Irene Gómez, CEO and open innovation director at Wayra, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

Irene Gomez Powerlist 2024

“The highlight of the past year has been building our investment portfolio,” says Irene Gómez, the CEO at Wayra, the corporate venture capital and innovation hub of Spain-based telecommunications company Telefónica.

“Also, our work around CVC-as-a-service, which means we are managing two internal funds for Telefónica.”

Wayra tends to make small investments in mainly seed to series A startups. In the past year, Wayra made 36 deals throughout the UK, Spain, Brazil, Hispam and Germany, amounting to $8.2m in total, says Gómez.

She says that investments are always strategic to help support the parent company and promote innovation.

“Wayra invests in tickets from €50,000 to €5m, taking minority stakes in those realms. We also invest in third-party funds, and we have invested in 14 today,” says Gómez.

Since Wayra was founded in 2011, the unit has invested in more than 1,100 companies, and currently has more than 530 active companies in its portfolio. These include sales commissions platform Remuner and online payment gateway Uelz.

The CVC has around 90 people in its team across 10 countries. Gómez is particularly proud of the number of women who work in the unit. “Fifty-one percent of the people in my team are women and I am very proud of that,” she says.

Gómez says that the size of Wayra’s investment team has made it easier to survive the market conditions over the past couple of years. “We are a huge CVC that has a strong mental clarity and approach,” she says.

The investment unit’s evergreen structure has also given it resilience. “As an evergreen we have the capacity to reduce our investment activity or increase it. So, I think we are at an advantage to be more resilient in the difficult market conditions.”

Gómez believes that healthcare IT shows strong signs of being a strong future growth trend. “Healthcare is a sector that is seeing the most growth because it is capitalising the abundance of generative AI most rapidly,” Gómez says. “It is integrating AI and machine learning, as we see a lot of things around diagnostic and treatment processes to enhance the efficiency of healthcare services.”

Gómez also says she is noticing an integration of AI technology in the mental health and anti-ageing technology sectors.

Gómez has been Wayra’s CEO for more than four years and says that being in a leadership role is fulfilling, but also poses many challenges, especially with finding a balance between corporates and startups.

“I need to provide the overall direction to the team. The challenge is to find the balance point between the response rate, strategy and needs of the corporation and finding the right startups. At the same time, the startups allow us to have a financially attractive portfolio with profitability at the same level of the VC market,” says Gómez.

Since Wayra was founded in 2011, the unit has invested in more than 1,100 companies, and currently has more than 530 active companies in its portfolio.

In order to thrive in the CVC ecosystem, Gómez says you must take advantage of what the ecosystem has to offer. “Do not reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of everything that has been built so far. Take advantage of a lot of platforms that others  have built,” she says.

It is also important to have patience. “Have a long-term vision, but at the same time be able to deliver in the short term,” she says.

Gómez has more than 15 years of experience in the field of product management and innovation in the areas of cybersecurity and AI applied to user experience.

She began her career at Telefónica at the company’s infrastructure management and IT services subsidiary Telefónica Soluciones Outsourcing in 2006 as an IT project manager. Gómez later moved to the parent company holding various positions, including digital product director.

Gómez has a double degree in telecommunications engineering and telematics from Ramon Llull University. She also holds a master’s in lean startup and design.