Meet the 17 year old digital entrepreneur who will advise Neelie Kroes

This kind of tweet has a way of attracting our attention: a 17 year old who is chosen as a ‘Young Adviser’ to the vice president of the European Commission, aka the ‘digital chief’ of Europe, Neelie Kroes. (You can read about the Young Advisers here).

Luis Ivan Cuende was born in Oviedo (the north of Spain) and started out as an entrepreneur at age 12, when he built an open source operating system. That, inevitably, led to media attention, and from then on, one thing kind of led to another.

Now, at age 17, he is the founder of three companies, and winner of last year’s HackNow competition, organised by HackFwd (Lars Hinrichs‘ accelerator). Whiteboard interviewed Luis Ivàn about his life as an entrepreneur:

Luis: It was not necessarily my plan in life to become an entrepreneur, but when I was 12, I was bored by school and had a lot of free time. So I started trying out some free software and many months later I figured out that I really liked software.”

“I learnt how to code and started my first project, Asturix – a free software operating system based on Linux. People wanted to join the project so next, I had to learn project management skills. Then I figured out that I loved that. And then I browsed a lot about entrepreneurship and eventually things worked out, I suppose. ”

Q: Asturix is a free, collaborative OS. Isn’t rule number one about entrepreneurship that ‘free is not a business model’?

Luis (laughs): Yes, but when I started Asturix I didn’t have any idea what a business model was, so I didn’t care about it. That was a big fail . Two years later, when I had become kinda famous in Spain, a company called me to develop its web app. And then I thought: “OK, I have a team of talented people to do it, so if this company wants to pay me money… let’s do this!”.

“I started with the OS because I wanted to really get a deep understanding of how a computer works. Also, I’m against proprietary software, Windows sucks, and most of the other Linux OSs have a horrible user interface.”

Q: And how did all that land you a spot as Young Adviser to Neelie Kroes?

I met Neelie last year, at Campus Party Europe, in Berlin. I was a speaker at the event – I really love Campus Party and I have a deep relationship with them. Neelie was visiting the event – not the whole event, but four spots, and mine was one of them. So I shared some seconds with her, and she invited me to take lunch with her and other young innovators. Then I had to apply for the group, and later I was chosen.

Neelie is one of the most disruptive politicians I have ever met. It’s easy to understand why she is that way! She has an awesome group of disruptive people to advise her. So that’s my role. It’s to give my best to this awesome group so we can give her and her staff the most young and fresh vision we can, to build a better Europe.

Neelie Kroes, with her bunch of Young Advisers (in Feb. 2012)

Q: What will you tell the European Commission?

Lots of things! My contributions will be focused on the use of technology and entrepreneurship to improve our society and economy. And also I will talk a lot about free software. Last but not least, I wanna talk about the underage rights – we’re not treated as normal citizens, and we should.

Q: We recently did a few stories about Spanish entrepreneurs – but how does it feel on the ground?

Luis: Well, it’s clear that Spain is not living its finest hour… more than 50% of the youth are unemployed, and more than 25% of the population is. But I do think there’s progress on the entrepreneurial side. More and more startups are being started. The problem is that most of the Spanish startups are not disruptive at all. They imitate models of successful startups, and I think they are losing the point of what innovation is.”

“I don’t wanna only talk about startups, but also about the concept of being an entrepreneur in Spain. Spain’s educational model is really outdated, so instead of empowering entrepreneurship, creativity and inspiration, it’s empowering memorization of things you can find on the Internet. If we continue that way, this is gonna crash really soon.”

Q: Who are your (entrepreneurial and other) heroes?

Luis: Elon Musk, definitely. He’s a truly innovator and executor. He’s a visionary. The kind of person that erases the line that divides possible from impossible.

I also deeply admire the free software hero Jon “Maddog” Hall, the entrepreneurs Lars Hinrichs and Paco Ragageles, other Spanish young entrepreneurs like Javier Agüera and Pep Gómez – but there’s lots of people that inspire me.

See Luis at HackNow:

Q: You say you hate to waste time – you’ll give a lecture about that very subject at the IE Business School next week – do you have any great time saving lifehacks to share?

Luis: Sleep. Seriously, sleep in the night or, if you can’t sleep what your body requires during the night, take a siesta! This will make you more productive and happier. Also, now I focus on doing what I want to do. It’s like emotional prioritization. I don’t reply the most important email the first, but the one I want more to reply. That way, in the long term, my life will be full of things I enjoy doing instead of being full of things I don’t.”

You can meet Luis Ivan at the IE Entrepreneurship Club in Madrid next week.

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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