Barcelona is experiencing a time of rapid growth, both for the city and the businesses that dwell within it.
In recent years, a startup scene like nothing we have seen before has begun to emerge, and it is entirely different from any other startup community the rest of the world has seen. Here’s why:
The City is Far from Perfect
It is the imperfections that make us perfect. In a city that has clear miles to make in terms of its infrastructure, startups are forming to help us solve the issues we come across in our day-to-day life.
Barcelona can see businesses being formed from genuine experiences with design in mind. Mobility has moved to more of a sharing mentality with startups like Rebby and ECooltra. The infamous delivery app, Glovo, started in Barcelona as well as the room rental service, Badi. Startups are forming every day as problem-solvers, and it is the imperfections of the city that inspires some of the biggest game-changers.
Location, Location, Location
There are few cities out there that can claim access to beaches alongside mountain ranges, skiing, and watersports. Its geo-location and cost of living, both within the personal and professional spheres, are factors that have helped to coin Barcelona as Europe’s Silicon Valley.
“These things combine to ensure that the costs of failing in a city like Barcelona are lower than in other major European cities – think London, Amsterdam, Paris. Mixing lower company costs with higher abilities to attract talent due to location, gives the perfect recipe for start-up growth,” said Ben Nachoom, CEO, OneCoWork.
There’s Power in the People
Rather than a rally against each other, Barcelona sees an unparalleled sense of community – and support within that community – forming throughout the city and especially within coworking spaces. It’s not uncommon for startups to host events to help inspire, lead, or teach from mistakes they’ve made in the past. The community here is fiercely loyal and Barcelona is a safe space to fail, learn from each other, and succeed together.
Barcelona startups have constantly received more funding than Madrid. The Catalan capital is now home to 1,197 startups, and last year it received €871 million in investments – almost double the amount invested in 2017.
Barcelona has received more investments than Madrid every year since 2014, according to startup funding rounds, a process to attract private investment. El Pais Barcelona has been housing startups for around two decades. By becoming such a large player in the startup scene in earlier years, the city is now more mature and structured to support their success.
With new ideas comes the need for spaces these ideas can flourish in as well. 70% of upstart tech companies fail in their first 20 months, often due to financial reasons and “going at it alone,” (CBInsights).
Coworking has been introduced to minimize that number. It gives the financial flexibility to new businesses.
“You are not tied down to five or 10-year contracts of traditional offices. Plus, office space grows or shrinks depending on your company needs and there is never a ridiculous deposit or hidden numbers. You do not need ownership over something to be successful with it. Coworking spaces are a direct answer to the needs of the community, and they have helped to create a vibrant startup community,” said Jesse Derkx, Sales Manager, OneCoWork.
According to Nachoom, mobility startups are thriving too, which isn’t necessarily specific to Barcelona, but is more of a result of generational shifts in the human mindset and a move towards usage instead of ownership.
“Overall, the ecosystem here is so young, yet strong, that any good idea, regardless of sector, has an opportunity to thrive. Those that are growing the fastest are clearly those focused on new-sharing – economy models, rather than on specific sectors. Barcelona is providing people with a ‘plug and play’ model across the spectrum, making the everyday, every bit easier. It is a design centric city and that is flowing through in the businesses that are blossoming here,” said Nachoom.
Power now falls into data. It is the new fossil fuel of our world and there’s nothing more valuable. Barcelona is home to SciTech DiploHub, making it the first city in the world to implement a science and technology diplomacy strategy. The strategy brings together scientists, engineers, and foreign affairs practitioners to raise the role of science and technology in geopolitics.
Barcelona is also among one of the first cities to provide an open data record. They are taking great strides in becoming a smart city that is driven from the bottom up. The city hall is going further, creating technological tools that mean citizens themselves can control the data they produce in the city and choose precisely who they share it with (Wired, UK). This use of data has created a startup scene that is driven by the people, for the people.
Barcelona was once the underdog within the startup realm. However, with the use of data, location, and a temporary mindset, it has enabled some of the most successful startups to date.
Yet, we can go one step further and take a leaf out of the startup scene’s book (and the mentality that OneCoWork promotes so strongly within their own spaces). No startup is neither better than another, nor more successful; each new idea has a purpose and should be supported. Barcelona is the perfect example that we are stronger together and that, without a doubt, is what sets Barcelona apart from the rest of the world.