Barcelona, a paradise for startups
In 2015 Barcelona startups generated 6,000€ million of turnover and created 9,000 employees here Angy Morales explains why Barcelona is fast becoming a city of reference for startups
Undoubtedly, Barcelona is one of the most fascinating, pioneering and cosmopolitan cities in Europe. In recent years, Barcelona has become a hotspot of an unprecedented urban, social and economic renewal. Renowned as a city which offers a high quality of life, it is not surprising that Barcelona has become one of the best European cities to attract talent and start up a new business. Although it is still has some way to go to catch up with countries like the United States, Germany, Israel or the UK, the number of companies who choose to start a new business in the Catalan capital and its surrounding areas continues to multiply year by year. A prime example being the App Sharing Academy, which is based in Barcelona, and has just been awarded as the Best App of the Year at the Mobile World Congress 2016. Of the almost 1,500 startups based in Spain, more than 300 are based in Barcelona: Wallapop, Social Point, eDreams, Atrápalo, Scytl, Privalia or Wuaki.tv are just some of them, while other foreign startups as King.com, Gameloft and Ubisoft have also decided to establish headquarters in the city. So why does Barcelona hold this special magnetism for startups?
The major international trade fairs which in the recent years have chosen Barcelona as a venue, such as Mobile World Congress, definitively play an important part in attracting startups and entrepreneurs. But, beyond these international events which, by their very nature, are ephemeral, what is the reason why a startup decides to settle in one place and not in another? Why has Barcelona has become a focus of attention for entrepreneurs, talent, mentors and investment, as well as a privileged setting for major events and conferences of the sector? Aside from the obvious answers, the beach, the excellent food and the great climate the answer lies in the tools and resources that the city’s institutions, use to support the creation of these kind of businesses and provide the backup services that they need.
The support from the public institutions
Both from the Barcelona City Council with its organization for entrepreneurs, Barcelona Activa, and from the Generalitat of Catalunya through ACCIÓ, the agency devoted to promote Catalan business, organise support, assistance and funding programs for entrepreneurs and, especially, to promote the creation and growth of startups. Notable among these is the initiative of Barcelona Activa, who have dedicated a whole area in the East of the city known as 22@ district as a paradise for startups: through the elimination of all municipal taxes, as well as the implementation of significant reductions in the rent and the social welfare taxes for those entrepreneurs who decide to settle in this central area. There is also a very favourable fiscal legislation, which makes creating a business cost four times less in our city than in other benchmark startup areas such as the Bay of San Francisco.
The pulse of an innovative city
Barcelona is one of the most striking destinations in the Mediterranean, an ideal place to enjoy an excellent lifestyle, good weather, as well as its gastronomy, architecture and enviable history. In addition, the city has some of the best business schools worldwide as IESE, ESADE or EADA, and great design schools such as IED or BAU, which acts as claim for attracting talent, creativity and ideas from all over the world. Once people come to study they find it hard to leave. In fact, many entrepreneurs agree that London, Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona are the European cities where there is the most talent to start available.
Barcelona is fortunate to have some of the best and most active startups incubators and accelerators in Spain. All of them follow a basic premise: to help startups in early stages to set up its business model, its customer and financing strategy acquisition, as well as its growth potential. Stand Wayra, the technology startups accelerator from Telefónica; Internet of Things & Data, Barcelona headquarter of the great Startupbootcamp; Connector with its program focused on digital technology-based startups; Seedrocket, which promotes know-how and experience transmission among startups, or the own MWC accelerator, supported by the Ministry of Industry, the City Council and the Government of Catalonia.
Major international trade fairs impact
Long-desired by other major world capitals, the Mobile World Congress transforms Barcelona, during its four day duration, into a privileged showcase for the latest and hottest technology developments. Its influence and effects, however, go beyond this short and profuse period of frenetic activity. Throughout the whole year, initiatives such as the Mobile World Capital foundation or Barcelona Mobile Venture carry out projects where startups can contact directly with investors, making the Catalan capital a benchmark for entrepreneurship. In the recent years, other great international trade fairs as 4YFN, Smart City Expo or the Internet of Things have also decided to select Barcelona as its venue. While these initiatives or events are not directly responsible for the nearly 6,000€ million of turnover and 9,000 of employees associated with startups and entrepreneurship that were generated in Barcelona during the last 2015, it is true that represents a considerable boost for Barcelona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In short, why Barcelona?
Startups have a great sense of community, so for their development they need not only the support of the government and the councils, but also the support of universities, incubators, banks, partners and, ultimately, all the agents that take active part on its environment. And in following this criteria, Barcelona gets a 10 out of 10 as a city; the whole entrepreneurial community has been able to organize itself and join forces to let startups develop and grow in a competitive way, which resulted in Barcelona becoming a global reference as a startup city.