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August 12, 2014 12:43 pm

Barcelona: sun, sea and start-ups

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Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona

With its internationally renowned architecture, a world famous football team and modern infrastructure, Barcelona has become a magnet for tourists, trade fair delegates and sports fans. What Barcelona wants now is not just visitors, but founders who will stay and set up fast-growing technology businesses.


The case for: Barcelona is known as the “north of the south” – combining a cosmopolitan business-friendly city with Mediterranean coast sunshine. Two international business schools, Iese and Esade, attract talent from across the world. The city hosts one of the world’s top supercomputing centres.

Barcelona’s other big selling point is the networking opportunities created by it being a popular choice for conferences and events. The Mobile Web Congress alone brings 2,000 senior telecoms and technology industry executives to the city each February.


The case against: It is still hard to lure talent from the European tech and media hubs of London, Berlin and Stockholm, especially software developers. Some founders who have moved to Barcelona complain about the time it takes to get deals done, especially during August when business tends to be put on hold.


Local heroes: Privalia is a membership club for flash sales from leading fashion brands. Founded in 2006, the service has 15m-plus members around the world and employs more than 900 people. In 2012 turnover rose 32 per cent to €422m.

Softonic is an online guide for software. Founded in 1997, the company has more than 350 employees and offices in Barcelona, Madrid, San Francisco, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Atrápalo is an online source of discounts for travel, hotel bookings and meals out. The company, founded in 2000, has 8m registered users and last year reported sales of €265m.


Show me the money:
Spain’s national government helps small businesses access finance through organisations such as the Centre for Industrial Technological Development, answering to the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, which provides support for research and development projects.

Barcelona Activa, the city’s economic development agency, operates a business incubator programme with a small seed fund.


How easy is it to get to? El Prat airport, one of the largest in Europe, is easily accessible from the centre of Barcelona by public transport or taxi. Flights go from here to most other European cities, but there are no direct flights to San Francisco for those wanting to get to the tech centre of Silicon Valley quickly.


What do the locals say?
Luca Carlucci, co-founder and chief executive of Bidaway, an online auction website: “Barcelona is a great tourist destination and a great place to live. The first makes it a good choice for a start-up focused on travel as many industry providers have headquarters in the city; while the latter makes Barcelona a good place to attract talent.”

Ana Maiques, CEO of Neuroelectrics, a brain-monitoring technology provider, says: “Funding is definitely an issue in the city. We have talent and willingness to change the world, but we lack funding to make our start-up companies global leaders.”

Ernest Mendoza, managing director of Goldemar Solutions, a nanotech business specialising in air purification: “It is easy to get €100,000, but it is not easy to get proper money.”

Are you involved in a start-up in São Paulo, Brazil? What do you think of it as a business launch pad? Email: jonathan.moules@ft.com before August 21

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