If you are considering opening your startup or you simply want to thrive within this sector while working for one, one big question surely arises: which is the place to be? We all tend to think about cities like Berlin or London, which have proven to have a great track record of innovation and growth companies. But perhaps there is a city that offers much more than those cities: Barcelona. In this article we will explain why by defining the top 9 reasons that explain why Barcelona is the best place for startups.
There is one thing no one can deny: there is a real and powerful network effect that plays a huge role in the startup world. A network effect we have been experiencing for the past decades in regions like Silicon Valley.
And it’s simple: the more startups within the same area, the more promising that area for your new startup and the higher its chances of success.
All the synergies and consequences that a clustering of companies offers is completely powerful:
- There is more talent available, and talent from abroad feels attracted to the region.
- Investors feel attracted to, so a higher pool of money is available for the different seed rounds (which can be bigger).
- Partnership opportunities arise between startups
- And the list goes on and on.
In that sense, Barcelona currently offers those network effects, being ranked the 5th most attractive cities for digital experts.
That explains why, here are some numbers.
In 2019 alone, the number of new tech companies and projects that were established in Catalonia increased by 21%.
Furthermore, due to all the reasons we will explore in a second, more and more startups are moving to Barcelona (apart from those already born in the city; like TravelPerk, Typeform or Badi).
This creates a perfect environment to launch your project, as you will inevitably be surrounded by other like-minded entrepreneurs and their companies.
If there is one thing a startup needs to thrive that is talent.
And Barcelona, but the Catalonian region in general, has become one of the best places throughout the whole of Europe to find sharp-minded individuals who are eager to contribute, with completely innovative ideas.
Tech positions in the city attract over 30% of the talent that comes from other countries. Even during and after the pandemic, this number has grown even further: a 20% increase in the number of professionals for this type of jobs.
Hence, there is in Barcelona a pool of potential employees with advanced digital skills with an innovative and growth mindset (exactly what any startup needs).
And among others, that has been possible thanks to the high-quality universities and business schools in the area.
Those student centers do have a high percentage of talent from abroad, and that number is increasing every month. International students are growing nearly to over 40% for the past 5 years.
Great universities like UPC or UPF are good examples of nests where talent arises; the same as with the prestigious business schools ESADE or IESE.
Weather + Leisure opportunities
Let’s face it.
A-players love working. We could even say that they NEED to work. That is why 12 to 16-hour workdays are not uncommon inside the startup world.
But as Abraham Lincoln recommended, if you want to chop down a tree, you must devote the majority of your time sharpening the axe.
That is, high-performers need to relax. They need to disconnect. They need to enjoy any leisure activity that helps them turn off their minds from work and recharge their batteries for the following week of chaos and fires to extinguish.
And then is when cities like London or Berlin may not be the optimal place to be in.
Because who would like to spend a free weekend closed at home because it is too cold or it rains too much?
Well, not a problem in Barcelona.
With perfect temperatures the whole year round, the city is simply a paradise for many foreigners.
Not only do you have its famous beach, but leisure opportunities to go out and have fun abound.
Who would deny a nice dinner with some of the best Mediterranean food?
Being surrounded by talent, being able to access resources or business angels is really important. But feeling at home, feeling comfortable and happy in the city in which you are located is perhaps even more crucial. And Barcelona is the ideal place for that.
The place for science and innovation
Another factor that contributes to and enables the emergence of innovative companies is the overall scientific environment in the region.
In that sense, the Autonomous Community of Catalonia is one of the leaders of innovation and science development in Spain.
There are 800 research groups and more than 25,000 researchers in Catalonia.
Those professionals alone generate 2,6% of the scientific production for the European Union.
And they are backed up by many high-end facilities and infrastructures that tackle tons of innovation projects. To name a couple, there is in Catalonia the first Southern Europe particle accelerator, Spain’s premium supercomputer (the Marenostrum BSC).
The local government in the city early understood the potential of Barcelona as a startup hub and tried to help the community grow.
Organizations like Barcelona Activa, which is an incubator that also provides funding, were created to help entrepreneurs of all kinds.
But there are other institutions with the same goal like Mobile World Capital Barcelona Foundation that play a huge role in helping the startup community in Barcelona.
Main Southern-Europeans startup hub
All these factors have made Barcelona the main hub for innovation and startup building in the South of Europe during the past years.
There are currently more than 1,500 startups in Catalonia, and the number does not cease to grow.
Startups that incorporate the latest technology, using or entirely basing its offerings on cloud computing, AI, blockchain, Bit Data, 3D printing.
And of course, with that high-number of high-growth companies, the need for a shared territory was imperious.
That is why facilities like Barcelona Tech City (in the Pier 01 Building), one of the four Barcelona Activa locations, or the 22@ area have emerged and do currently group the main startups in the city.
Access to resources and investment
Many startups lose complete sight of profitability during their first years in exchange for growth, growth, and more growth. But of course, that has a cost, and someone has to pay for the party.
That is why having access to investment and external funds is so important.
Many tend to think that Catalonia, and Spain in general, is not a place for that. The Spanish economy simply won’t allow it.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, there are many accelerators in the region like Seedrocket, Wayra, Conector, or Startupbootcamp. Not only will they provide invaluable guidance throughout the first months of the startup, but many times they will also offer to finance the best projects.
But there is much more than that.
There are many investment firms and private investors in the country; investors that have participated in funding high-growth companies like eDreams, Softonic, or Glovo during their early stages.
Nauta Capital, the Caixa Capital Risc division, Active VP are some of the main venture capitalists firms. But then the country also hosts big private investor names like Carlos Blanco or Jose Cabiedes.
Events for entrepreneurs every week
On top of having tons of startups being located in Barcelona, you have a really active community of entrepreneurs.
It is really simple to find events such as conferences, workshops, or simply meetups designed for international entrepreneurs so they can meet each other.
This creates powerful connections that many times end up in new ventures.
And not only that, as you can find more than one interesting event related to the startup world every single week, meeting like-minded people is really easy, something that helps when you are moving abroad and are new in the city.
Many residency alternatives
Finally, we must also consider the legal aspects.
Because many times the decision of choosing one country or the other has to do with how easy the legal path is.
In that sense, the Spanish immigration law offers 3 different routes for those willing to thrive within the innovation ecosystem:
If you are an EU citizen, then things are really simple for you. You just need to apply for an EU registration certificate, and you will be able to live and work in the country in a matter of days.
But for those who are from outside the European Union, there are two possibilities:
- If you are a startup founder, you can apply for the entrepreneur visa. This is a special type of residency and work permit created for those with an innovative idea that involves a high level of technology, something that the market has not seen yet before. Which is exactly what any startup founder would create.
- But what happens to the company employees? Then the highly-qualified work permit is the go-to option, designed for individuals with higher and technical education who work for a company.
- And, if you work remotely for a company or are a freelancer who works abroad, you can now apply for the digital nomad visa
These two residence permits were created under the Entrepreneur’s Law, an immigration law that aims to attract talent and innovation to the country, further helping Spain (and hence Barcelona) become the paradise for startups in Europe.
And if you have any legal doubt, our lawyers are at your complete disposal! Ask us anything and get an instant answer: