Written by Pilar Perales.
When Trovit came to existence 10 years ago, Barcelona was just starting to become a hotspot for startups, and the relocation of the Mobile World Congress to the city had begun to bring more interest towards its potential.
Although it could have come as a surprise Barcelona’s transformation into an ICT hub (traditionally in EU the capitals are the ones that catch entrepreneurs’ attention), it was a well-studied process promoted by the local government and technology industry. They learnt how to consolidate Barcelona’s position as one of the world’s top location for startups, and we are going to explain how.
Since 2007, there was a boom of local startups swimming against the tide of the financial crisis and catching unprecedented investor’s attention. The quantity and quality of these new companies have augmented exponentially over the years, and now there are “more than 2,150 ICT companies, 210 technology parks and research centers, and nine internationally acclaimed scientific facilities” according to Business Insider. The author highlights the fact that the city has also been chosen as local headquarters of multinationals, “such as the IBM Innovation Center in Barcelona, Yahoo! Research Barcelona, and the newest offices of games developer King.com”.
As Christoph Brughmans, director at Addiliate, tells us in his article about Barcelona as a tech capital, “investments in tech companies are rapidly increasing both in number of companies as in the amount of money being invested”, last transaction being the acquisition of mobile games developers Social Point by Take-Two for up to $276 only a few days ago. Brughmans claims that “these are numbers that – both in volume of deals and money size wise – we normally only see in San Francisco” and he added that this isn’t happening even in Berlin or Tel Aviv. Moreover, Barcelona clearly dominates startup investments in Spain, as this graphic from the Mobile World Capital Barcelona 2017 report.
Although it will take many years for Barcelona to become a EU startup capital such as London, it has a clear advantage over northern Europe destinations: with around 3 million inhabitants, the city’s’ size and location is one of its biggest assets, and the local government had taken advantage of this situation making it more accessible internationally, with a very efficient transportation system and has facilitated some of its best locations for tech hubs, coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators, such as Barcelona Tech City. This Digital Business cluster’s project, called Pier 01, has reconditioned an old 10,000 square foot seaport warehouse right at the historic heart of the city to host digital businesses. It has been a success and is now almost 100% full, not even a year after its opening, and there are plans to expand to other buildings in the area in order to create a “tech harbour”, both literally and metaphorically.
The city, that “regularly scores first place in European polls for quality of life of the workforce”” according to Barcelona Field Studies Centre, also provided a prime 19th century industrial location, Poblenou, to build an extensive innovation district named 22@Barcelona that would balance suitable urban and economic development with historic heritage right by the sea. This project has also been a success and is nowadays a popular location for Catalonia’s top companies.
The prospect of finding fundings is also quite promising. With abundance of business angels and investment companies, plus a natural global attraction (85% of funding comes from abroad, according to the official Startup Hub page of the Government of Catalonia), there’s a certainty that, if a project is worth it, it’s going to find funds.
Finally, Barcelona is home of regular events and meetup, learning programs, universities and internationally renowned schools (such as ESADE and IESE), digital enthusiasts organizations and Startup Grind BCN (powered by Google for Entrepreneurs). And let’s not forget its international yearly events such as the Mobile World Congress, 4YFN (the startup event of the year) or the Smart City World Congress.
In conclusion, Barcelona’s active pursuit of digital innovation, the city council’s investment on providing the resources needed, its position as a cultural and business capital with overflowing tourism income, and the merit of the bright minds behind the creation and investment on startups have turned Barcelona in one of the top world’s ICT hubs. It only needs to catch up on engineering diversity.
If you are thinking about creating a startup in Barcelona, we recommend you to read Marlene Marin’s article in Startus Magazine, a must-read guide into Barcelona’s dynamic startup ecosystem.