For my leadership series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview Carlos Almonte, Executive Director at Techstars, through the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal. While Carlos started his career as a freelance pianist in NYC during the onset of the dot com bubble, he went on to build a 25-year career as a seasoned marketing and business leader in digital, management consulting, and venture capital.
The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we connect startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 2,800 companies with a combined market cap of more than $219.7B. www.techstars.com
At a time of great uncertainty for many industries and, indeed, the world itself, Web Summit gathers the founders and CEOs of technology companies, fast-growing startups, policymakers, and heads of state to ask a simple question: Where to next?
Politico has said we run “the world’s premier tech conference”, the Atlantic that Web Summit is “where the future goes to be born”, and the New York Times that we assemble “a grand conclave of the tech industry’s high priests.”
Web Summit also hosts events across the world: Web Summit in Tokyo, Collision in Toronto, and RISE in Hong Kong.
Can you please provide a brief introduction to yourself and your role within Techstars? What brought you to this specific career path?
I currently serve as an Executive Director of Global Marketing at Techstars.
I first started my career in the mid-90s in New York City, after finishing my undergraduate work for music performance. I was a freelance pianist and vocalist and collaborated with a variety of musicians and artists in the NYC market. At one point, I was hired to work in a contract role for a pharmaceutical company to manage the firm’s developers. I didn’t realize it at the time but managing a tech team ended up being a natural fit for me. After having spent close to 12 years working with artists, actors, and musicians in environments that are typically stressful and laced with drama, managing a few developers from India and stateside was not hard for me. And what was a two-week contract turned into 8 years of management consulting at a pharmaceutical company.
What shifted my career was when I found out that I enjoy technology, but I also enjoy the creative side of life. Fast forward 8 years, I ended up at R/GA, a digital agency that had a reputation for its culture of innovation. It was the perfect blend between creativity and technology. From there, my career in digital and marketing took off. I spent almost 10 years at R/GA, did a 2-year stint at Sapient (now Razorfish), and then got recruited to join Techstars by a former mentor during my days at R/GA.
What is your blueprint to success?
The blueprint to success, to me, is collaboration. Strong collaboration–the mantra of tech startups — leads to innovation. And to get to that strong collaboration, actively listening and hearing what the others are saying is key. I believe this is pretty universal in any professional endeavor. It’s a lot easier to say what’s on your mind than it is to develop an obsessive habit around active listening.
What is/are your life philosophies? Are there any social causes that you are particularly passionate about?
I’ve been dabbling within the intersection–the dance or the waltz if you will– between the creative side of the mind and the pragmatic side of execution. What I find fascinating is that folks who can understand both sides, and do both, and can lead teams to do both, experience incredible success. I find it interesting that most people see strategy and execution as mutually exclusive things; when in fact, they really are two sides of the same coin. When one is able to find the balance between the two mindsets and make them work well for each other, you’ll find yourself in a really good place. In other words, you’ll be seen as someone that is not only visionary and creative in your ideas, but one that can get it done given the realities of their environment. This theory is applicable to almost everything in life.
Regarding social causes, anything with mental health and spiritual health perspective is very important to me. I am passionate about any social causes that unite and help the greater good. Life is messy, and it’s important to fight for what is important. It’s also incredibly important to be able to unite and come together vs. spend too much precious time and energy on areas that drive us further apart.
Are you working on any exciting new projects right now?
At Techstars, our mission is to help entrepreneurs succeed around the world. We do this by investing in early-stage startups, in turn helping them to become high-growth startups. More than ever, we’re doubling down on this mission and we’re looking to engage with our portfolio of alumni companies in meaningful ways. This was one of the key reasons we came to Web Summit!
Separately, I have recently started a boutique consultancy called Motevo Co, a boutique consultancy that specializes in marketing strategy and content production services. We’ll be partnering with clients ranging from Series-A startups to established Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between.
Motevo translates from the Italian word “Motivo”, meaning intention or motif. Motevo Co exists to support innovation leaders and inventors across multiple industries and mediums. I have found that many of today’s business challenges all stem from common foundational issues, regardless of the vertical or industry. I’m truly excited about this next chapter.
Do you have a life hack that’s always come in handy?
Yes. Walking and getting outside, doing it as often as possible! That’s how I solved a lot of problems. Anytime I have an issue, I will take a walk and think and let my subconscious mind work through the problems. I’ve walked almost 6 miles a day just thinking through issues.
What do you want the readers to know?
I want the readers to know that no matter what you’re doing in life, check the condition of your heart. What is in our hearts will always drive our thinking and decisions. Putting it in a simplistic way, if we have a heart that is too focused on ourselves, we will naturally over-index on activities and passions that only benefit ourselves and could arguably neglect other people around us. That could be a tough place to be if we’re in a business where we have to work with others – which is usually most of us! On the other hand, if we have a giving heart, one of servant leadership, we will naturally think about how to build up those around us, which will in effect build up ourselves as well. The bottom line is, we can sometimes have our focus in the wrong places. And when we do, we feel that natural tension, but we’re not sure what to do with it. If your heart is in a good place, the rest will work itself out. So I always say, check your heart in everything you do.