Benoit Menardo is 29 years old and married. Born in Rio de Janeiro, where he spent the first ten years of his life, Benoit has lived in more than 50 cities, including Nice, Paris, Geneva, Moscow, Singapore, Jakarta and Boston, where he studied at MIT. He moved to Barcelona just under two years ago to co-found Payflow, a salary advance fintech that gives greater freedom to employees to help them improve their financial well-being.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
Basically for two reasons: Firstly, we wanted to set up a company and we saw that there was considerable potential in the Spanish market for on-demand salary schemes, so it made sense to set up in Barcelona or Madrid. And between these two, we chose Barcelona because of its great technological capabilities. Secondly, Barcelona is a pleasant, convenient, and well-connected city, making it especially attractive for expats.
What are Barcelona’s strengths?
The startup ecosystem is very well developed in Barcelona. In my opinion, this makes it a very attractive city for talent in this sector. In addition, the city is very well connected, both to Europe and the rest of the world. Payflow, which was launched in Barcelona in 2020, is the best-funded on-demand salary startup in Europe and has maintained exponential and sustainable growth. It already has more than 175 companies in its portfolio and more than 100,000 users.
Which aspects of the city need to be improved? How?
As I said, Barcelona is the perfect city for startups; the ecosystem is highly developed, there is a lot of talent, and the city is very well connected. But there are always aspects that can be improved. Bureaucracy needs to be slimmed down, although this is not only a problem in Barcelona or Spain in general; it goes for the whole of Europe. Barcelona is way behind other cities and regions and needs to make procedures for creating startups much more agile.
What do you think will help the city to overcome the Covid crisis?
Barcelona can offer so more than just tourism. There is a high standard of technology, a great deal of talent, and many companies that are committed to hiring this talent, not only local companies but also international ones. In addition, Barcelona is a great place to live, which makes it one of the best cities for digital nomads, professionals who work online for companies in other countries but live in Barcelona.
What challenges do you think the city will face once the health emergency has subsided?
The health crisis may be the beginning of a more general crisis. We will now have to see how the economy evolves and do our best to encourage economic activity in Spain and avoid the consequences of a possible monetary crisis in Europe. One of the biggest challenges Barcelona will face is the unemployment that a post-pandemic crisis could cause.
What are your hopes for Barcelona in the coming years?
I hope to be here for a long time, I believe in the potential of the city. It is a very attractive city that has everything it needs to become a pioneering city and one of the best technological cities in Europe.
Where do you feel most at home? What do you miss the most?
I have never stayed in one city for very long, so I feel at home wherever I live, and now I feel that my home is Barcelona. I miss aspects of all the cities I’ve lived in. People here seem to be less ambitious than in Singapore, for example. In fact, in general, people are much more ambitious in Asia and Latin America than here. Moscow, for example, has a huge amount to do considering it has 20 – 25 million inhabitants. I also miss the digitalization in Asia, where you can do everything on your mobile. Europe definitely still has a long way to go.
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