Life of an Entrepreneur

These are informal and open talks organised by the InnoEnergy ‌. These feature professionals from the energy sector who want to share their innovations and experiences with a large InnoEnergy community made up of entrepreneurs, researchers, alumni and students, and encouraging a networking environment.


The October Speaker Series in Barcelona showcased an unconventional yet inspiring presentation by Alfons Cornella. Mr Cornella is a true entrepreneur: he is the founder and president of Infonomia, an innovation services company, and Co-Society, an initiative to facilitate the systematic business intersection between companies from different sectors. Some of his most recent consulting projects were completed for clients including: Grupo Santander, BBVA, LaCaixa, and Novartis. Among his many accomplishments, he has published over 20 books and over 1,000 articles on science, technology, and innovation. With a very diverse background of experience, he attributes his success on his ability to take complex ideas and communicate them effectively and simply to many target audiences varying from very technical to very abstract thinkers, and everyone in between. It is upon this principle that he has been able to merge ideas and facilitate innovation between diverse clients and help them reach their goals. The presentation delivered by Mr Cornella was based upon four main lessons he learned through his experiences that can lead to success in entrepreneurship and in all endeavours: People, Knowledge, Markets and Finance.



Hints from the life of an entrepreneur - Alfons Cornella



There is a lot to be said about the importance of people in organisations focused on collective thinking, innovation and creation. The group of people one works with should complement the gaps between individuals’ skills. Many entrepreneurs share these sentiments, and, for the most part, Alfons had the same themes in his presentation. Departing from the normal, one important takeaway was the fact that, “some people are not good”. This is important to understand because not everyone will help you reach your goals. Entrepreneurs, especially technical entrepreneurs, tend to have trouble coping with this fact as there is an inherent desire to work positively with everyone.


Often, an entrepreneur looks to pursue their own endeavours because they do not want to be an employee forever. While this may be the ultimate goal, it is important to be an employee for some time before pursuing one’s own business venture. Many lessons can be learned by working in other organisations, whether they be examples to follow, or those to stay away from. Furthermore, when asked about what type of person is most important in an organisation, Alfons replied by saying that most successful organisations are founded by partners. It is important to find the partner who, with you, will form the “two faces of the same coin”. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Larry Page had Sergey Brin. These two partnerships of complementary personalities and skills formed two of the most important companies in recent memory: Apple and Google.



Although in his own words, he claims to be a ‘generalist’, Alfons stresses the importance of having deep knowledge and focus in something. This ‘something’ does not necessarily need to be academic based, but should be specific. In this way one can add value that others cannot. Although he has never worked as a scientist, Alfons holds MSc degrees in Theoretical Physics and in Information Resource Management. To supplement these, he also holds a postgraduate degree in business, demonstrating how a ‘generalist’ can, in fact, be a ‘specialist’ at the same time. The ventures Alfons started were based on his innate ability to effectively communicate various topics to various types of people, a skill he refined through many years of experience. This asset was something different that he could offer unlike any of his peers. He heavily stressed the importance of focusing on what you are good at and how you are different—this will define how successful you can be.



Having skills in sales is the basis of any successful venture. Even if you are not explicitly selling a product, you are selling yourself. Alfons attributes a lot of his success to his ability to talk. Gaining recognition for his ‘talking ability’ started at the tender age of nine years when he was recognised in primary school for his speaking abilities.

What product do you get when you combine coca-cola & a chair? The 111 chair.



A good manager has a firm grasp of the numbers no matter what the industry is. A company should not be founded on a Word document, nor on a PowerPoint presentation, but rather, on an Excel spreadsheet. Finances and cost control are the most important features to grasp in order to become viable and create a thriving business. No matter how strong one’s belief in their organisation is, the numbers must make sense. One cannot merely will a thriving business into existence, but it must be built to that point, and this also involves knowing when the right time is to enter a market, or start a new venture. The numbers will help make this clear.


Alfons Cornella concluded his presentation stating that there are three more things that one must understand to be successful:


  • Your Learning Model – In what way do you learn best? Through writing, reading, doing, observing? By understanding this, you can become more effective and accelerate your learning curve.
  • Your Assets – What are you better at than others? Knowing this will help you highlight what you can bring to the table and demonstrate your value to managers, potential clients, or investors.
  • Luck Is Part of It – Yes, a little bit of luck is involved with developing a successful organisation or business. Any entrepreneur can probably name an instance while growing their business that was completely outside of their control but went their way. What is important is how you build upon early wins or successes.


Overall, the speaker series presentation with Alfons felt very personal as he shared details about himself and his experiences that one would not be able to read on his Wikipedia page or through his technical books and articles. It is apparent that many of his non-technical experiences helped shape the successful career he has created thus far, and he spoke a fair amount about his experiences outside of academia and professional life that attribute to his success. Unfortunately, there was too much interesting content to share in the confines of this article. Feedback collected from attendees following the presentation received the highest praise of any prior speaker series event in Barcelona. Attendees found Alfons to be very insightful and found a lot of value in his presentation. Look to attend the next speaker series event in your city - I highly recommend it. 


By Rudolph Satarromana 

– The CommUnity Post

21 December 2016

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