Together with Jazztel, Eolia Renovables is another remarkable Spanish start up story. Started five years ago by Miguel Salis, Eolia Renovables is one of the leading European operators in clean energy generation with a first half of 09 EBITDA of $64 million dollars. There are very few companies in the world, never mind just in Spain, that achieve these results in such a short time. Eolia´s estimated market cap is now around $1.5bn but it was built with only $148 million in equity plus a large amount of project financing. Eolia grew through a combination of organic growth, namely wind and solar farms built by Eolia and acquisitions. My holding company Jazzya developed some wind and solar farm projects that were sold to Eolia, with the most relevant being El Moralejo near Albacete.
The story of Eolia shows that not everyone is born an entrepreneur. Indeed I have two good friends who got most of their training as executives and then went on to found their own start ups. Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, whose remarkable story is very well known, and Miguel Salis, whose trajectory is practically unknown. This is probably the case because, in Spain, entrepreneurial success stories are seldom shared for an unreasonable fear of generating envy in a society that has very confused feelings towards successful people.
Miguel and I were at Columbia University together in the 80s. While after graduation I became an entrepreneur, Miguel had a 20 year career before becoming an entrepreneur as Founder and CEO of Eolia Renovables. First, he became a banker at Lehman, then Salomon, then CFO at Jazztel, the telecom operator I founded in 1999 (now also worth over a billion dollars), then Ya.com (which I also founded together with an amazing team of ex Telefonica managers and we sold for $800 million dollars), then he managed my family office known as Jazzya and only in 2004, 20 years after graduating from business school, Miguel became an entrepreneur on his own. In order to raise the funds needed to build Eolia, Miguel became partners with one of Spain´s most creative investment banks, N+1. Here are the bios of the team that Miguel put together.
Here are Eolia´s latest results. They speak for themselves.
And to top it all, Miguel Salis is also a great jazz musician 🙂
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars
Luis on October 8, 2009 ·
“In Spain entrepreneurial success stories are seldom shared for an unreasonable fear of generating envy in a society that has very confused feelings towards successful people.”
What a gem!
I remember someone saying on TV something like this: “In the US if someone sees a luxury car, they usually think: oh, it must belong to someone hardworking and smart, maybe one day I’ll have one too…, in Spain they usually think: he must be a drug dealer or a filty “empresario”… and they scratch the car with a key!!!!”
Its the different on mentality that keeps Spain from going anywhere in the wolrd scene.
XL on October 8, 2009 ·
This company, has a big problem.
If you see your informative squares, Eolia produces 9 times more energy with wind, than with sun, but the revenues are quite similar.
As energy is energy, and doesn’t care where it comes, the price should be the same, but it seems that you sell the solar energy much expensive.
The price of a MWh that comes from solar is 680$. But a price of a windy MWh is 134$.
That means that for each MWh of solar energy that you buy, you could have 5 of windy????
Is that a real and sostenible business???
This business could be exported to other countries??? because after see that I think that the sunny energy is over subsided.
Any way let me just congratulate for your investment, and also to Miguel for his first big succes as entrepeneur.
Also not just money, you help to do the world a little bit better.
Brendan C on October 8, 2009 ·
I think Eolia’s geographical location (Spain) is actually a big help to them in this case… the Spanish government have put in place very favorable feed-in-tariff’s for renewable energy. I don’t think there is any way that they could have grown as quickly in the UK / US, as the subsidies there are not as generous. That said, they are still a great company and I hope they continue to thrive.
GerryG on October 9, 2009 ·
You complain about Spain’s lack of entrepreneurial culture and the social animosity against entrepreneurs, and yet you voted for Zapatero- a politician who epitomizes those two attitudes. And you just couldn’t vote for the candidate that would have been closer to those entrepreneurial values only because he’s not fun, well travelled or charismatic like your beloved Bill Clinton. That’s sad and kind of frivilous.
CEOs, like prime ministers, don’t have to be exciting like entrepreneurs— they can be both dull and successful.
Luis on October 9, 2009 ·
I must agree with GerryG… Zapatero and his team are a dismal for Spain. However, the alternative isn’t too clear either. The PP is not pro-business enough, their hands are tied by stupid old rules and laws.
