Spanish business angel Carlos Blanco is betting big bucks on local startups

The serial investor learnt the tricks of the trade early at Barcelona’s flea market


In 1982, Carlos Blanco Vázquez started earning extra pocket money by selling old football cards at the age of 13. He would often travel by subway to sell the playing cards of lesser known football players at Mercat Sant Antoni in Barcelona. Young Blanco quickly learnt how to flog his wares to memorabilia collectors at the local flea market.

His entrepreneurial activities continued at college. In 1985, he was earning over 63,000 pesetas a month by selling computer programs stored in floppy disks. He even subcontracted the disk programming work to family and friends to boost production and sales. It came as no surprise when he started working as a software developer in 1988. Today, Blanco (b. 1968) is going for the big bucks. He is betting his money on local startups in Spain’s booming tech scene. He manages over 85 startups in diverse sectors, ranging from insurance app Brokoli to delivery service Glovo and real estate Housfy.

Jackpot post-dot com crisis

It all started when the CEO of Blanco’s IT company selected him and two colleagues to team up and develop a new computer product. The employer doubled their salaries as incentives for them to set up the offshoot. From then on, Blanco was hooked on starting his own IT software business: New-Info in 1991, Diser 2000 in 1995, OACE Servicios Informaticos in 1996 and Isap Consulting in 1999. All were sold when he decided to focus on his first love - football. The small online sports portal was set up as a hobby in 1996. He later pumped all his capital into expanding the e-sports platform to offer 18 types of gaming portals.

In 1999, Blanco also sent an email to Wired magazine after reading an article about an event for entrepreneurs in London. His proposal to host a similar event in Barcelona turned into a surprise opportunity to work with four complete strangers in Spain. All five of them had written to Wired with a similar event idea. Thus, First Tuesday Spain was co-founded by Blanco with people he had never met before. Today he is a passionate networking advocate since his successful experience of working with perfect strangers. The popular monthly events for entrepreneurs and investors are held in Barcelona and Madrid.

However, came the crisis. Blanco’s sports gaming company crashed and he lost everything. He and his family had to live with his parents. Undaunted, he convinced his mother to lend him €6,000 in 2001 and launched a digital media, e-commerce, sports and gaming incubator Grupo ITnet. Turnover reached €14 million in 2014. By 2016, the incubator’s 10 subsidiaries were operating 40 online sites with over 10 million subscribers. ITnet was replaced by Blanco’s new personal investment fund Encomenda Smart Capital in 2016.

But the jackpot was Akamon Entertainment, a social gaming and casino company that Blanco co-founded in 2011. Monthly revenue exceeded €1.2 million, even though 97% of the online games were offered free to its gaming community of over 25 million in Southern Europe and Latin America. In 2015, Akamon was sold for almost US$24 million to publicly listed Imperus Technologies Corp in Toronto, Canada. Akamon was merged with another acquisition, Diwi, to complement the social casino and gaming conglomerate’s North American business. Imperus has since been re-branded as Tangelo Games Corp with Blanco as a stakeholder.

Midas touch

In an effort to diversify, the serial entrepreneur became a business angel in 2005. In 2013, Blanco formally co-founded Conector Startup Accelerator that selects 10 startups a year to join its programs. Only 65% will pass the accelerator stage. Nowadays, Blanco oversees 85 investments through two VC firms Nuclio Venture Builder and Encomenda Smart Capital that he co-founded in 2016. Encomenda is a €20-million angel fund specially set up to invest in pre-seed and seed startups in Spain.

The star performer, however, is Nuclio Venture Builder - where the magic happens, says Blanco who is also the VC managing partner. The founding partners and industry experts at Nuclio are particularly skilled in scaling Spanish startups with innovative and disruptive MVPs to target lucrative niche markets at home and abroad. Besides providing support services like marketing and accounting, Nuclio also contributes 30–45% of the capital needed for expansion.

Recognized in 2014 as the Best Business Angel in Spain at the AEBAN awards, Blanco was also named the Best Entrepreneur 2014 at the X Pyme awards by Expansión and Ifema. He was also listed as one of Spain’s 500 most influential people in 2012 and 2013 by El Mundo, the Spanish daily. As the VP of Barcelona Tech City, he is concerned that there is still a “pelotazo,” or easy money, mentality in Spain. He also hopes that one day there will be more alternative stock market options and sector-focused funding for entrepreneurs.

Blanco is a high profile speaker and runs a blog He has also published several books including one on the "Principal mistakes of entrepreneurs". He believes that a strong team, market knowledge and selling skills are more important than the actual products. A veteran risk-taker who is adept at playing high stakes, Blanco advises investors to keep a portfolio of at least 20 startups to get profitable returns.

In the search for “gold,” Blanco recommends investing in co-founders who are ambitious, tenacious and willing to risk everything to be the best in the game. The Barcelona kid, who earned a few pesetas selling old football cards, is now one of Spain's most high profile serial investor and business influencer in the tech scene. He believes that Spain will one day clinch a Silicon Valley mega-exit deal from within its own ecosystem. He is already hedging his bets by putting his millions in various venture funds and accelerators like Nuclio and Encomenda.

Limited Reading

The rest of the content is only available if you are logged in.

Limited Reading

Your payment was not successful.

Please make sure you have entered your payment details correctly. Or try again in a few moments.

small logo

The discount code you entered is invalid

Please make sure you have entered your discount code correctly. Or try again in a few moments.

Download successful.

Your sample has been sent. Please check your email.

By accessing and using and all pages within the domain (the “Website”), You accept and agree to have read, understood, accepted and agreed to be bound by the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy in full. If you disagree with all or any part of these Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, please do not use or continue any further use of this website. You acknowledge that you are aware that this Website contains an archive of existing content as at 31 December 2021 and is not being actively managed. We are under no obligation to update the content on this Website and, accordingly, no new content or articles will be posted to the Website after 31 December 2021.