Madrid’s emergence as a city of opportunity and a gateway to Latin America, along with a high quality of life, make it a melting pot for talent. It’s an extremely livable city, with excellent infrastructure, and has one of the friendliest atmospheres in the world.
Though Madrid is the largest city in Spain, the capital city, the political center and one of the world’s top tourist destinations, only recently has the city been considered as one of Europe’s biggest startup hubs. And while in other metropolises across Europe,innovative hubs have been created with the help of government initiatives, Madrid has – until now – lacked the entrepreneurial vision necessary to support the development of an ecosystem for the long-term.
Surprisingly, the city’s lack of determination when it comes to ‘entrepreneurship-policy’ has resulted in some sort of a natural selection of the district of Arganzuela, where creativity and a collection of industries are colliding, turning the neighbourhood into a hub for startups, creatives, and innovative companies. Arganzuela lies on the southern outskirts of the center of Madrid, it’s one of the Spanish capital’s 21 districts and also happens to be the city’s fastest-growing district, the greenest and most dynamic.
Despite the city’s lack of entrepreneurial leadership, Madrid can still be considered a success story. The tech scene in Madrid has grown considerably in the last few years, becoming an IT business hub in the country. And admittedly, the prior administration led by Mayor Manuela Carmena made some efforts to foster entrepreneurial talent and innovation. The most prominent initiative was the promotion of La Nave, a multifunctional space located in the southern district of Villaverde, across the Manzanares river, where companies, investors, universities and citizens can participate in the development of innovative projects. Since 2016, La Nave has also hosted one of Spain’s main startup events, the South Summit, led by the formidable María Benjumea.
And with new city governance from Begoña Villacís as deputy mayor and José Luis Martínez-Almeida as mayor, things are set to change. Villacís will oversee all matters related to economics, innovation and entrepreneurship; her electoral proposals include the creation of Madrid’s very own innovation super-hub, the promotion of creative industries, and the establishment of a public-private innovation agency, among other initiatives.
“One of our flagship proposals is to take advantage of the Mercado de Toledo,” she said. “It will be a technology and knowledge center which will house coworking and networking spaces… it’s time to take advantage of the synergies being created in Arganzuela.” The hub will also promote initiatives around sustainability, the environment, safety, and the general well-being of citizens, according to Villacís.
The national government is also advancing new initiatives and laws to make processes easier for startups in Spain. Recently, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez advanced a set of new initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship to create a country for entrepreneurs.
So, while Madrid still has a long way to go to catch up to London or Berlin, the ecosystem in the Spanish capital has grown rapidly over the last five years. And if you add Madrid’s and Barcelona’s figures together, Spain has the makings of a ‘startup nation’.
The sky is the limit for tech, innovation, and creatives in Madrid. Here is an overview of the startup institutions, and people that comprise Madrid’s startup ecosystem:
The city’s top startup hubs
La Nave – A public facility and current home to Madrid’s Innovation Campus, La Nave is a 13,000 square meter former factory that has been converted into a meeting point for innovation and aimed at developing different activities, the dissemination of new technologies, and collaboration between social agents as a driver for growth in the city. Currently operated by the innovation agency Barrabes, La Nave seeks to promote training and employability, as well as scientific and technical dissemination, which is why its events are open to the general public, as well as entrepreneurs, SMEs, companies, students, universities, and public administrations. Every October since 2016, La Nave hosts South Summit, Spain’s flagship startup event.
Mercado de Toledo (coming soon) – Inspired by the innovation hubs created in Lisbon and Paris (Hub Criativo Beato and Station F, respectively), the new city-government will promote the creation of an innovation super-hub, currently a mostly unused 20,000 square meter building owned by the city, and situated between the city-center and the Arganzuela district. The city seeks to create a technology and innovation center which will house coworking and networking spaces, the city’s new innovation agency, and act as connector of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Mercado de Toledo will be central as it’s set to become a catalyst for entrepreneurship in Madrid and Spain overall.
Google Campus – located in Arganzuela’s barrio Imperial in a neo-Mudejar building, this has been a meeting point for business people and entrepreneurs since 2015. The Campus is part of the Google for Startup program (formerly known as Google for Entrepreneurs), consisting of working spaces and accelerators in over 100 countries around the world. Its campuses are located in 7 different cities spanning across Europe, Asia, and South America, and Madrid is fortunate to host one of them.