Being an entrepreneur myself, I started a business in Spain in 2000 and believe me when I tell you it didn’t make a difference even though the other party was in power. I remember participating in a business mission to Canada in 2003, in which Rodrigo Rato was part of it (back them the Vicepresident) and I could not believe how much easier it was to start a business, hire people, and protect your intellectual property in Canada than in Spain. I wanted to move right there.
I ended up moving to Costa Rica in 2004 instead but that’s another story. Let me just tell you that since I moved my business here I have really made progress (its a small software development firm so we can work from anywhere). Costa Rica, despite being a small and quite poor country is waaaay more pro-business than Spain, its easier to hire people, easier to open a business, its not a tax haven as many people think but not a tax hell like Spain either.
Talking about taxes… this summer I run into a friend who has a lot of money (his family) but was laid off from a big company. He was proudly saying he was going to take a 2 year vacation on goverment’s money (unemployment)… he doesn’t need it, but still he’s entitled to it… even though there are families that really need it… it just really sad. How can a country who is supporting hundreds on thousand of lazy asses like my “friend” get anywhere? The 18% unemployment rates are in reality 10% unemployed people and 8% of lazy bastards who don’t want to work. Its that simple and that sad.
yomismito on October 9, 2009 ·
Sorry, only in Spanish:
La gran mayoría de los españoles aprueba las energías renovables. Desde el punto de vista ecológico son irrefutables. Pero los ciudadanos, en gran parte, no saben que tienen un sobrecoste que terminan pagando ellos. La electricidad que generan las renovables se paga por encima de lo que cuesta producir la luz con otras tecnologías. Estas primas terminan en el recibo de la luz. Gran parte del agujero del déficit de tarifa viene ahora de las primas. (…) Entre 2004 y 2008 se han pagado 9.875 millones de euros en primas a las renovables. Es una media de 246 euros por ciudadano. Como cada vez hay más renovables (en ese periodo se han más que duplicado, hasta los 21.900 megavatios actuales), la factura verde cada vez es mayor.
So, we (each citizen) are paying 246 euros per year so that people like Miguel Salis can win millions with their companies, which are profitable only because of public funds. Isn’t it funny?
But the funniest thing is that Varsavsky writes this article saying that his friend has a half billion dollar company despite living in Spain, when the only reason he has such a great and profitable company is actually because of living in Spain.
Yeah, this is so so so funny.
Luis on October 9, 2009 ·
Yomismito, that’s a very interesting point… never thought about it… I’d like to hear Martin’s point of view on that.
XL on October 9, 2009 ·
I am agree
Photovoltaic must be for domestic use, not to be connected to the electrical net.
Subsides should be to help to install photovoltaic pannels in the rooftops, that will have much sense.
Also Goverment should be focused in to help universities to develop I+D around photovoltaic world, because is quite clear, that this is the future, and this technology need be much more developed, this is the kind of economy model that need Spain, not the actual that is focused in to stupid public construction…
XL on October 9, 2009 ·
Isn’t a good idea to speack by phone in spanish and write in english… Because the consecuences could be a horrible text…
Sorry Shakespeare… It wasn’t my intention to destroy your language…
Philip on October 10, 2009 ·
Hmmmm I love the smell of IPOs in the morning…..
Eolia sounds like a very interesting company but…
… a company with sales of 86 million is difficult to believe that can be valued at 1.5 Billion.
Are we mad here? 18 times sales? What would then be the valuation for Endesa? 150 Billion?
Unless you happen to be the proud owner of a bunch of shares, maybe coming from the sale of El Moralejo, in which case you may think the value is whatever. The sky is the limit.
emule on October 10, 2009 ·
toujours enegie renovable!
RamonD on October 12, 2009 ·
I wholeheartedly agree with you that in Spain “business success” carries “envy” and unfortunately it is not recognized by the general public.
However a company that starts with a capital of plus $100 million in equity and is built around a sector highly subsidized – though, we don’t know for how long by the Government – to some degree does not fully meet all the entrepreneurship values we are still missing in Spain. I will rather consider Eolia the result of a great investment decision by a group of smart investors with large capital available that we must all congratulate.
Congratulations to Eolia!
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Xaco on October 8, 2009 ·
Y además toca varios instrumentos. Es lo que tiene ser un genio 😉