marketer of the month

EPISODE 179: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Itxaso del Palacio

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

We recently interviewed Itxaso del Palacio for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Oz and here’s what we discussed about-

1. Explores the changing role of investors in Europe, emphasizing a shift towards operational, founder-friendly strategies.

2. Discusses how Kauffman shaped the notion of giving before getting into the startup ecosystem, focusing on openness and continual learning.

3. Examines the influence of an open-minded, entrepreneurial Basque upbringing on decision-making in investing and entrepreneurship.

4. Highlights the disciplined mindset acquired from a background in classical ballet and its application in the competitive startup environment.

5. Articulates Notion’s optimistic view of the European startup ecosystem, citing talent, a growth mindset, and a willingness to build strong companies within Europe.

6. Reveals the role of teaching spinning classes in maintaining a healthy work-life balance and starting the day with positivity.

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Itxaso del Palacio, a distinguished individual, serves as a General Partner at Notion, contributing her strategic insights to the venture capital landscape. As a member of the Board of Directors for Kauffman Fellows (class 18) and an Associate Professor at UCL, she bridges academia and industry, enriching the realms of education and innovation. Beyond her roles, she is a noteworthy angel investor, supporting and nurturing promising startups to thrive in the competitive landscape of entrepreneurship.

Startup Symphony: Itxaso del Palacio on the Changing Role of EU Investors in 2024

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda, and I’m the creative director at Outgrow. co. And for this month we are going to interview Itxaso del Palacio, who is the General Partner at Notion, Board of Directors Kauffman Fellows (class 18), Associate Professor at UCL.

Itxaso del Palacio: Great to be here. Thank you.

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The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire Itxaso del Palacio

Saksham Sharda: Okay. So let’s start with the rapid-fire round. The first one is, at what age do you want to retire?

Itxaso del Palacio: Oh as seriously as I can, I would say. But yeah. Sorry. It’s one sentence. As early as you can ask again.

Saksham Sharda: At what age do you want to retire?

Itxaso del Palacio: 55.

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?

Itxaso del Palacio: 20 minutes.

Saksham Sharda: Most embarrassing moment of your life?

Itxaso del Palacio: Pass.

Saksham Sharda: Favorite color.

Itxaso del Palacio: Red.

Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?

Itxaso del Palacio: 6:00 AM.

Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Itxaso del Palacio: Eight.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank. An upcoming technology trend is _____.

Itxaso del Palacio: PLG, Product-led growth.

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened.

Itxaso del Palacio: San Francisco.

Saksham Sharda: Pick one, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

Itxaso del Palacio: Elon Musk.

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?

Itxaso del Palacio: No mistakes, I think.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Itxaso del Palacio: Breathing.

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Itxaso del Palacio: Two-Three.

Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?

Itxaso del Palacio: I buy my nails.

Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life.

Itxaso del Palacio: Listening.

Saksham Sharda: Your favorite Netflix show.

Itxaso del Palacio: Pass.

Saksham Sharda: Are you an early riser or a night owl?

Itxaso del Palacio: Early riser.

Saksham Sharda: One-word description of your leadership style.

Itxaso del Palacio: Patience. No, sorry. Let’s change that one. Go ahead.

Saksham Sharda: Top priority in your daily schedule.

Itxaso del Palacio: Early workout.

Saksham Sharda: Ideal vacation spot.

Itxaso del Palacio: Beach and sun.

Saksham Sharda: Memorable career milestone.

Itxaso del Palacio: Finishing my PhD.

Saksham Sharda: The last song you’ve been listening to,

Itxaso del Palacio: Probably Williamson.

Saksham Sharda: And the last movie that you saw that had a good impression on you.

Itxaso del Palacio: Elvis.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions Itxaso del Palacio

Saksham Sharda: Well that’s the end of the rapid fire. Now we’ll move on to the longer questions that you can answer with as much time and thought and as you’d like. The first one is, can you elaborate on how your perspective on the role of investors has evolved since your initial involvement with Kauffman in 2012?

Itxaso del Palacio: Yeah. So I think the role of investors has evolved specifically in Europe, where I’ve been more involved traditionally in Europe, I think venture capital came or was, or emerged through financial lenses. And I think towards 2005-2010 a new generation of investors came in who were much more, much more operational, much more founder-friendly, I would say. And understanding the rules of the game within technology and, and, and playing the long game. I do think that hands-on and entrepreneurial-friendly positions have helped the ecosystem. And it’s today, it’s the trend for sure.

Saksham Sharda: So, in what specific ways has Kauffman influenced your thinking about giving before getting into the startup ecosystem?