Matadero – The city’s old slaughterhouse, built at the beginning of the 20th century in Arganzuela by the banks of the Manzanares river, is today a huge complex devoted to culture and the creative industries. It’s home to several startups, the incubator Factoria Cultural, the coding school Ironhack, Telefonica’s e-Sports teams, and various design, arts and cultural agencies. It also houses several theatre and gallery facilities, and its programs include an impressive number of events and exhibitions.
Impact Hub Madrid – part of an international social innovation network with various venues all over the world, Impact Hub Madrid landed in Madrid in 2010. Their spaces are designed for working, training sessions and networking, and are aligned with the organization’s vision to inspire and enable those who want to impact society. They are best known for their location in Calle de Gobernador, very close to the Prado Museum. In addition to this establishment, there are other centers in Madrid in Calle Alameda, 22 (Literary Quarter), Calle Piamonte, 23 (Chueca), Calle Serrano Anguita, 13 (Justice Quarter) and in Plaza Pablo Ruiz Picasso, 1 (Financial District).
The Cube – A meeting point for entrepreneurs in the north-east part of town. It’s one of Madrid’s biggest innovation and entrepreneurial hubs, where innovation and technology come together under one roof. The Cube is a 5,000 square meters created by Unlimiteck, one of the leading company builders in Spain. This tech-hub specializes in IoT, meetups, and events. It’s home to numerous startups and to the agency MIDE (Madrid Innovation Driven Ecosystem), which is the first collaborative platform to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Madrid.
Utopicus – when you talk innovation and entrepreneurship in Madrid, you’ve got to mention Utopicus. They’re a leader and benchmark in Madrid when it comes to coworking and projects that combine innovation, creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Utopicus also runs a school with the latest trends, a business agency and Zinc Shower, an annual event which offers a platform for the most innovative ideas and for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to come together.
Some of the Madrid’s most promising startups
Woom Fertility – The history of Woom began when its two founders, Clelia Morales and Laurence Fontinoy, both faced challenges in conceiving. Woom is a data-driven app designed to maximize chances of pregnancy. Since it was founded in 2016, the startup has raised a total of $1.3 million in funding. Woom is one of the few remarkable European startups that are taking good care of women and health issues.
Spotahome – Arganzuela- based Spotahome is one of Spain’s better known startups, arguably one of the top Spanish startups to look out for in the coming future. Spotahome provides an easy way to find and book residential rentals 100% online, specializing in mid-to-long term stays. Spotahome is the first Spanish startups to receive backing from a leading Silicon Valley VC, after being fueled by a €40 million round led by Kleiner Perkings in 2018. The company is growing fast, present in 11 cities across eight European countries. Spotahome was the winner of the 2016 South Summit Startup Competition.
Wetaca – When Efrén Álvarez y Andrés Casal started their company four years ago, the objective was simple, “for everybody to eat healthy everyday with almost no effort and for not too much money”. The startup delivers meals that last you an entire week. After exceeding €2 million in revenues in 2018, they expect to finish 2019 reaching €4 million in sales, delivering more than 2,300 meals per week. They operate in Madrid and recently announced starting operations in Zaragoza. Even though the well-known business angell Luis Martín Cabiedes invested €300k in the company in 2016, Wetaca has been profitable since the very beginning.
bipi – Provides vehicle rental services, offering car rentals, along with insurance, parking assistance, and other related services on a subscription basis. The startup provides access to a car in an easy, flexible, and convenient way, with one monthly fee that includes everything but petrol. Bipi raised €2.5 million in a funding round in 2017.
Triporate – Founded in 2017, Triporate is a business travel platform that uses AI to plan trips efficiently, saving companies both money and time. Businesses can simply send Triporate an email specifying what they need, and the startup will respond with personalized trip proposals that follow company policies. Companies then choose the most appropriate option, and can pay for multiple trips all in one bill. The startup has raised a total of €380k across two funding rounds.
