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Sunday 16 June 2024
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    HomeTech + AnalyticsMaría and Lucía: From soccer pitch to Startup victory.

    María and Lucía: From soccer pitch to Startup victory.

    María and Lucía are two Spanish girls currently living in San Francisco, California; they are two rockstars who are making waves in Silicon Valley with their startup, Sharpei, a sustainable fintech platform that empowers retailers and manufacturers to integrate try-before-you-buy, rental, subscription, and second-hand resale options into their checkout process. They compare their entrepreneurial life with a soccer game, as they feel in the entrepreneurial world the competitiveness and collaborative environment they used to live in when they played first division in a soccer team. 

    We would like to get to know you girls, tell us about your story. How did you become business partners?  

    Maria: We used to play in the same soccer team thirteen years ago, and as we grew up, we discovered that we liked founding businesses, and we started creating our own clothing brand at school; we also sold wine and olive oil. Both of us like to learn about each other, we have complemented skills and interests, so we started having adventures together.  

    Lucia: The first company we started was “The Eco-host”, we managed touristic apartments, it was in 2018 before COVID and then obviously COVID was an extremely tough time for this industry, before we were just selling things around until we started a real project.  

    Sharpei is your brainchild, and it makes waves! Can you share the moment when you realized that this startup idea had the potential to be a game-changer in the business world? 

    Lucia: In December last year, we had a week of non-having any connection to the internet and an intense experience. We had another project ongoing called “Yakk”, it was working and growing but nonetheless, we decided to change the approach, as it made more sense to enable companies with the software that would allow them to start a circular economy business rather than just the selling channel as we were doing with Yakk. 

    With both of you having had remarkable careers in sports, how do you ensure that the competitive spirit on the soccer field translates into a collaborative and supportive environment within Sharpei? 

    Maria: As a professional soccer player you experience pressure and competitiveness; when it comes to being an entrepreneur, it is similar. We try to create an open environment to make people collaborate as a real team. It is important in a start-up to build a formidable team connected to achieve a unique goal. Employees must feel like they are working towards a personal and global goal. They need to be on edge, competitive but willing to step down for the team’s best interest.  As a group we are driven to achieve our mission while taking Sharpei to being one of the best and most well-known start-ups in the world.  

    Lucia: I was thinking about this recently because I saw a documentary which quoted: “Pressure is a privilege. It only comes to those who earn it” so by the time when you are competing in a remarkably important level in sports you feel a similar stress and pressure when you are going to pitch your company, you need the best of yourself to come out in the most challenging time. You need to be constant, have the right mindset and take care of yourself to manage it.  

    The Sharpei team must be a powerhouse of diverse talents. Maria, as the CEO, how do you align the different strengths and skills of your team members to achieve your collective goals? 

    Maria: I believe the most important thing is to set clear goals and roles to oversee different tasks. We must identify our different strengths and see how they complement each other and promote collaboration and an open space to talk with our colleagues, it is important to be able to learn from your colleagues and communicate enough to evolve and learn as fast as possible.  

    Lucía, as a woman in a leadership position and the CTO of Sharpei, you are breaking barriers in the tech world. How do you see your role as an inspiration for other aspiring women in STEM, and what advice would you give them to thrive in male-driven industries? 

    Lucia: I guess the only way to lead is by example, if people think of me as a leader is probably because they see what we are building makes sense and it is an excellent product. I think is important to have role models in the industry, especially in the tech industry which is full of men. For me, it is more about making the younger women generations think of leadership as something they are part of instead of something that is only for men. As a woman, you need to work harder to earn your place, is not going to be easy and it is important not to overshare your feelings and to stay at professional as possible. If you are in an industry which is primarily full of men, you should not show your weaknesses because they will take advantage of it and take you less seriously. It is all about playing their game.  

    As founders, you have experienced the highs and lows of startup life. How do you celebrate the small wins and lift each other’s spirits during challenging times? 

    Maria: Firstly, I think you must celebrate each small achievement, in the past we have not done it and we think it is important from now on. We try to be enormously proud of ourselves and celebrate, sometimes we open a bottle of champagne when we are celebrating something and of course with a small party.  

    Lucia: What we do is celebrate, as Maria said, sometimes when you are so ambitious or have lot of pressure makes you be so focus on the goals which is good, but sometimes it can be so frustrating when you compare yourself all the time to other founders or companies, so it is important to celebrate, sometimes I like to do escape for a long weekend just to clear my mind and have a little bit of “me time”.

    Who is Maria? 

    Full Name: Maria Azofra 

    Age: 27 

    Occupation: Entrepreneur 

    Nationality: Spanish 

    Where do you live? San Francisco 

    Do you have kids? No 

    Pets? Two pets, one dog Russell. And a cat Bagheera 

    Favorite Food: “Cocido Madrileño,” a Spanish typical food.  

    Hobbies: Play Soccer, eating, traveling and scuba diving 

    Favorite place in the world: Cadiz 

    Let’s Rock!  

    How would you describe yourself in one word?  

    Dreamer. 

    Favorite movie or TV Show: Breaking bad.  

    Favorite Book:  Sapiens, Noah Harari 

    If you could turn into an animal, what would it be? 

    Whale  

    Favorite music band or gender: House music.  

    Your grounding activity is… Reading or listening to music.  

    What are 2 things that cannot be missing from your backpack?  

    My laptop and Googles 

    Do you like sports? Are you a fan of a sports team? I love sports, I love playing soccer and paddle. I am a fan of Real Madrid.  

    What contribution do you feel you make to a better world?  

    Encourage women to start their own businesses promoting gender equality, and I try to integrate social and environmental impact into all my projects. I believe that any step can lead to a more sustainable and equitable world. I put a lot of effort into those topics and being a reference to other woman can start their own businesses.  

    One piece of advice that you were given and would give: 

    Prioritize the most challenging task first.  

    Who is Lucía? 

    Full Name: Lucía Clifford.  

    Age: 29 

    Occupation: Entrepreneur 

    Nationality: Spanish and English 

    Where do you live? San Francisco 

    Do you have kids? No 

    Pets? Two cats, Taco and Oliver.  

    Favorite Food: Italian Pizza. 

    Hobbies: Travelling and sports.  

    Favorite place in the world: Ibiza.  

    Let’s Rock! 

    How would you describe yourself in one word?  

    Ambitious.  

    Favorite movie or TV Show: Black Mirror. 

    Favorite Book:  The wind-up bird chronicle, Murakami 

    Favorite music band or gender: Techno Music.  

    Your grounding activity is… Meditation  

    What are 2 things that cannot be missing from your backpack?  

    Sunscreen and Laptop.  

    Do you like sports? Are you a fan of a sports team?  

    Football, snowboarding, martial arts and recently paddle. I am a fan of Real Madrid.  

    What contribution do you feel you make to a better world?  

    We are creating innovation for everyone in the world, especially in Sharpei, we would like to change the way people consume and have access to stuffs… and then off course, being the next generation of female founders.  

    One piece of advice that you were given and would give: 

    Do not give up, it will pay off eventually.  

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