Will there be a Spanish explosion of start-ups in 2012?

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I read recently an article by Marek Fodor, a Spanish Business Angel and founder of the sites Atrapalo.com and Elecciones.es. As it’s in Spanish I’ll summarize his main points as to why 2012 should be a bumper year for Spanish start-ups:

1. There is a growing proliferation of incubators and accelerators for start-ups. These include Seedrocket, wayra and Tetuan Valley. These entities can give valuable business knowledge and pass on relevant contact links to new start-ups.

2. There is a big increase in investments available at seed stage for start-ups. There are a growing number of entrepreneurs with experience of launching successful start-ups, and larger entities like Telefonica and BBVA are also investing in the sector.

3. A proliferation of start-up events for visibility that give initial projects impetus. These are creating a lot of get-togethers with competitions and prizes for start-ups … Each of these events is an opportunity to network, attract early adopters, nab initial customers, and generally to create some interest and hype.

Of course he makes good points, and I tend to agree with them. Indeed, I think there is already a surge of start-ups bursting forward in Spain. Ecommerce in the country rose 23% in the first quarter of 2011, marking 8 consecutive quarters of growth in that sector (source: Ojointernet.com).  We are also seeing sites that are aiming for an international audience. For example MedTep, Moodyo or Masterbranch are three recent launches that aim to make it big in their sector on an international basis.

Why specifically Spain? Well we are actually seeing start-ups bloom in many countries – I’m sure followers of (for example) the Turkish or Polish scenes will be able to confirm this too. I think in Spain there is an added impetus to all this. Many talented young (and not so young) people have limited job options in the current economic situation. Also it is one way of overcoming the high cost of starting a business in Spain – you can start a website or create an app at very low initial cost. Give the geeks time on their hand, and the technology to play with, and they’ll end up creating things. It also helps that Spanish is spoken by a lot of people world-wide, so there is a potentially large market in that language.

Of course the main obstacle to the growth in Spanish start-ups, as with anyone else, is breaking into the international market. They do have the advantage of their language in Latin America, but they aren’t yet as big as they should be on the European stage. There are exceptions of course, and we’ve already seen breakthroughs like Busuu (a social network for language learning) and Fon (wi-fi router suppliers to the world). 2012 may be the year that Spain makes the big international breakthrough in start-ups. But in order to do this, they will in certain cases have to break into the English-speaking world – the lingua franca of the internet world. At that level, automatic translation tools are still far from adequate for the job.

More information on Spanish start-ups can be found here, on Loogic.com (in Spanish), Todostartups.com (in Spanish) and OjoInternet.com (in Spanish).

5 COMMENTS

  1. You rightly point out that “the main obstacle to the growth in Spanish start-ups, as with anyone else, is breaking into the international market.” Can Spanish businesses sell their products and services in France, Partugal and Croatia, for example? You seem to assume that English is “the lingua franca of the internet world”. Having just spent time on internet sites in Welsh and French and found sites in dozens of languages in passing, I am not convinced that English is as widespread and universal as you assume. Having English as a mother tongue does not seem to help British business people much.

  2. Hello Bill, thanks for your comments. It is true that there are Spanish startups that are operating internationally in non-English speaking countries – Boda-click and conZumo being a couple of examples. I do feel though, that if a startup wants to make it big on a world scale, then the use of English is very beneficial. I’ve recently entered information on Ideateca on my directory. They’re a startup from the Basque country that from the start launched in English, and already have sold millions of downloads on their iPhone applications. As their owner Eneko Knorr states “a small piece of the world pie can be much larger than being the industry leader in Spain alone”. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, and there are plenty of websites out there that only need to be mono-lingual.

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