It’s easy to assume that Spanish start-ups come from either Madrid or Barcelona. Barely a day goes by without hearing of new web ventures or funding rounds taking place in those magnificent cities. They each even have websites devoted to their new launches – for example TechBarcelona which covers start-ups born in Barcelona, and Chamberi Valley which is an attempt to build an eco-system for start-ups, similar to Silicon Valley, in Madrid.
However, start-up mania is taking off in other parts of Spain too. The new social meeting group for web and mobile developers, Betabeers, is now arranging meet-ups and presentations in provincial cities such as Murcia, Valencia and Bilbao (and even plan to host meetings in south America). The new web and mobile ventures in Spanish provinces already have role models in this sector, and I’ve spoken to a few of them to see the pros and cons of launching a start-up outside of the big two.
One such example is Moodyo , a social shopping venture that fully encompasses the social aspect of Web 2.0, and was launched from the town of Dos Hermanas near the southern city of Seville. Their founder, Javier Padilla, told me that their location can actually be an advantage, in that they can concentrate on their work without some of the big city distractions and hold-ups. They have a flexible attitude too, as to where their developers work – if one day someone feels they are better working from home, then no problem as the internet means co-workers can easily keep in contact. Moodyo is looking forward to the challenges of 2012 and will be concentrating on making the user experience perfect. Javier believes that users aren’t interested in what earnings the start-up has, their head office location, or what funding round they’ve pulled off; all the users want (in Moodyo’s case) is the best way to purchase their desired item, including getting feedback from other online shoppers. And to achieve this, Moodyo are striving to provide the best social eCommerce experience – the location of their developers doesn’t matter one iota, the end product is what counts.
Isabel Liébana at Ideateca, a company from Bilbao that develops games and applications for smartphones and tablets, also disputes that it’s a handicap to be based away from Madrid or Barcelona. She states “It is true that Madrid and Barcelona host major events and initiatives related to entrepreneurship, but Bilbao is becoming an important source of start-ups, primarily in the technology sector. Several public and private stakeholders have begun to promote entrepreneurship in the Basque country and we from Ideateca are also making a contribution.” Indeed Ideateca have plans to act as an accelerator in 2012 and aim to promote entrepreneurship and help innovative and technological projects. Meanwhile they continue to be a leading player in their field and are concentrating on strengthening their Html5 capabilities. As is the case with other IT companies, not all of their staff have to work in the Bilbao office. Again, Isabel told me “Most Ideateca workers work in the office, but there are cases in which labour is combined with home working. In fact, right now although most of the team is in Bilbao, our CEO works in San Francisco (CA) and we also have partners who work from Barcelona or Thailand.”
Sevilla and Bilbao are actually two big centres of commerce, and it’s probably not too surprising to see start-ups launching from there, but it seems nowhere is immune to the urge to start-up a world-beating project. Albacete, in Castila-La Mancha, is perhaps better known as an old time producer of knives and daggers, but is now the seat of Comunicasoft – an innovative supplier of geo-statistical and business analysis software. Their CEO, Jose Miguel Lozano, told me they have big plans for 2012 “This year we will launch the ComunicaSoft Geostatistical Viewer. It is a statistical analysis tool supported by Bing Maps and Google Earth that allows you to obtain an overview of statistical work. It is free and can be downloaded directly from the web. It is worth trying out, it’s a different approach to work. This year we want to bring it to universities, research centers and nonprofit entities to develop projects on this platform.” Jose Miguel acknowledges that there are disadvantages in not being in a major centre “To contact customers to close deals, to seek investment, etc. you always have to travel.” Yet he too stresses that there are advantages in their location “The most important are local government subsidies. In small provinces, municipalities, unions and organizations tend to offer more help and support to entrepreneurs. You are often given space with incubators, counseling, help with government procedures, etc.” And again, as with many IT companies, their staff often work away from the office and keep in contact via Skype, email, mobile etc.
I have given a brief overview of 3 start-up companies in Spain that are not located in the two big metropolises. Other centres where you will find start-up ventures include Valencia, Murcia, Malaga, Mallorca and Galicia. What is plain is that the web makes it a lot easier to be located in a provincial location, yet still have access to national and even world markets. The 3 companies I’ve featured all aim at an international audience. I still feel that the majority of start-ups in Spain will come from the two big cities, where major contacts and funding deals are made, but we will see more promising launches (both on a national and on an international scale) coming from provincial centres. I wrote an article last year on the likelihood of there being an explosion of Spanish start-ups in 2012 – 2012- explosion of start-ups It certainly feels that way so far (I have trouble keeping up with entries on my start-ups directory). I fully expect there to be many ventures launched, and succeed, from provincial parts of Spain, even if the majority still come from Barcelona and Madrid. More on this “explosion” in future articles here on EU-startups!