Itxaso del Palacio: Kaman has influenced the way I behave within the adventurous space. Is not only about giving before you get, but also understanding that you don’t know everything. And being always open to learning and to listening to other people. Ultimately, when we invest in companies, we don’t run the companies. So we need to make sure that we can contribute with ideas, with a prospective thinking process, but we will not decide to implement or not in a company that inputs. And I think that’s very important, and it’s a way to work with founders and with other investors, which is much more of a thinking process rather than saying exactly what needs to be done.

Saksham Sharda: So you grew up in the Basque country. How has the encouragement of an independent spirit from your family impacted your decision-making as an investor and entrepreneur?

Itxaso del Palacio: I think it has impacted me. I grew up in an environment where opinions and speaking openly are very much welcomed. My dad has always been very much asking us to speak up and to have an opinion. We are very much the best countries and have a very entrepreneurial environment too. If you look at the GDP within Spain, Catalonia has probably the biggest and the highest GDP, and that comes down to the industry that was created at a certain point. So it’s very entrepreneurial and open-minded and has developed a free spirit type of mindset in me that still is part of the way I behave.

Saksham Sharda: So are there any specific instances where your independence played a crucial role in your career?

Itxaso del Palacio: I mean, definitely the fact that I did a PhD, and not an MBA, if you think about it, MBAs all work in teams and, and that they work for a year, for two years, always working on teams. When you do a PhD, you work for five years just by yourself. And I think it is a tough process. It’s a tough development, thinking, and analytical process that you go through just by yourself and you probably become the expert in a very specific topic, in your industry. So I think that helped in a short time.

Saksham Sharda: So your journey to notion involved diverse experiences including a decade of classical ballet. How has your background in the arts influenced your approach to the structured and competitive startup world?

Itxaso del Palacio: So I’m not sure if it’s the arts, but rather the behavior that disciplines like dancing and classical ballet set in the way you behave. I’m very disciplined. I do have a mindset in which I want to do something and repeat things repeatedly. As you do when you dance every single day, you repeat this same choreography over and over again. And it’s something that it’s not tiring for me, but reinforces my mindset, whatever I’m thinking about. And it’s a way that I like to behave and I set up a goal and I can do things over and over again for that goal. And in my daily routine, I do things repeatedly. So, which is pretty funny, I think when you look at it externally. A little bit of an extreme, I would probably say.

Saksham Sharda: So have you seen the benefits of applying creative and unconventional thinking from your ballet background to navigate the structured startup environment?

Itxaso del Palacio: I would think that maybe creativity from the side is not my biggest skill. So I’m not sure if the ballet developed that side of it. It did develop other sorts of skills, not necessarily the creative side of it. Maybe, I wouldn’t consider it, I’m a very creative person. I’m not like either on the other side, but I don’t think that’s my strongest skill.

Saksham Sharda: So you’re also an educator and have taught entrepreneurship to around 2000 students, what common challenges do you observe among aspiring entrepreneurs and how do you guide them?

Itxaso del Palacio: So I’m not sure where you got the 2000, because I teach over 400 students a year, and I’ve been teaching for 12 years now. So you just need to do a little bit of math to realize the number of people who have taken my entrepreneurial finance course at UCL University College London and I Imperial College in the past. And I think my experience is very important to help those students understand how the industry works. I think I do have a PhD but I do think many of the lecturers that students get at universities are way too academic and maybe not practical enough. I don’t take those students out of their building to talk with entrepreneurs, to talk with investors. And they encourage them to do that. And in fact, that’s the only assignment that they do. And they need to interview a founder who has raised more than two rounds of funding and they need to do the due diligence and propose an investment in the company. And so to do that, obviously you gotta talk to people and you need to find the entrepreneurs and for the due diligence, you need to talk to people in the industry. And that’s what gives you a better mark, which is something that you cannot do with ChatGPT, these days. And they need to take pictures with everybody. They do an interview. So it’s kind of a fun course but takes the students a little bit out of their environment to talk to the real world.

Saksham Sharda: And have you ever adapted your views on entrepreneurship and investing based on a student’s unique and unconventional approach that challenges traditional teachings? Is there some interesting story around this you have?

Itxaso del Palacio: So I don’t think I have changed the way I operate. I do tweak my lectures every year based on their feedback. But definitely, I do think that we need to be up to speed with everything we teach to students today. The market technology moves so fast that you need to be on top of the game for that. I don’t, usually, students are very early in their careers. I do learn because some of them are doing very very specific research in some technologies. I have many engineering students. And so that I can learn from those students for sure. And if you realize, the people who are happier and healthier for a longer time are usually professors who are surrounded by these new generations of students, or thinkers. And so I want to continue my career in that space and be able to have an impact on people being able to gather experiences from them too.

Saksham Sharda: So when you joined Notion from M12 you saw incredible talent and opportunities in Europe. What unique qualities does the European startup ecosystem offer and how does Notion plan to capitalize from them?