The city’s most active VCs
K Fund – An early stage VC firm that, with an entrepreneur-centric philosophy, aims to fuel the evolution of the Spanish startup ecosystem. It was founded in 2016 by Inaki Arolla, Carina Szpilka, and Ian Noel with a €50 million fund, and has so far invested in 29 startups including companies such as Hubtype, Bdeo, Sportvillage, Exoticca, and Keatz.
Samaipata Ventures – Samaipata is a venture capital fund founded in 2016, investing in early stage marketplaces & disruptive e-commerce businesses across Europe. The firm was founded by Jose del Barrio, a former entrepreneur who pioneered food delivery services in Spain with La Nevera Roja, which was acquired by German group Rocket Internet for €80 million, and later acquired by Just Eat. Samaipata has made 23 investments, including investments in Spotahome, OnTruck, and 21Buttons.
Bonsai Venture Partners – A private fund focused on internet investments, Bonsai is the venture arm of the family office of Javier Cebrián Sagarriga, who has been investing in Spanish startups for over a decade. Bonsai has invested in more than 30 companies, including some well-known companies such as Tuenti, Infojobs, Idealista, Glovo, Wallapop and Top Rural.
The Venture City – These are the new kids on the block. The Venture City launched a $100 million fund in 2017, and they are co-headquartered in Miami and Madrid. The Venture City’s mission is to redefine the tech acceleration model through a worldwide network of disruptive growth hubs stretching from Miami, FL to Silicon Valley and Madrid, Spain.
Kibo Ventures – A $60 million early stage fund. Kibo initially invests in the €250-€750k range as the first institutional investor and follow-on as the company grows. They invest in digital companies that are internet or mobile based, with portfolio companies including 21Buttons, bipi, and coverwallet.
Madrid’s most active business angels
Yago Arbeloa – Yago is the founder and president of Hello Media Group, a creative and advertising agency. Yago is President of the Association of Internet Investors and Entrepreneurs (AIEI). Before founding Hello Media, he set up Sync.es, an ISP startup that he sold in 2011 to Arsys (later acquired by 1 & 1). In addition to being an entrepreneur, Yago also acts as an investor in startups, with contributions of between €50 and €100k, among which are We are knitters, iContainers, Clever PPC, Safecreative, Startupxplore, Wazypark, Holded, Hooks, Indexa, Sendy, Offemily, Lord Wildmore, PlayItApp, Vitamin K, Smartycontent, Ludei, Zacatrus, and Novicap.
Martin Varsavsky – An Argentine entrepreneur based in Madrid who founded several companies worldwide, including Urban Capital, Medicorp Sciences, Viatel, Jazztel, EINSTEINet, Ya.com, Eolia and FON. Today, Varsavsky is the Chief Executive Officer of Overture Life, and Chairman at Prelude Fertility, which run fertility facilities and treatment. He is also a partner-investor in startups such as Gspace, Joost, Menéame, Netvibes, Plazes, Hipertexual, Hootsuite, Busuu, Tumblr, Menéame, Technorati, Vpod, Wikio, Xing, Zudeo and Index Ventures.
François Derbaix – François Derbaix is one of the most respected voices in the Spanish startup ecosystem. Born in Belgium, François came to Spain in 2000 to create his first startup, Toprural, with his wife Marta Esteve. Three years later they launched another venture, Rentalia, and in 2012 they were both sold to Homeaway and idealista, respectively. Derbaix is also a mentor at Barcelona-based accelerator SeedRocket, and has invested in 35 companies as a business angel.
Jesús Encinar: Jesús is best known as the founder of Idealista, Spain’s main real estate platform for renting, buying and selling houses and flats. He’s a member of the advisory board of Seaya Ventures, one of Spain’s most important VC firms, and he has invested in various startups.
Bernardo Hernández – The former head of Flickr at Yahoo, and Director of Product Management at Google and Managing Director at Zagat. In 2000 he set up his first internet venture, idealista.com, which is now the leading real estate online platform in Spain. In addition, he’s been a business angel for Tuenti, index.com, Glovo, Fever, Wallapop, Verse, floresfrescas.com or 11870.com.
Important accelerators and incubators
Impact Accelerator – IMPACT is considered among the world’s best emerging accelerators. It offers startups a rigorous and delocalized acceleration experience, supported by a combination of equity-free cash and VC funding. Founded in 2014, IMPACT has accelerated more than 100 startups and awarded more than €7 million equity free.
