Social Point, Wuaki, Trovit, Privalia, Letsbonus ... Successes with a common denominator: Barcelona. The Catalan capital has established itself as one of the hubs of start-ups in Europe and look to the future with optimism. Aim high, although aware that much work remains to be done. The idea, the dream, is to become one of the global referents. At the height of the big ones.
El Mobile World Congress put it back in the center of the planet. The meteoric rebound in the sector in just a decade has not yet exhausted all the potential it has, defend those within. For now there is no roof.
In favor of Barcelona several factors play to get closer to the top. It already has a settled start-up ecosystem, there is local and international talent, it has a robust business fabric, the sector has public support and is competitive in costs. The talent is the key factor. The multiculturalism of Barcelona allows people from all over the world to be hired and operate from here in international markets with people there, without leaving the city.
For those who come on site there are advantages. Input a lower cost of living than in cities with which it competes. And the 'sun and beach' also counts: the mild climate is the great intangible factor. The Mediterranean lifestyle likes outside. But it's not worth it just with that. "If you do not have the necessary ingredients such as talent or economy developed with the other (the intangible) you would not have enough," says Joan Romero, CEO of ACCIÓ, the investment attraction agency of the Generalitat. "But on equal terms you prefer it," he continues.
They are points in favor in the fight to attract investments. Despite this, the first places are still far away. "We already play the world league," says Miquel Martí, CEO of Barcelona Tech City, but clarifies that it is among the 25 first global hubs. And there is a long way to go to the top ten: “If we follow the current line in three or five years we will be in the top fifteen. To get close to ten you have to align many things, ”he acknowledges.
He has nothing to envy to San Francisco
That does not mean that it can be measured face to face with the referents. “He has nothing to envy San Francisco,” says Jacinto Roca, founder of Wuaki.tv, in reference to the cradle of Silicon Valley. Wuaki's is one of the success stories arising from Barcelona. The company was acquired by the Japanese Rakuten in 2012, which has made it its video on demand platform, now operates as Rakuten TV.
Optimism is based on figures. 34% of Spanish start-ups are in Barcelona, in the lead; in 2017 it captured 453 million, the national 58%; and it is the fifth largest European hub and third for attractiveness to founders, according to data collected by Mobile World Capital and the Atomic fund.
It grows year after year: the best show is in the 4YFN, the fair parallel to the mobile fair that was born from the impulse of Mobile World Capital itself and the GSMA.
The impulse of Barcelona Tech City
"Barcelona may end up being a global hub, but there is a lot of work," says Romero. Among the sources consulted, it is agreed, in any case, that there is potential to be. This will contribute a substantial part to the Barcelona Tech City, the public-private impulse cluster that has become a European start-up center of reference. It stands as a lighthouse in the sector: sum 600 associated companies of the digital and technological sector in Barcelona, which in turn already mobilizes 1.200 million annually and employs 30.000 people.
With it, not only has it been possible to “increase competitiveness, investment and knowledge”, in Martí's words, but he has managed to drag the large traditional company. Seat, Gas Natural or CaixaBank have been installed at the headquarters of Pier 01. Giants that are far from the start-up concept, but have managed to fit into their ecosystem.
Despite the growth, pending tasks remain
To reach the top you have to touch perfection. There are several fronts to solve. A legal and fiscal framework “adapted to start-ups” is missing, Martí launches. In addition, boost collaboration with the university and research world, he says. "Let life be facilitated," Romero says.
On the other hand, there is a lack of visibility. Know how to convey successes. Let the world know what is happening in the city. Many of the companies that succeed remain in the background. "There are great entrepreneurs who are sometimes little known," summarizes Roca.
Catalonia has always had an entrepreneurial mindset
“Catalonia has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. We must not be afraid to launch projects ”, abounds Daniel Viniegra, director for Spain in France's Ikomobi, who landed in Barcelona four years ago. A decision that has boosted the business: last year the revenue grew by 200% in the city, which will allow the signature of solutions in the user experience to reach one million in turnover.
Another key factor is that the investment take off. It is still far from US or Asian levels. Capital is more conservative in Europe. “Access to significant amounts of financing is more difficult,” believes Roca. Iñaki Ecenarro matches. In 2014 he sold Next his company, Trovit, emerged in Barcelona, for 80 millions of successes. Another success He asks to set foot on the ground: "There is a lack of important success ... A few Spotify or Zalando," he says with his eyes on Europe.
Even so, it is positive for the future. Trust the next generation, which has seen that in Barcelona you can succeed. Perhaps from there comes the technological 'ball' that drives the city to the fullest. Everything adds up in the race to be on top of world hubs.