8 June 2021


International Webinar IV: Disruption and challenges: Israel Ruiz’s vital guide, from MIT to WoHo | By ACCIÓ

8 June 2021

Date: 27/05/2021


Oriol Sans – Senior Manager de Startups

Take Aways
  • The key to the success of the MIT university model lies in stable governance and financial independence.
  • There is always reluctance to innovation, even at MIT.
  • EdX was born not to waste a crisis, its model of online courses allows access to all types of students without barriers of cost or location.
  • Certifications are, for now, one of the main barriers to the paradigm shift in education.
  • Software changes the transactional side, hardware changes the industry. A company’s success is measured in its long-term impact.



Israel Ruiz – Co-founder & CEO WoHo

Miquel Martí – CEO de Barcelona Tech City



“In life, you meet people who give you opportunities: surely I was in the right place at the right time”, this is how Israel Ruiz explains his career: from a boy from the Santa Eulalia neighbourhood in Hospitalet to executive and financial vice-president of MIT, one of the most prestigious academic and technological institutions in the world. Ruiz spoke with Miquel Martí, CEO of Barcelona Tech City, and Oriol Sans, Senior Manager of startups at ACCIÓ, in a new session of the International Webinar.

“I wanted to go to MIT to learn, enjoy and then go to the West Coast, then the dream was to go to HP”. Israel Ruiz, after studying engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), got a scholarship from La Caixa and crossed the Atlantic to Boston. When his scholarship ran out as a student, he was able to stay on as a worker. Ruiz speaks of the value of meritocracy, of people over organisations.


Achieve excellence

After the Second World War, MIT established itself as the reference model for a research university. “You have to have governing bodies that allow it. To get the best individuals and guarantee the autonomy of researchers,” Ruiz explains. For this reason, he acknowledges, MIT is a very difficult model to replicate: it achieves excellence in all the disciplines where it decides to be. “It’s a decision. Be where you can be the best, where you have a competitive advantage”. In his opinion, the key to the success of university models is based on stable governance and economic independence; it is what makes it possible to achieve excellence. “And that is easy to say, but very difficult to implement because it has political, personal and financial costs that have to be absorbed,” he says.


Change of the educational paradigm

Ruiz speaks of his good friend and fellow citizen of Hospitalet, Ferran Adrià, as an example of someone who understands like no one else the importance of seeing the whole story before and beyond the facts. He mentions him to explain the genesis of the digitalisation project edX, a consortium of MIT, Harvard, and up to 160 companies and institutions. Ruiz goes back to 2001, to MIT’s initiative to create Open Coursware. This project gave free and open access to its official course materials, with all the academic, technical and legal hurdles involved. Over time, the content became richer, a coalition of institutions was created to cover more disciplines – with the leadership of MIT and Harvard – and the non-profit vision was guaranteed to be maintained. Another formula for success: “both the platform and the content are revolutionary”.


New challenge in the construction sector: WoHo

Ruiz is now immersed in a new project: WoHo, a construction industrialisation company, which makes it possible to manufacture high quality, low-cost, high-rise housing. Construction is one of the sectors in the world where productivity has improved the least in recent years, and there is still a long way to go. WoHo is in the pilot phase and plans to start building soon in the United States. “When we talk about proptech, we often talk about transactions or marketplaces, but software does not solve the need to create millions of new homes”, in this sense, Ruiz is convinced that “there is a new development solution. There are many proposals in the pipeline, although none of them is a winner.

The market is immense, and Ruiz is clear that the measure of success will be the number of units that can be built, and at what speed. “But above all, success will be less about the company and more about the long-term impact it makes. Again, the MIT values.


This online session is part of the programme of activities co-organised with ACCIÓ.