Alejandro Betancourt López is a perfect example of showing how with hard work, the right niche, the right people, and maybe some foresight can all combine to lead to success, no matter the product or service you’re selling.
Over the years, he’s found ways to do well in everything from banks to oil to nuclear power. But his most recent accomplishments have come in the form of Hawkers Sunglasses and Auro Travel, a ride-share service in Spain.
Within just a few years, both of these ventures have disrupted traditional models for eyewear and for transportation. Have sunglasses, will travel: Both businesses are profitable, with respective consumers of the brands raving over their new accessory or ease of getting around Auro Travel’s homebase of Spain.
Alejandro Betancourt López is also satisfied with the growth of these ventures but is always looking ahead for future projects he can invest in.
Today, his net worth is around $2.6 billion. While some successful entrepreneurs might use this level of success and prosperity as an opportunity to stop working and start taking it easy, Betancourt López shows no signs of slowing down and advises entrepreneurs to not rest on their laurels, either.
“The most important thing is that they have drive, that they are workaholics, that they believe in what they’re doing and that they don’t see problems but solutions,” Alejandro Betancourt López said in a recent interview. “That’s the most important part, that people get behind the issues and understand right away what could be the potential solution, because that keeps the drive going.”
Alejandro Betancourt López’s Career in Rewind
Alejandro Betancourt López is a native of Venezuela.
He studied business and finance in the United States and returned to his home country. Right away, he looked for opportunities to help people, especially through capital and infrastructure projects.
These efforts started by creating an oil company, then developing an internet service provider, then creating a bank. Next came a company created with a goal of bringing thermonuclear power to the country.
This successful venture provided hundreds of jobs during the development of the infrastructure, which included 11 power plants. It also was able to provide affordable power to more than 70,000 homes and businesses, even in remote areas.
He soon learned that he enjoyed the experience of helping something grow, and now he had the funds to further contribute to a project’s success.
He began looking worldwide for other ventures to get involved in, and found Hawkers.
A Bird’s-Eye View of Hawkers
Hawkers Sunglasses was started by four college students from Spain who felt the world needed a style of sunglasses that was good quality but not overly expensive. They initially bought $300 worth of a U.S. brand they liked, which sold quickly.
This was repeated a few times until they decided to manufacture their own.
Part of the early approach of Hawkers Sunglasses was to avoid traditional retail outlets like shops, and focus instead on online orders. Traditional advertising was also minimized; instead, the company focused on social media as well as partnerships with celebrities and college students. The interchangeable lenses also made it easy to accessorize the sunnies with an #OOTD.
Even though the company was seeing decent sales, it was having larger cash flow problems. That’s where Alejandro Betancourt López came in.
He liked the idea of a less-expensive, but good-quality pair of sunglasses, and recognized that the founders were great at promotions but needed help with business. At first, he offered investment funds, but then offered his business skills to not only stabilize Hawkers, but make it bigger and better. He’s now a majority shareholder as well as company president.
In its first three years, Hawkers sold 2 million pairs of glasses and earned 70 million euros (about $74 billion). The next year, profits and sales doubled, and more capital was raised in another round of funding,
“When I joined Hawkers, we were a company of 40 people, and today we employ more than 500 people,” he said. “We have grown, not only in countries and presence in different jurisdictions, but also in the amount of people and families we employ, and we provide services to.”
COVID slowed things down for Hawkers, since many people refrained from buying new sunglasses when they were stuck inside. But now that the lockdowns are lifted, people are excited to explore the world again — and protect their eyes while looking good.
“The sunglass division came back with force, and we are breaking records every week on our growth and our revenues,” he said. “That means that not only is the brand stronger than ever, but there’s a big demand and appetite for our consumers and customers to get our products.”
Auro Travel: Betancourt López Births a New Ride-Share Giant
After disrupting the eyeglasses market, Alejandro Betancourt López looked for other areas where there was potential for growth.
He saw how ride-share services like Uber were catching on in the U.S., including providing employment and a viable alternative to taxis or public transportation. He figured out how to offer something similar in Spain.
But there were challenges: The Spanish government wanted to regulate drivers, and only offered a certain number of licenses per area. This differed from the U.S., which had few restrictions on where drivers could operate.
Alejandro Betancourt López anticipated the regulations and worked to gain a majority of the licenses for Auro Travel. The company also developed an interactive mobile app that allows riders to request rides and plan routes. Good thing, because the early bird gets the worm.
“We had the view or the vision before it happened, and we acquired these licenses before the market consolidated, and that gave us a differentiation from competitors because they had to arrive and then the cost of entry or the barriers of entry were much higher for them because they were late in the game,” he said. “To go on a step further, we built infrastructure, formed the people that were drivers, and created a kind of ecosystem around the service providers that put us in a very, very differentiated position.”
Auro Travel is looking into ways to expand into other countries, especially Western Europe, but each company will have its own regulatory environment to navigate.
What’s Next for Alejandro Betancourt López?
As a visionary with a strong track record, Alejandro Betancourt López continues to look ahead for future opportunities as well as ways to improve the products and services already being offered through Hawkers Sunglasses and Auro Travel.
His factoring artificial intelligence into the equation is likely, he hints.
“All of these tools are constantly evolving, and we have a huge team working on that,” he said. “That makes us one of the pioneers in being able to take advantage of the different tools that can be built based on AI, from logistics, to shipping, to customer service, to virtual try-on, to all the different segments where our company is interacting with, and our customers are interacting with us.”