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Cass Entrepreneur Stories: alva

The inaugural ‘Cass Entrepreneur Stories’ event took place with Cass MBA alumnus Alberto Lopez, founder & CEO of alva, sharing his story.

The inaugural ‘Cass Entrepreneur Stories’ event took place with Cass MBA alumnus Alberto Lopez, founder & CEO of alva, sharing his story.

Alberto sat down with Stefan Stern, visiting Professor of Management at Cass, to talk about his entrepreneurial journey. Since founding his business in 2010, Alberto has guided the company successfully to multi-million pound turnover and profitability.

Alva_alberto lopezNick Badman, Chairman of the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship, gave a welcome address to the assembled guests. He highlighted that Alberto was the first entrepreneur to be supported by the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund, noting that Alberto remains, “a thoroughly market-oriented and focused guy, who thinks first and foremost about the customer.”

Alberto Lopez was born in Barcelona, realising from a very young age that his future lay in entrepreneurship. It was, in part, something of a family trait, with Alberto’s father himself starting a business to support the Lopez family:

“My father learnt his trade very young and aged 20 he started his own business. His mission was to give all of us the best education that he couldn’t have. We also worked for him during the school holidays. Working in my father’s business taught me the importance of hard work. Staying focused and aspiring to have something has been with me from a child.”

When asked about how this education played a part in the alva story, Alberto recalled:

“I liked the opportunities that I saw in the UK – I’ve been here for over twenty years. After studying economics in Spain, I came over to study media management and then was very lucky to be working for a company that decided to sponsor me for my MBA.”

Alberto knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age, but what inspired him to enroll on an MBA? 

“I did the Cass MBA because I wanted to broaden my outlook about how businesses were run, because my view was quite narrow minded. Also, I had seen the hardships that my dad went through, so I thought if I’m going to be an entrepreneur, I want to be a prepared entrepreneur. I wanted to have as much of a toolkit as possible."

Some might argue that Lopez was setting himself an almost insurmountable challenge to start a new business in the midst of an economic downturn. Lopez saw things differently:

“I was still in the corporate world, when in 2008 I started thinking about setting up my own business. Then in 2009, the company I was working for went through a round of redundancies and I was one of the first to leave. I knew then that I wasn’t going to look for another job; I knew I had to create my own job. I became an entrepreneur when I was 38.”

Alva presentationIt was precisely this hardship which seemed to give Alberto an additional resourcefulness and affinity for listening to customers, and the market.

“We started in probably the worst economic times that we’ve seen for the last 30 years. But I never really thought about ‘is this the right time?’ I believed that if the proposition was strong enough then we would survive, and if not, the market would tell me.”

During the early research phases of the business, Alberto noted that his disciplined market research and relentless networking helped form and reinforce his vision.

“While I was developing alva, I found this company called the Reputation Institute, who were holding a global conference in Amsterdam. I went there to find an angle, perhaps even partner with them.”

The conference became a powerful signal – Alberto knew his technology-led offering was truly novel within the sector, and something worthy of real focus. With the financial backing of Angel investors and the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund, Alberto was able to form a team and begin developing alva’s leading market proposition.

When asked if he would do anything differently, Lopez reflected with characteristic optimism about his experience:

“There are things I might have changed slightly, but then again, I don’t think I would want to do things differently. Each challenge has led us here. A lot of the good things are because of those challenges. Without them alva wouldn’t be where it is today.”

Notes to Editors:

The Cass Entrepreneurship Fund is the £10m in-house early-stage equity fund for Cass entrepreneurs. Since 2010, the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund has invested into nine start-up and early-stage businesses across a range of sectors.

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