SeedRocket – The first accelerator to come out of Spain. SeedRocket offers a complete Seed Funding Venture Program for Entrepreneurs with technology-based startups. In Madrid, they partner with Google for Startups at Campus Madrid. They have traditionally run two programs per year – one in Barcelona and one in Madrid. They are also a business angel network composed by serial entrepreneurs and private investors.
Wayra – Telefonica’s open innovation startup accelerator, Wayra was started in Latin America and Spain in 2011. They have been recognized by Forbes as one of the top 10 global startup accelerators in the world. Wayra is now operated by Open Future, a division of Telefonica, and now runs 11 hubs in 10 different countries.
Tetuan Valley – This is the first not-for-profit pre-accelerator programme in Europe. Tetuan Valley is a synonym for entrepreneurship in Madrid, and offers a range of startup services: a pre-accelerator, a community, a sense of identity, and a startup school. Twice a year, they host a 6 week startup school, with focus on training and working on the implementation of a business idea. They have a portfolio of more than 70 top-notch mentors, participating to give the students a unique and valuable experience. All graduates of the startup school get exclusive access to the Tetuan Valley Alumni Network.
IE Business School Venture Lab – Venture Lab is IE’s startup accelerator, housed in Area 31. The aim of the Venture Lab is to aid teams in creating ready-to-launch startup projects. IE’s Venture Lab is a program that is open to all IE students and alumni. It is also an elective within the International MBA program. All teams receive workshops and mentorship, as well as coaching and feedback from Venture Lab’s Entrepreneurs and Investors in Residence, to guide them in validating their ideas and developing investor-ready startups. Teams are eligible to participate in Venture Day Madrid at the end of the program, where they pitch before investors.
Demium Startups – Demium is a startup incubator that follows the model of connecting business opportunities with the best entrepreneurial talent, following the UK’s Entrepreneur First pioneering model. The Valencia-born incubator landed in Madrid in 2016, and is located at La Teminal coworking space in Arganzuela. Triporate, Citibox and Influencity are some of the startups that went through Demium’s six-month incubation program in Madrid. Demium also runs a gaming incubator, an academy and a venture fund to co-invest in their startups.
The city’s most popular startup/tech events
South Summit – Held in October, South Summit is one of the leading startup conferences in Southern Europe, alongside the other great conferences like the EU-Startups Summit, 4YFN, or the Web Summit. The South Summit is a platform created with the aim to bring together startups, international investors and leading corporations in the search for innovation. It’s an annual gathering which is held in October at La Nave, with more than 7,000 attendees, including 3,500 entrepreneurs and 450 investors. The event is organized by the Spain Startup team, which is led by one of Madrid’s most visible and active figures, María Benjumea.
DES – Held each May, the Digital Enterprise Show is the world’s leading annual three-day event on Digital Transformation. DES is a global expo & congress, with over 300 exhibiting companies and 450 of the world’s top speakers and experts at the Digital Business World Congress. Germany was the guest country of the 4th, 2019 edition, and the theme of DES2019 resolved around Industry 4.0 – real cases of technological implementation in the industry were shared, such as AI, collaborative robotics, digital manufacturing, big data, solutions in cybersecurity, and virtual reality.
IE Business School Venture Day – Held in November, Venture Day Madrid is IE’s demo day where they showcase the top startups and startup projects that have been developed by alumni and by students in IE’s Venture Lab, respectively. It’s open to Madrid’s entire ecosystem and it’s usually help and the Fundación Rafael Del Pino amphitheatre. Prior winners of Madrid’s IE Venture Day include Cabify and SpotAHome, Spain’s only unicorns to date.
OpenExpo Europe – The largest enterprise IT Open Innovation summit in Europe, with two days of conferences, business cases, keynote speakers, practical workshops, round tables, demos and many other activities held in La Nave every June since 2013. The aim is to spread solutions and trends of the industry offered by open-source software.
Global Robot Expo – Held in April, Global Robot Expo is the main multisectoral European event on robotics, technology and innovation, designed as a business platform for exhibitors. It’s a B2B international exhibition held annually in IFEMA, with more than 12,000 visitors from more than 50 countries and 200 exhibitors in 2019.