Investment Director at Miura Partners
Corporate and M&A Lawyer at FILS
Corporate Development Associate at Glovo
Head of Unit a Semrush
Durante los últimos 20 años Barcelona se ha posicionado como una de las ciudades líderes en emprendimiento. Hoy Barcelona se enfrenta a nuevos retos y oportunidades para evolucionar su modelo de éxito
When one thinks of Barcelona, it is not only sun, gastronomy, and quality of life that come to mind but successful businesses, such as those started by Joan Batlló and Ferran Fabra i Puig in the textile industry, or by Marc Viader (Cacaolat), Jaume Santiveri, Isaac Carasso (Danone) and Santiago Daurella (Coca Cola) in the food industry.
The restless Catalan spirit of enterprise has built on these foundations and Barcelona is now a leading center for innovative startups in the world, ranked 3rd in Europe in the Startup Heatmap study. What has happened in the last 20 years to make Barcelona a world leader today?
First, it’s worth reminding oneself of the numerous recent examples of success, of companies that have been founded, scaled up, and consolidated in Barcelona. They include unicorns such as eDreams, Wallbox, Glovo, Travelperk, and more recently, Factorial, and other successful businesses such as Social Point, Atrapalo and Fractus. All of them have helped to attract investment and generate an increasingly mature private equity and venture capital ecosystem involving major companies like Inveready, Nauta Capital, CaixaBank Capital Risc and Sabadell Venture Capital.
Secondly, the institutionalisation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem with the creation of public and private organisations such as Barcelona Activa, Barcelona Global and Tech Barcelona have helped the development of new business initiatives. Barcelona Activa, Barcelona Global and Tech Barcelona han ayudado al desarrollo de nuevas iniciativas empresariales.
While it is true that there are plenty of reasons to celebrate what has been achieved in recent years, there is still a long way to go.
Un informe reciente (Mapping Spain’s Tech Sector) reza que solo el 20% de las startups fundadas en España entre 2017 y 2021 ha logrado escalar. Si Barcelona quiere conseguir mejorar estas estadísticas debería centrarse en tres ejes de trabajo: talento, financiación y mentalidad.
Talent: it's not just about attracting talent, but retaining it as well
Talent is essential for growth. We all agree that Barcelona has prestigious universities and highly-trained talent in technology, but a lack of fiscal incentives has meant that many talented professionals have sought other destinations in which to start their businesses. The recent Startups Law goes some way to remedying this, but, according to experts, there are still many issues to be resolved.
Funding: the influence needed by our ecosystem
Funds have a predilection for the companies closest to them. In the words of Oscar Pierre “international venture capital companies have an enormous influence on the ecosystem in which they are located.” To ensure that capital is available, corporate venture capital companies must be developed with the help of industrial companies based in Catalonia, while international venture capital companies must be attracted to Barcelona. To attract them, it is essential not only to offer fiscal incentives, but to reduce bureaucratic obstacles and legal uncertainty.
Mindset: it's about thinking big
Our ecosystem is perhaps somewhat more closed than some other European cities; it needs to open up, think positive, and, above all, think big. For this, we must not only support the initiatives of those around us, but, as a society, we must talk about, applaud, and admire anyone who starts a company.
Entrepreneurship, however, is not only about individual success. It it an achievement of society as a whole, a society that has managed to create the necessary mechanisms to create successful new businesses and to generate wealth. We must therefore decide what kind of city we want to build and how we want to grow as a society. This means avoiding some of the mistakes made in Silicon Valley and ensuring that we don’t create major inequalities and hierarchies.
The term network effects comes from the US. It describes situations in which the benefit of using a product increases when others use it. One obvious example is Facebook. You use it if your friends use it, and vice versa. And the more friends a profile has, the better for the company.
Barcelona startups already produce numerous network effects, which makes us very optimistic about the growth of the city as a magnet for new talent and startups.
Entrepreneurs who reinvest in the entrepreneurial ecosystem
In Barcelona, new businesses rub shoulders with companies that have been through the entire cycle of growth to maturity.
On the one hand, these companies begin to have significant “exits” or they become big enough to enable founders to reinvest in the ecosystem and support new startups, investing as Business Angels or raising their own Venture Capital funds.
On the other hand, employees of successful companies are well set to start up companies in their own right and in their own cities. The best known example globally is PayPal, whose employees (later dubbed the PayPal mafia') started YouTube, Tesla, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Another example closer to home is Glovo, whose employees have already launched more than 20 startups.
Talent attracts talent
Barcelona is managing to attract more and more talent as a technology and startup hub. Talent itself generates new jobs, as companies come to Barcelona because they know they will find qualified personnel.
Undoubtedly, the challenges facing Barcelona are huge and it is everyone’s responsibility to retain the city’s hegemony in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The first step is to be aware that one can’t take for granted being in one the most attractive cities to live in the world, with renowned scale-ups, entrepreneurs who reinvest in the ecosystem, international talent that attracts more talent, pioneering research institutions and institutional support; the situation may change.
Therefore, it is essential to work on developing a virtuous circle in the present and to set the standards of excellence for the future.