Career Path: Venturing out from Facebook to accelerate tech startups worldwide | Crain's Miami

Career Path: Venturing out from Facebook to accelerate tech startups worldwide

  • Laura González-Estéfani recently co-founded a tech ecosystem accelerator, TheVentureCity, after leaving Facebook. | Photo by Ian O’Connor

    Laura González-Estéfani recently co-founded a tech ecosystem accelerator, TheVentureCity, after leaving Facebook. | Photo by Ian O’Connor

  • Tech ecosystem accelerator TheVentureCity offers resources startups need, such as help developing funding strategies, product design and engineering infrastructure. | Image courtesy of TheVentureCity

    Tech ecosystem accelerator TheVentureCity offers resources startups need, such as help developing funding strategies, product design and engineering infrastructure. | Image courtesy of TheVentureCity

Laura González-Estéfani is used to getting things going.

The Silicon Valley–based entrepreneur recently co-founded a tech ecosystem accelerator, TheVentureCity, after leaving a long career at Facebook, where her last position was as director of international business development and her first was as the country manager for Spain and Portugal. She was the first Facebook employee based out of Spain as she worked to grow the platform’s presence in the region. And González-Estéfani began her career in 1999 as the co-founder of Esplaya.com, an online international beach-tourism guide.
 
Throughout her career, González-Estéfani's focus has always been on the importance of leadership and diversity in the tech industry. TheVentureCity, headquartered in Miami, with a second location in Madrid and activity in San Francisco, represents her latest effort to bring about that goal.

Taking off in tech
After Esplaya, González-Estéfani went on to work for Siemens and eBay before joining the Facebook staff in 2008. While working from home in Spain, she was reporting to the company's headquarters in California, which entailed a nine-hour time difference and lacked the benefit of office co-workers to whom she could always reach out. She often was ending her work day just as her boss was rising for it — an experience some might find challenging.

Not González-Estéfani. “It was fascinating, super fun and required a lot of patience because outside of the United States, in 2008 Facebook was not what it is today,” she said. “I never felt lonely, which also says a lot about the company and how they wanted to make sure every employee — no matter where we were and how many people we worked with — always felt plugged into whatever was happening at the headquarters.”

González-Estéfani said the Facebook mantra  “people over pixels" — that is, putting human interaction first in everything — was helpful to her as she grew along with the company she joined when it was a startup and left when it was one of the most well known in the world.

Stepping up
After Spain, González-Estéfani moved to Silicon Valley, where she was responsible for growing Facebook’s internationalization efforts in Latin America, with partnerships and mobile relationships in various countries.
  
“[The job] requires a lot of discipline and flexibility on your side,” she said. “People tend to think about Latin America like it’s [one big country], but it’s not. Each state in the U.S. has its own soul and opportunities and challenges, and so do the different countries in Latin America.”

While with Facebook in Silicon Valley, González-Estéfani said, she enjoyed working with teams all over Latin America at varying stages of development. She said the role at times was exhausting but also “tremendously rewarding” because she "learned so much from so many different people and cultures." 

Developing with diversity
The recognition of the need for that type of diversity in the tech industry is in part what inspired her to co-found TheVentureCity in Miami rather than in Silicon Valley or other popular tech hubs. González-Estéfani said she hopes to amplify and strengthen the voices and ideas of entrepreneurs in other locations worldwide that are not getting the same level of attention, support and funding as those in bigger cities.

González-Estéfani said her goal with her new venture is to empower all people — but especially women — from diverse backgrounds in the tech field. She said this drive has been with her ever since she graduated from college.

“I’m a mother of three, but being a mother has never stopped anything in my career,” she said. “I own my career, and I’m going to fight for what I think is good for me no matter what.”

August 23, 2017 - 5:13pm