As the Founder and Chairman of the Aston Group, a Private Equity group with a strong focus on
real estate and significant investments in technology and green energy, Manuel Barreiro
Castañeda started his journey in the field of real estate more than 15 years ago. Since the start of
Aston Group in 2007, today he has reached a significant investment of over US$1 billion. His
investments are spread in the Americas and European continent, with offices in Mexico, Spain,
France, Switzerland, Austria and the United States.
Manuel’s passion has been real estate from a young age. Since he was first introduced to this
world, he always strived to see how best one could ensure the creation of cities and
communities where the environment could positively impact the lives of those living in it.
Throughout his career and studies, he focused on understanding the interrelations between
sustainability, smart mobility and todays real estate sphere. He has dedicated much of his time
in discovering and supporting new technologies that allow for better and smarter cities to be
created, globally and in his native country of Mexico.
Mr Barreiro Castañeda believes in the saying “think global, act local”. He feels that change starts at home and positive impact can only be achieved through education and the collective advancement of the global population. This is why he founded the Aston Barreiro-Ugalde Foundation, an organization established to support education and sustainability in Mexico, committed to improving the quality of life of Mexicans.
Throughout his work both in business and philanthropy, Manuel understood that two key
elements needed to be present in order to impact society: education and a positive attitude. He
believed that educating the next generation in practical skills, hand in hand with theory and
critical thinking was important to ensure that a positive attitude towards the future would be
created. This positive thinking of the next generations would allow for the development of
creativity, which is one of the core processes when it comes to innovating through technology.
The Aston Barreiro-Ugalde Foundation was the outcome of his thinking, with the desire to allow
those from humble backgrounds, to be able to share their ideas, desires and solutions for a
better future for all. Diversity in participation but most importantly thinking, as well as creating
an inclusive environment are some of the driving principles behind his work. “There cannot be
an inclusive society that caters to all, without keeping in mind all the concerned and affected
actors”, says Manuel, when asked about the topic. “It is just like in real estate. You cannot create
a building that will only allow some to access it and not others”.
During his many years in Asia, more precisely Japan, Mr Barreiro Castañeda understood how
respecting the environment and using what nature has created, same as the famous architect
Gaudi did, is an asset in itself that many have not capitalized upon. The creation of smart cities
in Mexico cannot be purely a copy paste of what is happening elsewhere. In his opinion Mexico
will come up with its own model of what a smart city should look like in the country. One that
allows for Mexicans to be the beneficiaries of it, one that allows for culture and customs to be
taken into consideration, and a model that is created by Mexicans for Mexicans.
Changing mindsets is the primary goal of both Aston Group and the Foundation. Money is just
part of the equation but it has never been the driver for Mr Barreiro Castañeda or his team.
Through efficient management, lean structures and giving high levels of responsibility, Manuel
has ensured that the team is committed to positively impacting the Mexican society, starting
with smart cities and going beyond. When visiting his offices one can see the incredible passion
that each member of the team has for what they do, in both business and philanthropy. The
Aston Group has already made its commitment of local positive impact a reality, given its flat
structure, open door policy, employee incentives, but always keeping a very strict excellence
when it comes to delivering it to clients.
When looking towards the future, the long terms goals are to move the smart mobility model in
Mexico to the next level. A model that will truly allow citizens of all ages and accessibility levels
to benefit from the cities and villages they live in. “Why stop at smart cities, says Manuel, when
we can go further and work on smart villages”. His local commitment to positive impact is seen
on his daily commutes where he switches from taking his care to being on a bicycle or
prioritizing public transportation whenever he can. “Of course it is not always easy to do so,
especially in a hot weather being on your bike, but we must always think on what can I do for
my city and how can I positively impact it further” says Mr Barreiro Castañeda.
He has been lucky in his life, starting from a humble background, with incredibly supportive
parents who sacrificed to allow him to make the positive impact that he is making today in the
world. He recalls the many mentors that he has had who have guided him towards the right
path of putting the interest of society first, before his own. “Doing what is best for the greater
good is also good for business”, says Manuel. Indeed, his success in the business world has
shown that putting the needs of the community first when it comes to real estate, mobility and
technology has proven to allow him to flourish to.