With reasonable operating costs and increasing availability of capital, Barcelona continues to gain momentum as an international startup hub. The city is frequently ranked one of Europe’s best for new businesses, thanks to its established infrastructure, large talent pool and low cost of living. The vibrant cultural scene, excellent food and a coastal Mediterranean location are merely the icing on the cake.
There are currently more than 1,200 startups in Barcelona, narrowly nudging ahead of the capital, Madrid, making it Spain’s largest startup hub. Popular sectors include life sciences and health, as well as gaming. In fact, there are over 130 gaming companies alone, which may have something to do with the competitive senior software engineering salaries.
Barcelona is home to top educational facilities, including the IESE and ESADE business schools. Plus, in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2019, Barcelona took the top three spots amongst the Best Universities in Spain.
Of course not everything is about work here, there are plenty of places to play too. Simply strolling around the city is a feast for the eyes, with eccentric pieces of Gaudí architecture jutting up all over the place. His colourful Park Güell up on Carmel Hill is a particularly beautiful spot to take in spectacular views of the city. That is if you can bag a spot amongst the throng of visitors, but much of Barcelona is full of people all wanting a piece of the action.
A taste of some traditional Catalan dishes wouldn’t go amiss (apparently Mark Zuckerberg is a fan, having been spotted at Ca l’Estevet restaurant) and spend some downtime mooching around the many museums, from urban art at Bostik Murals to the history of the city’s medieval Jewish Quarter at MUHBA El Call. Be sure to catch a Barça match, after all they are the world’s second most valuable football team according to Forbes’ 2019 data, coming in second only to Real Madrid. Or get into one of the continent’s biggest music festivals, including Sónar and Primavera.
Given its credentials, it’s easy to see why Barcelona draws an extensive international crowd. Because of this, English is widely spoken throughout and, in 2018, it came second in a roundup of the top 30 European cities with the most professional developers, with almost 73,000 at its disposal. The same year, the city also came in fifth – behind London, Berlin, Paris and Stockholm – for the sheer volume that was invested (over €871m). Thanks to these figures, Barcelona’s ecosystem is, according to Startup Genome, valued at $4.1bn.
Startup Genome also reported that Barcelona had entered the “globalisation phase” of their Ecosystem Lifecycle Model. This means that local resources, infrastructure and community have all been well established and the next level of connectivity and scalability is supported, mostly through the hosting of a raft of global events.
World Mobile Congress and 4YFN, which takes place around February, attracts over 100,000 people each year, including international investors, corporates, governments, members of the press, entrepreneurs and startups. While huge gaming expo Nice One Barcelona (formerly Barcelona Games World) sets up later in the year for over 150,000 attendees.
As well as the annual big-hitters, Barcelona hosts regular meet-ups too, such as Startup Grind, a networking event supported by Google that has a monthly guest speaker and open mic, and FuckUp Nights, a fun and supportive event where aspiring entrepreneurs share their mistakes over a beer or two. Plus Barcelona Activa, which is a local government initiative that was set up in 1986 to promote economic growth in the city, offer free courses for entrepreneurs, and provide advice on the tricky bits like taxes and legal procedures.
Whether you’re a complete startup newbie or you’ve already dipped your toe in this fast-paced world, there are few places better qualified than Barcelona to provide a base for you next venture.