Martín Varsavsky

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Martín Varsavsky
Martin Varsavsky 2009b.jpg
Varsavsky in 2009
Born Buenos Aires, Argentine.
Residence Madrid, Spain
Other names martinvars
Alma mater New York University
Columbia University
Occupation Entrepreneur
Awards see below

Martín Varsavsky (born in Buenos Aires in 1960) is an Argentine entrepreneur based in Spain.

Born to Carlos Varsavsky and Silvia Waisman-Diamond, Varsavsky attended primary school at the New Model School and the Colegio Nicolás Avellaneda high school.

At the age of 16, he moved with his family to the United States as a refugee supported and assisted by B'nai B'rith, following the forced disappearance of his cousin, David Horacio Varsavsky. In 1981 he obtained a BA at the New York University, in 1983 he earned an MA in International Affairs from Columbia University and in 1985 an MBA at Columbia Business School.[1]

Since July 1995, Varsavsky has been living in Madrid, Spain. Besides his business activities, he is also engaged in non profit activities.

From 1999 to 2011 Varsavsky taught courses on entrepreneurship at IE Business School (formerly Instituto de Empresa) in Spain. He has written articles on business and international relations that have been published in several international publications including El País, Newsweek, El Mundo (Spain) and The Huffington Post and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world.[2][3][4] Varsavsky is also an active blogger and contributor to the LinkedIn Influencers Program, where he is positioned as a thought leader on entrepreneurship and technology.[5]

Martin Varsavsky married Nina Wiegand on July 22, 2009, in Hawaii. He has 6 children.

In 2012 Varsavsky began teaching entrepreneurship at Columbia University in New York City.

Entrepreneurial activities[edit]

In 1984, at the age of 24 and still in college, Varsavsky created Urban Capital Corporation, a real estate company in New York that was one of the early developers in the Loft Movement. Urban Capital Corporation purchased industrial buildings and recycled them into residential apartments and offices, developing up to 50 thousand square meters in the Soho and Tribeca neighborhoods of New York City.

In 1986, together with Argentine scientist Claudio Cuello and César Milstein (Medical Science Nobel Prize), Varsavsky founded Medicorp Sciences, a biotechnology company in which he is still a shareholder. Based in Montreal, Medicorp Sciences pioneered the development of HIV and PSA tests.

Since the late 1980s Martín Varsavsky has founded seven companies, including Viatel, Jazztel, EINSTEINet and – all part of the telecommunications and new media industry.

In 1991, Varsavsky ventured into the telecommunications sector with Viatel. Viatel developed a call-back service, an innovative alternative to the high costs of traditional long-distance operators, similar to Econophone (later renamed Destia Inc). Viatel evolved from providing a call-back service in Colorado to becoming an alternative telecom services provider in several European countries (such as France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom). In 1994, Viatel went public, and four years later (1998)Varsavsky sold his Viatel shares to dedicate himself to other ventures. After the TMT-bubble burst in 2000-2001, Viatel Inc. filed for bankruptcy (Chapter 11) in May 2001. Investors, both shareholders and bondholders, lost US$ 1.5 billion - US$ 2 billion. Since then, the (much smaller) restart of Viatel, based in London, operates a fibre-optic circuit, connecting more than 50 strategically situated points from Western Europe to the US East Coast's largest cities.

In 1997, Varsavsky founded Jazztel Telecommunications PLC (Jazz), an alternative telecommunications access provider in the Iberian Peninsula. Headquartered in Madrid and with its own infrastructure, the company became a leading telecommunications alternative operator offering bandwidth solutions for the residential and commercial markets, competing with Telefónica. Jazztel PLC went public (IPO) in December 1999.

In 1999, Varsavsky created Internet Factory, Spain's third largest internet web site/DSL provider that also includes the second largest Spanish language online travel agency, was owned by Jazztel (70%), Martín Varsavsky (10%) and the company's' staff (20%). It was sold in 2000 to T-Online International, Deutsche Telekom's Internet subsidiary for 800 $m.

In 2000, Martín Varsavsky created EINSTEINet AG, an application service provider (ASP) in Germany. Einsteinet was a company built on the premise that most applications were going to migrate from people's PCs to the internet. Yet the EINSTEINet did not materialize and the company was sold saving the employees jobs but providing no financial returns.

Varsavsky's current venture is called FON. Founded at the end of 2005, Fon is a community-driven company dedicated to building the world's largest global WiFi community, spreading the power of WiFi around the world through an innovative user-generated infrastructure. Headquartered in Madrid, Fon is backed by its equity investors and partners Google, Skype, Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital to WiFi enable the planet.

In 2012, Fon's WiFi network reached over 7 million hotspots around the world.

Currently, Varsavsky also acts as an investment partner in various early stage companies including Gspace, Joost, Menéame, Netvibes, / Plazes, Technorati,, Wikio, XING, Dopplr, sevenload, Vuze, Tumblr, Hipertextual, Busuu, rdio, Spotnik, 23andMe, MUBI, Sonico, fring, result and Index Ventures. Outside of the telecommunications sector, he is the majority shareholder of the wind park El Moralejo (a renewable energy generator) and Proesa, owner of the fashion labels Sybilla and Jocomomola.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • World Technology (2006)
  • Pickering, Columbia University (2003)
  • Spanish Entrepreneur of the Year, iBest (2000)
  • Global Leader for Tomorrow, World Economic Forum (2000)
  • European Entrepreneur of the Year, ECTA (1999)
  • European Entrepreneur in Telecommunications (1998)
  • Entrepreneur of the Year, New York City (1995)

Philanthropic activities[edit]

Martín Varsavsky with Koji Omi at STS in Kyoto.

Martín Varsavsky is founder and president of the Varsavsky Foundation, devoted to improving the educational conditions in the world. The foundation promotes (Argentina) and EducarChile (Chile), aiming to democratize and modernize the educational systems in both countries.

He is also founder and president of the Safe Democracy Foundation, devoted to contributing to the ongoing debates on the leading questions in international affairs with innovative ideas and solutions. The foundation’s goal is to promote fair, transparent and safe democracies.

The Safe Democracy Foundation and the Club of Madrid organized the Atocha Workshop in March 2005 and the international Summit on Terrorism, Democracy and Security. The Secretary General of the United Nations and numerous heads of State met in Madrid to analyze how democracies should protect themselves against terrorism in a more effective way without compromising the spirit and safeguards of democracy.

Varsavsky is on the Board of Trustees of the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and the One Voice Foundation.


External links[edit]