“You can’t buy happiness but you can go to Spain and that’s pretty much the same thing!”
Spain tends to enchant all those that visit it. The all-encompassing culture is something that most visitors can’t get enough of and there truly is something for everyone – from beautiful beaches, cities and landmarks that are overflowing with fascinating history, to magnificent mountain landscapes. For that reason, it’s one of the most visited countries by travellers and tourists, and it’s home to a lot of expats.
The sunny weather puts a smile on people’s faces, the delicious tapas culture leaves tummies satisfied, and the conviviality with which people live are just some of the facets that make Spain so beloved.
Wellbeing, food and sustainability are three pillars that represent Spanish culture as much as the current Spanish startup scene, and it’s an ecosystem that’s booming. Given these trends are growing across Europe, Spain’s rooted connections to these entities put it in an exciting place for the year ahead. European unicorns such as Cabify, TravelPerk and Glovo are some of the big Spanish names taking on the world.
What’s more, the government is actively promoting startup culture and encouraging moe investment through taking measures to cut red tape and remove bureaucratic obstacles for founding and investing in startups in Spain. In 2021, a reform bill was introduced that reduced corporation tax and non-resident income tax, as well as streamlining the procedures to set up a startup into one single online step. This law is expected to be approached in the first half of this year. In addition, Spain’s government has an investment target of up to €4 million to foster startup growth. In 2021, we spoke to the High Commissioner for Spain’s Entrepreneurial Nation, Francisco Polo, who talked about Spain’s vision to become the Entrepreneurial Nation with the greatest social impact in history by 2030.
Madrid and Barcelona continue to battle it out as being the central hub of startup activity. Currently, Barcelona tends to edge ahead as a European hub – you can check out our ranking here. There is also healthy competition coming from beyond these metropolises – Valencia, the Basque Country and Malaga are all places to keep an eye on.
Here we take a look at some super promising startups to watch this year, all founded post-2019. There are so many exciting Spanish startups that this was a tough list to narrow down – so it comes in no particular order.
Katoo – Building food procurement tools for restaurants and suppliers, Katoo is facilitating better relationships in the food industry and empowering the food supply chain. The foodtech company was founded in 2019 and has been delivering impressive growth ever since. In September 2021, it secured €6.2 million to continue developing, launch in Portugal and prepare to expand through LatAm. During 2021, the startup saw its number of orders grow 8x and has over 5000 restaurants and suppliers across Italy and Spain – including both chains and Michelin-starred fine dining establishments. Through Katoo, restaurants can order their own ingredients via the mobile app and suppliers receive orders in standard digital format – bringing a digital touch to what was previously a slowed-down old-school process. Foodtech is another big growth area this year, and Katoo’s simple-to-use and accessible solution will reap benefits for both restaurants and suppliers.
Cobee – Founded in 2019, Cobee is already one of Europe’s leading employee benefits management digital platforms. In 2021 they secured €14 million for their mission to improve employee wellbeing. Based in Madrid, Cobee provides a flexible employee benefits management platform that brings benefits to staff – from gyms to insurance products and vouchers. The benefits are all pulled into one place which staff can then redeem via the Cobee card. Increasingly, companies are transforming their approach to employee wellbeing, recognising that giving some benefits and perks go a long way. Cobee has been well-positioned to take advantage of this cultural change and has seen rapid growth across Spain and Portugal. The likes of Glovo, Petronas, Avis and Tripadvisor are all now using Cobee to manage employee benefits and improve wellbeing. Promoting employee wellbeing is a trend that isn’t going anywhere, and as Cobee continues to prove its value, it’s surely set to soar this year.
Payflow – Launched in 2020, Payflow has begun 2022 by becoming the best-funded salary-on-demand service in the EU with an €8 million funding boost. The Catalan fintech startup offers an app that allows employees to instantly access earned wages. Improving employee financial wellbeing is at the heart of Payflow’s philosophy and its approach is proving popular – operating under the vision that given employees work and spend daily, they should have easier and more regular access to their wages – taking control of their finances in the way that makes sense. Too often people fall into debt because of unexpected bills during the month, and, because they’re only paid once a month, they don’t have the credit to keep up. Payflow is a solution to this. The startup closed 2021 with over 175 clients and 100,000 users and are now looking to expand into Italy and Portugal. Putting employee financial wellbeing first is core to Payflow’s philosophy, and as businesses increasingly are trying to do the same, it’s a company poised to keep accelerating this year.
Last.app – Founded in 2019, Last.app began 2022 with a €2.2 million boost for its software that is simplifying the day-to-day operations and management of restaurants. Based in Barcelona and developed by former Glovo employees, the startup develops and markets software that makes it easier to manage hospitality businesses – including restaurants, restaurant chains, dark kitchens and so on. Last.app is pioneering the management ecosystem for restaurants with its tech that adapts to the ever-changing reality of the sector, thanks to its multi-platform capabilities, its POS, delivery integrator and online shop. Already present in more than 80 Spanish cities, Last.app has a prestigious portfolio of clients across Spain – including PadThaiWok, Tony Roma’s, Carl’s Jr and Miss Sushi.
