Startups, large corporations and political institutions come together at a benchmark technology hub in Europe.
What makes Barcelona one of the most appealing cities in Europe for entrepreneurship and innovation? After learning about Barcelona Activa, the Leaders visited another centre encouraging the creation of high-tech value business in the city: Barcelona Tech City.
Jordi Torrent, Head of International Affairs at Barcelona Tech City, gave the Leaders a tour of the facilities, showed them the ropes and introduced them to some of the innovative companies operating there. He also went through some of the reasons why the city has so many startups.
“Historically speaking, Barcelona is a very enterprising city that appeals to companies.” Other large cities have a very fragmented entrepreneurial community, but Barcelona’s “is robust and close-knit.”
The main appeal of hubs such as Barcelona Tech City is the interaction between all stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem. An example of this is the Pier01 building in the Port of Barcelona, which is home to one thousand employees at 100 entities, from corporations to startups, political institutions and so on. “It’s like a leisure park for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Apart from startups, several important corporations are present at the centre, such as Spanish automotive company SEAT. “They come here for brand image reasons, to get close to startups and look for talent,” he said, “and to adapt to corporate venturing. The mobility solutions developed by SEAT are not necessarily related to cars. And that is truly disruptive.”
The Leaders also met with some of the startups at the centre, such as Payment Innovation Hub, a startup involving Caixabank, Global Payments, Samsung, Visa and Arval that is exploring new payment methods based on technologies such as facial recognition; and Byhours, which offers micro-stays at hotels and has a portfolio of thousands of hotels in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
Another company they met with was Antai VB, the second largest venture builder according to Jordi Torrent. The venture builder model, increasingly relevant to the world of innovation, is “a startup factory: they look for projects, fund them and look for investors.” Among Antai VB’s success stories are well-known startups such as Glovo and Wallapop. The Leaders also learned about new initiatives championed by the venture builder, such as Mascoteros, Deliberry and Cornerjob.
“Since they all have the same ‘mother’, all the startups are sisters: they focus on the same region, they are marketplaces (that is, they base their activity on connecting supply and demand) and, lastly, many of them follow a media for equity formula,” which consists in receiving support and visibility from media groups in exchange for a stake in the business.
In the coworking area, the Leaders visited Acció, the Catalan Government’s agency for business competitiveness, which supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem through events.
Lastly, they learned about The Collider, a programme from Mobile World Capital, known for its role as the organiser of the Mobile World Congress. The programme connects scientific and entrepreneurial talent to create disruptive tech startups, and encourages prestigious research centres and universities to participate in generating new technology transfer mechanisms and supporting the creation of new digital companies.