Jacob Benbunan, founder and CEO of the prestigious Saffron Brand Consultants, was faced with a none-too-easy but extremely exciting challenge: realising the dream of one of the most highly internationally acclaimed Spanish scientists, the paleoanthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga.
Meeting for the first time in Madrid, the conversation between Juan Luis and Jacob flowed easily, enthusiastically addressing varied absorbing topics from igloos, to Ukrainian bison and human beings. The latter being an area of great interest to both men, and one which each of them studies in totally different fields. “I´m a humanist, as my work and research is always focused on human beings”, Arsuaga said. In turn, Jacob is a great advocate of user-centric design: the most important factor in his work is the end user, or in other words, human beings.
This thrilling exchange of ideas led Juan Luis to the concept of the biology which would later become the name of his dream: the limiting factor. “A limiting factor – as he explained to us – is an element or condition which determines and limits the development and evolution of a process, and without which the life of a human being would not be possible under certain circumstances”. To cite a very simple example, warm clothing in Siberia is a limiting factor, due to the fact human beings would not survive in those surroundings without it.
Moreover, while Juan Luis was explaining this concept to us, he was taking us one step closer to his dream, until he revealed it completely: he would like to have a wooden cabin containing just the necessary basic things (or limiting factors) to enable a person to spend a weekend there in the hills, enjoying nature.
Juan Luis Arsuaga is a Spanish paleoanthropologist. He obtained an MSc and PhD in Biological Sciences at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where he is a professor in the Palaeontology Department of the Faculty of Geological Sciences. As a child he showed a great interest in prehistory after reading Quest for Fire and visiting an archeological dig in nearby Bilbao.
He is a visiting professor of the Department of Anthropology at the University College of London and since 1982 and Director of the Museum of the Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain. He has also been a co-director of the Atapuerca Team since 1991, which was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Scientific and Technical Research and the Castilla León Prize for the Social Sciences and Humanities, both in 1997. The finds at Atapuerca have shed new light on the first humans in Europe. In 2013, Arsuaga co-authored a paper which reported the finding of the oldest human DNA ever, dating back 900,000 years.
A member of the Musée de l’Homme from Paris, of the International Association for the Study of Human Paleontology, he is vice-president of the Commission of Human Paleontology and Paleoecology of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA). He has been a lecturer at the universities of London, Cambridge, Zurich, Rome, Arizona, Philadelphia, Berkeley, New York and Tel Aviv, among others.
He has authored and/or published several scientific publications including Nature, Science, the Journal of Archaeological Science, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and the Journal of Human Evolution.
As co-founder and CEO at Saffron, Jacob champions the global, multi-cultural, and one-team approach that the company has embraced since its beginnings. For over twenty years he has led branding programmes across the globe, for business leaders such as A1 Telekom Austria, Vueling, Bankinter, Swiss Re, Raiffeisen, Turkcell, El Banco Deuno or Litro. Clients appreciate his relentlessly focused driven and passionate nature.
Prior to his time at Saffron, he was part of the team at Wolff Olins that created Orange in 1995 and Repsol in Spain and led the creation of Ono. It was here he met Wally and started what was to become a lifelong partnership and friendship.
Fluent in English, French and Spanish, Jacob is frequently invited to talk and comment in the media on issues related to branding and identity – and was the first Spanish member of the Cannes Lions Design Jury in 2012. Jacob has a fondness for Havana cigars and is an ardent supporter of Real Madrid. He is married and has three children.