APlanet – Launched in 2019, APlanet is the platform that is enabling organisations to easily manage, track and showcase their ESG and sustainability. The Basque startup eliminates the challenges around sustainability data and initiatives management by automating data collection processes, aggregating data across the organisation and making it easy to share. In 2021, more and more companies began to take sustainability seriously. Inwriting sustainability and ESG to business approaches is no longer a niche approach and startups and enterprises alike are now putting it to the forefront. The problem is though, many organizations simply don’t know where to start – this is where APlanet’s innovative tech comes in. It’s allowing the right data and information to be gathered together, to be analysed, objectives and conclusions drawn, action plans created, and progress tracked. This tech will prove fundamental in supporting organisations to manage ESG, CSR and sustainability. The young startup now has teams across Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Brazil promoting the vision of a world with sustainability at the heart of decision-making.
Vitaance – Describing itself as the insurance that helps you live better, Vitaance is an insurtech company on a mission to improve peoples quality of life through financial, emotional and physical wellbeing by creating smart, fair and responsible insurance products enabled by technology. Founded in 2021 in Barcelona, the young startup is innovating in what’s traditionally been a pretty old-school industry – insurance – and they’re doing so with exciting tech and prioritising wellbeing – a holistic combination that we love to see. The Catalan company closed 2021 with a €3 million funding boost and is one of the few insurtech’s coming from Sothern Europe. Due to the pandemic, approaches to work culture have completely changed -one of the big changes being that workers are now putting their wellness and work-life balance satisfaction as paramount. Vitaance was created with the aim to improve peoples quality of life through financial, emotional and physical well-being – making insurance something that looks after people and positively contributes to their lives, rather than just a necessity.
Ukio – Founded by two brothers in 2020, Ukio has a mission to disrupt the real estate market and empower people to feel at home wherever they go. The Barcelona-based startup provides furnished and serviced apartments for stays of one month or more, removing all the hassle of finding a rental, with no need to worry about long-term contracts, moving and buying furniture, security deposits and more – giving choice and flexibility to allow people to live where and when they want. So, if you want to relocate to another city in Europe, the tech offering from Ukio helps you to do so without the usual headaches. Now present in Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon, the young startup raised €7.8 million and are now making moves to expand through Europe – first stops being Berlin and London. In 2021, the real estate tech group hired an additional 70 employees, grew the portfolio to nearly 200 homes and had a 96% occupancy rate (that’s despite disruption to the travel industry). All of this means the company is embarking on an exciting 2022 and with growing trends among millennials and Gen Z to try life in new cities for a time, largely facilitated by the growth of remote work, they’re definitely one to watch.
011h – Founded in 2020, its mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable building development. Its way of working not only means the buildings created are more sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly, but also results in cheaper costs, shorter execution times, and better overall reliability. Founded in Barcelona in 2020, the company is underpinned by a people-first philosophy of collaboration and transparency. The construction industry has been transforming recently – perhaps slower to the digital transformation than other sectors, it’s now starting to catch up. Some of the major challenges that remain are around improving efficiency, productivity and sustainability. 011h is at the centre of solving these challenges. The startup was founded by Lucas Carné and José Manuel Villanueva – brains behind ecommerce success Privalia. The team has raised over €10 million for its mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable building development.
Cuyna – Headquartered in Madrid, Cuyna is a network of kitchens that allows you to outsource the expansion of your business to your needs, reducing time frames and investment costs. Launched in 2020, the startup helps businesses optimize operations with little initial investment – helping users to open a kitchen in record time. Offering kitchens of different sizes that are fully equipped in high-demand locations, the young startup had exciting growth through 2021 – expanding to locations in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga and Murcia. Ordering food to enjoy at home grew with incredible popularity during the pandemic, and we saw the rise of dark kitchens – establishments exclusively dedicated to preparing food to be delivered. The startup was founded by ex-Deliveroo employee Jaime Martínez de Velasco alongside Ramón Servalls and Pablo Portillo and is expecting to double growth over the next year. Michelin-star chef and Masterchef winner Carlos Maldonado has this year chosen to use Cuyna to bring his burger brand El Círculo to homes across Madrid.
GuruCall – Founded in 2020, GuruCall is using technology to take coaching and advice-giving to a new level. The Madrid-based learning platform is like a marketplace for business advice – offering users the chance to have video calls with and/or access on-demand content from successful founders, C-Level executives and celebrated athletes. The idea is to empower budding entrepreneurs and founders to access legit, real-person advice from seasoned professionals. Real-life experience and learning from true experts has been noted as one of the best ways to learn, and with a growing self-taught entrepreneurial culture, GuruCall is giving up-and-coming business minds an opportunity to access advice, mentorship and skills development in an accessible way. Already, the startup’s platform is available on the Android and iOS App stores and started 2022 strong with an extra €500k boost. Edtech is anticipated to be a growth area this year, and this platform certainly is offering something unique – watch his space.
By the way: If you’re a corporate or investor looking for exciting startups in a specific market for a potential investment or acquisition, check out our Startup Sourcing Service!