A well-known leader in the Spain’s tech and media industries, Sofía Benjumea is a popular millennial role model. The 34-year-old director of Google’s Campus Madrid advises tech entrepreneurs "to work on something that really excites you, surround yourself with a great team and dare to think big and, most importantly, globally.”
Google’s fourth campus was launched in March 2015. Within two years, startups supported by Campus Madrid – in the form of mentoring, a global network, free desks, and more – have raised funding of over €75 million and created 3,281 new jobs. Another notable achievement is that female entrepreneurs account for 38% at Campus Madrid – well above Spain’s national average of 29.4%.
Spain’s future in local talent
After completing her MBA at UCLA in 2011 and witnessing the meteoric success of Silicon Valley, Benjumea returned to Spain to join the local tech scene. Teaming up with her entrepreneurial mother María Benjumea Cabeza de Vaca, Sofía Benjumea co-founded Spain Startup in April 2012. As CEO of Spain Startup, she believes that Spain’s future depends on taking risks – by betting on local talent to show that the country still has the potential to create and grow good businesses.
The South Summit conferences were also started by the Benjumea co-founders to promote Spain and Southern Europe as a global tech hub. More than 3,500 projects have been showcased at the South Summit, attracting 650 top-tier investors and raising funds of over US$1.5 billion for startups like Cabify, Glovo and Typeform. About 47% of the techpreneurs come from Spain and 53% from the rest of Mediterranean Europe and Latin America.
Sofía Benjumea is also a staunch advocate of Android tech, believing that more consumer choices are essential for creativity and innovation. Under her “get-things-done” energetic leadership, Campus Madrid is gearing up to develop its own unique ecosystem to nurture Spain’s next generation of disruptive coders.
She’s passionately adapting Google’s ecosystem for local startups and recommends formulating a mission as a first principle. “You must have a mission that matters to you, something that will guide every step you take in the development and accomplishment of that project,” she has advised entrepreneurs.
Lifelong learning, women’s advocate
Following her own advice, the young CEO has worked hard to achieve her personal goals, acquiring diverse work experiences and worldviews since her graduation from university in 2004. She holds two degrees in International Business Management from universities in Spain and France.
As an undergraduate, Benjumea was already helping in the production of M6 Metropole Television “Morning Live” program in Paris. She went on to read a master’s in International Journalism at the El País School of Journalism, Universidad Autónoma in 2005. After nine months at CNN, she landed a prime role at Antena 3 TV in 2006. Bilingual in English and Spanish, she also qualified as a professional translator at Escuela de Traductores in 2007 and started work as a freelance translator for Vanity Fair España until December 2011.
By then, Benjumea decided to take a break and left Antena 3 in August 2010. She completed an MBA in 2011 at IE Instituto de Empresa and even went overseas to UCLA in the US to obtain an International MBA at the Anderson School of Management. Explaining her sudden career change, Benjumea said that the classroom and reality can’t be detached. She now firmly believes in lifelong learning because “we live in a world where the only constant is change.”
Although they come from a privileged aristocratic background, Benjumea and her mother work hard on projects to raise awareness of the barriers faced by women at work and business. At a recent roundtable debate she led, the pragmatic mother-of-two vowed to end women’s inequality in society. And she clearly also sees herself first as a mother, as her bio in her Twitter account states: “Mom of Max & Yago - Head of @Campusmadrid, @GoogleforEntrep - co founder of @South_Summit @Spain_startup.”