After relocating to Barcelona in 2017, and after organising the EU-Startups Summit here earlier this year, we’re still impressed by the city’s startup scene and bullish on its future development.
That being said, we felt it’s time to catch up with city officials to learn about their view on the Barcelona startup scene, their support schemes and future plans. We therefore set up an interview with Lluís Gómez – the Commissioner for Economic Promotion, Enterprise and Innovation at the Barcelona City Council. He leads foreign and domestic policies aiming at strengthening Barcelona city’s international positioning among major cities in the world.
Mr. Gómez, according to our annual research, Barcelona is one of the Top 5 startup hubs in Europe. What do you think makes the city so attractive for startup founders and technology entrepreneurs?
Basically, because the city already has a consolidated ecosystem, undergoing constant evolution: with many startups (around 1,400), with investment entities (€453 million during 2017), with talent (universities, research centres, etc.), with support entities (accelerators, coworking spaces, Public Administrations, etc.), and with major corporations.
Also, because it is a city that counts on top-level international events, such as the Mobile World Congress, the Smart City Expo and the next ISE (Integrated Systems Europe), without forgetting the fact that it has good infrastructures, such as a port and airport with international connections.
Furthermore, because there is a high quality of life, which is determined both for the above-mentioned ‘tangible’ reasons, as well as for ‘intangible’ ones, such as the mild climate. Barcelona has a mix of everything.
It is worth highlighting that Barcelona has one of the most dynamic ecosystems in terms of technological entrepreneurship in Europe, according to different European rankings, such as the Innovation Cities Index 2016-2017, which places Barcelona, as you also mentioned in your question, as the 5th in Europe.
With the EU-Startups Summit on May 2-3, 2019, we’ll bring 1,200+ of Europe’s best startups and investors to Barcelona. Do you think that international startup events like ours have a noticable/positive impact on the startup ecosystem here?
Yes, such international events have a positive effect for many reasons:
- Firstly, because they contribute to the positioning of Barcelona as a benchmark hub in the field of startups.
- Secondly, because they provide contacts between local and international enterprises.
- Thirdly, because they represent a meeting point for the whole ecosystem: startups, corporations, investors, etc.
- Fourthly, because they facilitate the transfer of know-how in questions related to the internationalisation of local companies.
Startups and growing tech companies create jobs that are future-proof, and they therefore have a positive impact on the regional economy. What can/does a municipality like Barcelona or a regional government do to support startups?
The City Council works for the startup ecosystem in many ways, which can be summarized in these core strategies:
First of all by the business friendly & service-oriented municipal policies, starting with the simplification of administrative procedures via e-administration.
Another main path is promoting business programmes to support the internationalisation of local startups via Barcelona Activa, the municipal organization responsible, for the past 30 years, for boosting economic policies and local development regarding employment, entrepreneurship and offering support to companies from the perspective of the plural economy.
Moreover by disposing, for citizens’ use, of acceleration and incubation facilities, specialised tech facilities and a wide range of innovation ecosystems (access to fairs and congresses, networking events, public-private partnerships, etc.).
Are there any startup initiatives of the city of Barcelona that you are particularly proud of?
In my opinion, what is significant is that the City Council cares for the whole range of citizenship demands by designing diverse programmes and services responding to different needs.
Just to mention one, there is the municipal Business Support Office, integrating a portfolio of different business services, such as: 1) Online Business incorporation service available at the municipal Business Support Office, which allows incorporating a limited liability company in 48 hours; 2) One stop shop service for added-value foreign investment projects in the city: Business Landing Service; or 3) Financial advisory service: to support startups and companies in the search for funding.
After some companies left Catalonia due to political uncertainties by the end of last year, more and more startups and tech companies are now opening big offices in Barcelona (like N26, Facebook’s service company to fight fake news, etc.). What would be your message to growing startups and tech companies that are currently considering a relocation to Barcelona, but haven’t fully decided yet?
I would tell them not to hesitate to do so. For many reasons:
a) Location and connections because Barcelona is a strategic geographical location in between two markets: America and Asia. Apart from this, it has one of the top airports in Europe in terms of low cost connections.
b) Talent availability due to universities & engineering schools, creative & design schools and top international Business schools.
c) Ecosystem with big players already settled in Barcelona -as you mention- such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, or Cisco; with a rich International startup ecosystem, including companies and founders, networking events and an increasing number of international creative and coworking business and community spaces for startups; with Internationally recognized congresses and tech fairs (IOT, Mobile World Congress, Smart City Congress, Big Data Congress, EU-Startups Summit).
d) Public policies & strategic city capacities such as Mobile World Capital city project and 5G project or Top level scientific infrastructures, among many others.
e) Incentives, such as the Spanish tax System of incentives for R&D&I, one of the most attractive schemes in the world (“Patent Box”), just to mention one.
f) Quality of life, which is a magnet for talent attraction. I am talking about climate and landscape; of social cohesion and the fact of being a compact city; and a land with an international population as well as with an international culture.