The best teams in the last three Explorer programmes went on the “Explorer Trip”, a week-long immersion at the European Innovation Academy (EIA) in Porto, Portugal.
At Santander, we promote entrepreneurial spirit from university on. And we’ve been doing it with the Explorer programme for 13 years, enabling young people to develop a business idea into a viable business project. For 12 weeks, participants connect with an international community of entrepreneurs and pick up the skills they need to transform their project into a sustainable, practicable solution.
The programme's grand finale is the “Explorer Trip”. Teams selected from the countries participating in the programme undergo high-performance training. And this time, the base camp was the European Innovation Academy’s (EIA) hub in Porto, Portugal.
A great experience in Porto
This year’s Explorer Trip began with a reception at the Santander Group City in Madrid, Spain. The "Explorers” immersed themselves further in the programme, meeting with entrepreneurs from several countries and learning every way Santander X can help them take their business to the next level. They discovered initiatives like Santander X 100, an exclusive, global Santander X community of entrepreneurs that supports the most successful startups and scaleups in Santander X programmes and challenges, with networking and the resources they need to grow. Well before arriving in Porto, some 150 participants from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Spain and Portugal had already been testing their skills in something the Explorer programme strongly encourages from start to finish: networking.
Grecia Pérez, whose project, Ellas Artes, competed in the 2021 Explorer programme, affirms “everyone is very kind with giving feedback. All the time, you get new ideas [and] new information that really helps your project. People who want to change the world are forming a community”.
In Porto, the Explorers had their own special rooms to work on their ideas, applying the skills they learned from mentors and in talks with guest experts in a range of fields: Kristina McMenamin talked about tools to attract clientèle. Gilles de Clerk taught techniques for landing pages. And Ricardo Marvão and freshmen entrepreneurs shared lessons learned from creating startups.
On the last day at the EIA, each participant set up a stand with a desk, a poster with easy-to-understand points about their idea. This “Entrepreneurship Fair” put their new skills to the test, especially in networking.
The week ended with a “shark tank” contest. The pitches with the most votes moved on to the final. On the “sharks” panel were Diego Calascibetta, global head of Entrepreneurship at Santander Universities; Andrea Sánchez, a Santander X manager; Santander X 100 members Mateo Salvatto, founder of Asteroid Technologies (maker of the Háblalo app), and David Conde, CEO and co-founder of Coinscrap; and Explorer alums Esther Pina, founder of Secret Sound, and Clara Carreira, creator of Besus.
The pitch the sharks picked to win was Light Pills, by Helena Arias and Dorothy Ann Van Der Ent, from Spain's Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. “Light Pills makes a sustainable bottle cap with two LED bulbs. It can turn a bottle into a light bulb and purify the water inside. It’s ideal for remote areas with no light or water. I think a programme like this gives us the push we need to start up a business and really believe in ourselves”, says Helena.
Santander X’s many initiatives for Explorers and other young entrepreneurs will help them throughout their startup career. Being in Santander X means being part of a respected community of entrepreneurs that provides us with lots of tools to grow our businesses faster”, says David Conde. Mateo Salvatto adds, “To have been in Santander X and won the global and national prizes not only is an honour and [a chance] to build on [it], but also makes a huge difference: investors, new customers... The community and education you get marks a turning point”. The road can be long; but both agree that no matter the hard work and long hours, the journey will fly by, says Salvatto, if “we learn to love the problem more than the solution”.
The Santander International Entrepreneurship Centre (CISE) aids the bank in running this entrepreneurship programme.