Itxaso del Palacio: So at Notion, we are very bullish about the ecosystem in Europe. We believe there is a lot of talent. I think the European ecosystem has built enough unicorns, fast-growing businesses that have trained many individuals in what we call, and we like to see this growth mindset. So we have very good universities, we have incredible technical universities. I mean, the UK has very good universities, but Germany has great engineering schools like Switzerland, Paris, and so on. And, this talent doesn’t want to work for big corporations anymore. That’s not a trend today. So they want to work for the best startups, they want to build a new generation of technologies. And I’m very excited about that. I think the ecosystem has money today to invest in those businesses. Also, I think there is no fear of adapting and going from one country to another in Europe and building a big company even within the European ecosystem. So in the past companies were very quickly going to the US and today they are still going to the US but I think they can build big businesses and start very strong in two, or three countries in Europe and then go to the us. Founders are not afraid of facing differences and adapting their products to the different ecosystems and localizing, and I think that gives them a competitive advantage in a global market.

Saksham Sharda: And what motivated you in the first place for this commitment to helping build the best enterprise technology portfolio in Europe with Notion, and what challenges do you foresee in achieving this ambition?

Itxaso del Palacio: So I joined a notion in 2018. Before that, I was running M 12 Microsoft Ventures in Europe. So I was already doing B2E software and AI solutions. One of the main things that motivates me to invest in this space is that ultimately by investing in the best products that can help our companies operate, we are helping our employees be much more productive and not waste their time with all the school solutions that are getting in the way of building the biggest businesses. So I want to help employees be more productive, happier, and healthier in many cases because you can use products that, as an employee, as a benefit, for example, allow you to stay healthier. And I think all of these things make people much happier. So I’m a big product believer, and product first investor, and I do believe that those products will make our employees healthier, happier, and more productive, and ultimately everybody else will win in that way.

Saksham Sharda: So speaking of being healthier since 2013, you’ve been teaching spinning classes at Virgin Active. How does this physical activity complement your professional life?

Itxaso del Palacio: That was a secret in the past, but it looks like everybody knows about it. Yes. I’ve been teaching spinning, as I said earlier in this interview. I love my 6:00 AM workout. That’s my routine every single day. And it got to the moment that I wanted to change this answer. Yeah. Okay. I start again. So there was this teaching that spinning was a secret in the past. It’s not a secret anymore. It looks like a lot of people know about it. I run venture capital VC and startup spinning classes in London. So if you want to join them please let me know and I will involve you in those. But I’m a big believer in starting the day with something that you enjoy. For me, it’s a good workout, great music, and being able to spend time with a group of people like that takes me completely out of the venture space because the people who come to my spending classes have no idea that I’m an investor. They even think I’m a personal trainer, and I leave that class and train people on the gym floor, right? So it is a way to enjoy my music, enjoy the start of the day, and start the day with great technology and great energy. And yeah, I love it. So if you want to join, you know where to find me.

Saksham Sharda: So speaking of merging boundaries, as an associate professor at UCL, how do you integrate your academic role with your practical experiences as an entrepreneur and investor?

Itxaso del Palacio: So I think it’s a lot about using case studies to bring entrepreneurs, bring investors to the lecturers, make them the students, understand that there is a world beyond the university, the academic side of it and that we interact with people and that there are ambitious people in this world. And I like to make those students feel that if these people made it work, I can also make that happen. I like to inspire them with examples, case studies, with real founders who come and talk about how difficult it is to build a business, but how gratifying it is at the same time. So it’s I mean, it is phenomenal to see the outcome and just when I was coming to the web summit today, I got a message from a student from four or five years ago telling me about the new business he is launching, and asking me whether I have time for a quick chat. And obviously, I’m delighted to hear those and to talk to them, so it’s great.

Saksham Sharda: This is the last question for you of a personal kind. What would you be doing in your life, if not this?

Itxaso del Palacio: I don’t think I could be doing anything else than investing. I love investing. I went from being an engineer to working at Daimler, the car manufacturer, which I didn’t want to do a PhD because I love teaching. Once I got to work full-time at Imperial College, I realized really, I didn’t want to be an academic. So I think jumping from one thing to another, I started my own company, couldn’t make it profitable and revenue generated at scale. I moved to Venture and, after those different careers, I do think I phoned what I like to do, which is working with founders, helping them think through and ultimately supporting them in good times and in bad times. And they are the ones that I always say make me look good because they’re very smart and very ambitious, and I feel very lucky to be in this industry for sure.

Let’s Conclude!

Saksham Sharda: Thanks, everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Itxaso del Palacio, who is the Notion, Board of Directors Kauffman Fellows (class 18), Associate Professor at UCL.

Itxaso del Palacio: Great to be here. Thank you.

Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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