Even though it was only for a few hours, last Friday 24th of February Silicon Valley came to Barcelona! SVC2BCN was hosted in Barcelona Activa and it was a unique combination of entrepreneurs of the Valley, Spanish based entrepreneurs, investors and advisors.
The panel discussions ranged from the benefits of starting up in the Valley, to the current state of entrepreneurship in Spain, to how to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some of the featured speakers were: Michel Kisfaludi, CEO of eyeOS CEO, Luisa Alemany director at ESADE Entrepreneurship Institute, José Mariano, Founder & CEO of inbloon, Brad Feld manager director at Foundry Group and Josep Amorós Vice-director at Wayra.
We would like to share our key take-aways from the conference with you:
Starting up in Silicon Valley
A group of Silicon Valley based entrepreneurs gave the reasons to why living and creating your own startup in the Valley is so unique.
- Always on call: In Silicon Valley, you are always working. From the moment you wake up, you are doing business. While you have lunch, you are closing deals. It’s a good combination of good talent and people, well connected and constantly networking. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 adventure.
- Ties & suits don’t matter! : The Silicon Valley entrepreneurs explained how things are more laid back and relaxed. What matters is you and your project, not how dressed up you are. So remember to leave your tie at home if you’re meeting an investor in the Valley
- Grateful diet: Just a quick email to say thanks! Be grateful to those who helped you in the past – it’s a good way to keep in touch with people and keep your network healthy and well connected.
- Pay it forward culture: Largely discussed by Steve Blank, it’s all about doing things for the others in advance. Help other fellow entrepreneurs like you without expecting anything back. Maybe one day, in the future, you can say you helped tomorrow’s Steve Jobs!
- The culture: In the Valley the people tend to be more entrepreneurial. This is not because they are smarter, but the culture doesn’t exorcise failure as much as other cultures.
How is it to start up in Spain? Challenges & Benefits
Spanish based entrepreneurs, investors and advisors pointed out some of the challenges and benefits of starting up in Spain.
Some of the challenges…
- Cultural laggards: Long administrative processes and fear of failure are some of the cultural background facts that are still present in the ecosystem. People don’t see entrepreneurship as a career option.
- Raising funds & private investment mindset: You can raise funds, but don’t expect a lot. What’s more, Business Angels usually invest in projects that are copies of existing projects. You need to minimize the risk as much as possible if you want investors to inject money in your project.
- Lack of successful stories: This obviously discourages people to start their companies and investors to bet on new projects.
- Market Size: The size of the market makes it such a challenge to achieve a critical mass of customers. The USA is a 300 million people single market while Europe is a 500 million people highly segmented market and Spain is only 47 million people.
And the benefits…!
- Creating a team: It’s easier and cheaper to put a team together. Talent is not as expensive as it is outside Spain. Also, in Spain there is a good level of talent in technology.
- Public funding: Spain is well known for having access to a broad choice of governmental soft loans for entrepreneurs.
- Networking opportunities: Entrepreneurial events are on the rise. More and more entrepreneurial events are taking place, a great opportunity to create contacts.
- Things are changing: People are leaving the Spanish inferiority complex behind as well as creating a “we can do it here” mentality. However, it’s an on-going and long process.
How to build up an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Brad Feld shared his thoughts on creating an ecosystem from his own experience:
- Take a leadership attitude: If you want to start up an ecosystem, you might need to be the leader. You have to be welcoming, integrate people and start putting things together.
- Be willing to contribute: You need to be genuinely kind. Be generous and do things without expecting anything back.
- The ecosystem can be started up everywhere: Every start-up community has this “Silicon Valley wanna be”. But you have to make the most of your geography. Every community has its strengths and weaknesses and those need to be exploited.
- They key is to turn things up-side down: If you want, you can create an ecosystem just where you live. In the ecosystem, there’s no winner or losers, it’s all about being aware of what can be done and what can be improved.
- Be patient: It is very likely that you will need to keep on working on this project for at least 20 years. It will take this much time for you to see major changes. So be sure to celebrate all the small victories!
The result of all the panels and conferences let us with a somewhat insatiable appetite to go to the Valley to experience the endless opportunities you have as an entrepreneur and immerse ourselves in the intense entrepreneurial way of life. BUT Spain is great, too!, There is a huge entrepreneurial community and a lot of willingness to make things happen. Our main leanings from the conference are; be generous with your fellow entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, don’t fear failure and plan for it. Silicon Valley is a great place for entrepreneurs, and Spain is picking up a lot! We are here excited to be a part of what is to come in Barcelona!