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Entrepreneurship in Barcelona: How to attract and retain talent

Entrepreneurship in Barcelona: How to attract and retain talent

Barcelona Enterpreneurship
Photography: Jordi Bernadó
Ivan Carballal

Transformation and digitization manager at Zurich

Luis Noguera

Senior Manager at KPMG

- Recently ranked in 7th place for investment in the technology sector.

Barcelona is well-known throughout Europe for attracting investment in new companies, but the city still receives considerably less investment from family offices, business angels, and venture capital funds than London, Berlin and Paris ..

Since 1987, Barcelona Activa has been one of the main drivers of entrepreneurship in our city, with well-known entrepreneurs contributing to the Barcelona Activa ecosystem. Its mission is clear: to provide employment by supporting local start-ups. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to become an entrepreneur.

The with a current unemployment rate of 30.2% amongst young people between the ages of 16 and 29. However, the solution does not lie solely in training youngsters to write a good CV for large companies; entrepreneurship is a skill that can be learnt and startups can contribute to improving employment figures, especially if we foster an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Is the talent needed for startups in Barcelona home-grown or imported?

Currently, the figures show that professionals in the scientific, digital and technological sectors in Barcelona often tend to move to other European cities to find better working conditions. Local start-ups therefore find it necessary to employ foreigners who are attracted by Barcelona’s pleasant climate and cosmopolitan culture, although they need to be paid higher salaries.

Likewise, it is not always easy to retain local professionals who have chosen to stay in Barcelona. Although Barcelona is working hard to become a leading European start-up hub and to attract large multinationals and tech companies, the opportunity cost is usually very high for local companies.

When a well-known multinational decides to set up in Barcelona, it usually takes advantage of the opportunity to hire a significant number of local employees, who are attracted by higher salaries and better working conditions.This means that entrepreneurs run out of local talent and have to pay higher salaries in order to prevent employees moving to foreign competitors and slowing down their business growth (at least in terms of future profitability). In other words, when a large multinational sets up in Barcelona, local entrepreneurs are usually the first to shoulder the costs.

There is no doubt that Barcelona is on the right track and this is reflected in the arrival of new multinationals in the city. However, we must not forget that we need to support and recognize the efforts that this implies for our local businesses.

“When a large multinational sets up in Barcelona, local entrepreneurs are usually the first to shoulder the costs.”

So, is there local talent in Barcelona?

Yes, of course there is. One needs look no further than great local entrepreneurs such as Pau Sendra, Óscar Pierre, Carlos Pierre, Gerard Olivé, Sergi Baños, Bernat Añaños, Cristina Aleixendri, Gala Freixa, Yaiza Canosa, Bernat Ripoll, Claudia de la Riva, and many others. However, we need to continue to work on increasing the list to create a true entrepreneurial culture.

There are frequent media reports about unicorns, startups valued at more than a billion dollars that are in need of digital talent. Our universities and business schools should therefore be focusing their efforts on educating students in digital skills to provide a sustainable foundation for the city.

Is it time to make entrepreneurial talent “sexy”?

In recent years, computer engineers have been stigmatized as“geeks”,digital marketing experts as “influencers”, and data scientists as “nerds”. But one shouldn’t forget the impact of the media. Programs like “Masterchef,” “Dancing with the Stars!” and “The Voice” encourage kids to become chefs, dancers, and singers. Perhaps it is time to launch a Spanish version of “The Apprentice.”

Perhaps it is time to launch a Spanish version of “The Apprentice.” At the risk of dumbing down, it may be necessary to take advantage of the media to promote an interest in business amongst this generation and the metaverse generation waiting in the wings. We need to be aware that the professions needed to create new companies in Barcelona have to be “sexy”; we need to create startup ecosystems to bring the different actors together; and we need to inspire society to start new businesses that will construct the Barcelona of the future.

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