My favorite city is: Kyoto My celebrity crush is: Jacob Elordi
Empowering creatives to express themselves authentically
UNRAVELING THE CHALLENGE. As a teenager, Alfonso Cobo looked up to many successful entrepreneurs, listening to their stories and absorbing their advice via podcasts and YouTube videos. Though fascinated by the startup world, he didn't see himself becoming an entrepreneur. "Even though they were people I admired, I never saw myself reflected in those founders. There was a very bro-ish attitude, and because I wasn't like that, I felt that maybe it wasn't for me."
As such, when it came to launching his own business, Alfonso approached things a little differently. His company, Unfold, is an app that helps users elevate their social content with its toolkit of stylish, easy-to-use templates. When establishing the platform in 2018, he decided to bootstrap from the start. "When it came to raising funds, I never wanted to play that Silicon Valley game. It was extremely tough, but it helped me prioritize the most important things: listening to our users and building the necessary tools from the start."
The approach saw Unfold take off quickly. The app has had over 60 million downloads, and in a little over a year, in 2019, it was acquired by Squarespace. But while the trajectory of Alfonso's success has been fast, he's mindful about maintaining perspective. "From the outside, you can define me as a very successful guy, the classic American dream: an immigrant who founded a company, sold it, and now has a good life.”
"You get all these awards, but they don't really mean anything - most of the time, they serve to feed your ego. Ultimately, I think what makes you happy is being content with your life and the people around you. It's not about external validation or money; it's about something much more intrinsic. I think I'm still on a journey to figure out what that means for me."
Alfonso was born in the Canary Islands and spent much of his childhood in Madrid before moving to the UK at 17 to study architecture. After a brief spell working as an architectural designer ("I wasn't that passionate about the industry as a whole"), a move to New York after getting a scholarship to Parsons School of Design propelled him towards entrepreneurship. "One thing I immediately appreciated in New York was that they believe in young people and what they can add to society. Even though I love Spain, they don't root for young people as much."
UPLIFTING UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES. Alfonso credits part of Unfold's success to a professor at Parsons, Erin Hersey, who armed him with the necessary tools to understand user behavior, navigate uncertainty, and collaborate with peers effectively. Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community has also been hugely impactful on his startup journey. Following the success of Unfold, he wants to ensure he gives back by uplifting marginalized voices. "I don't think I'd have had this success if it wasn't for being a part of the community.”
"There's so much work to be done to uplift trans folks and LGBTQIA+ people of color. We have to acknowledge that they don't have the same chances yet, and for us to create safe spaces and help them get that seat at the table is very important."
Five years after launching Unfold, which continues to evolve in its rolling out of new tools, only now is Alfonso starting to reflect on his incredible success. "I come from a small place in Spain, and my family didn't have much. The contrast of that and having made it in New York City and living a good life, it's crazy how in just one generation you can change things and achieve the dreams that maybe you never thought were possible as a little kid."