Tourists and manteros cope with the space around the Port of Barcelona, one of those summer workdays in which the city really takes refuge in air-conditioned offices or has simply fled in terror from the asphalt. Miguel Vicente is an exception in the variegated urban landscape: he has his office right there, in Pier01, an old warehouse of more than 10,000 square meters yielded by the port authority in which today there are almost 200 startups.
Vicente (born in Vinaroz, Castellón, in 1972) is not related to everything that happens there, but almost: presides Barcelona Tech City, the private entity that manages the facilities and, above all, promotes the attractiveness of the city as a focus of global technological investment. In addition, the Pier01 houses several of the companies in which it participates shareholder through Antai Venture, the investment vehicle that created together with Gerard Olivé and Jordi Sanllehi, after selling, in 2011, the majority of Lets Bonus, a platform of offers and discounts online. It was his first adventure as an entrepreneur. Today he defines himself as a "serial entrepreneur" and is very elusive to talk, with a tape recorder in front, of the details of his business investments.
It has been in this for many years. What has changed in this time in the world of entrepreneurs?
Ten years ago they were created startups for Spain and the Latin American market, and at most one thought of a European market, like Italy. Now think of a global market, and in Spain as the test market. Any startup that is based in Barcelona is competing with another one in Berlin, for example, for the money of an international fund with which it launches to conquer the United States. That is the most important thing: that the entrepreneur has a global vision.
And entrepreneurial talent has also matured a lot. Ten years ago the person who was very prepared wanted to go to the investment bank; now he wants to create a startup.
We need more 'spin off' from the university environment, to get more business projects out of there. That is the piece that we lack in Spain
Only in this building there are 180 startups; According to data from Barcelona Tech City, in the city there are about 1,500 startups, which employ 30,000 people. Is there some bubble risk?
Barcelona has always been a city of SMEs and entrepreneurs; what happens is that now with the technological revolution entrepreneurs are called entrepreneurs and SMEs startups, because the new factories are technological. How many restaurants open and close in a month in Spain? Well, we are like this on the Internet; that is normality. So I do not think there is a bubble, in fact we have a way to go.
And exactly what are the shortcomings of entrepreneurship in Spain?
This is a global competition between entrepreneurship systems, this is how we have to put it. And in this area, although we have large business schools, we need more spin off from the university environment, to get more business projects out of there. There are already some cases, but we need more. The margin of improvement of the Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem is in the universities; that is the piece that we lack.
Returning to Barcelona, how has the political crisis affected you? It gives the impression that the city has not lost appeal for the technology sector, compared to what has happened in more traditional businesses. Is the Barcelona brand stronger than the Catalonia brand?
I will not answer political questions, among other things because in Barcelona Tech City all kinds of sensibilities coexist. I would only like to highlight that in recent months, global companies such as Nestlé or Amazon have opted for Barcelona due to the city's ability to attract talent. This building we are in is proof of that capacity.
It defines Antai Venture as a "factory of startups", And here have passed, or are, all kinds of companies: Wallapop, Cornerjob, JustBell, Prontopiso, Carnovo, Deliberry, Marmot … What is the fundamental factor when deciding whether to invest or not in a project?
The team, the important thing is to have the best team. Many times one startup it has nothing to do with what it will be in five years; it is the good teams that are capable of turning a project around. And the dedication, the ambition of the promoters is also fundamental. Sometimes someone talks to me informally about some startup in which he has been involved, to see if we invest. And then he tells me that he dedicates only a few hours "because leaving his job would be very risky". So you ask the investor to risk money but you are not willing to risk?
Antai participated in the genesis of Glovo, when in 2015 it merged with one of the companies that you created, JustBell. Glovo is a symbol of success – in July it closed a financing round of 115 million – but it is also perceived as an example of the imbalances in labor relations caused by technology. What do you think?
I am not a spokesperson for the company, so I would give the floor to Oscar Pierre, the CEO and a paradigmatic case of an entrepreneur who brings together youth, brilliance, maturity and ability to work. I am left with the huge positive part of companies like Glovo, although it is necessary to refine those aspects in which technology can generate discomfort in the weakest collectives.
Can technology come to dehumanize labor relations?
Entrepreneurship is a unique life experience, equivalent to 18 masters and three races condensed in a kind of red pill
Technology takes us to a more meritocratic society, with more equal opportunities. In these businesses nobody is going to be interested in who your father is and no venture capital fund is going to be fixed in your last name. What they ask you is what you have done and why you are going to succeed. It will be your talent, your struggle, your spirit of sacrifice … which will take you to the places.
So I guess you will be the one who gives the last push to those who are thinking of starting.
It is a unique life experience, equivalent to 18 masters and three races condensed in a kind of red pill, as in the famous Matrix scene. But we must always bear in mind that undertaking implicitly implies a high possibility of failure. We have to accept the culture of error, demystify failure.
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