The ecosystem of startups in Spain It has gone from being a fledgling sector to becoming a growing industry. Only in the first quarter of the year, Spanish startups received 1,541 million in financing, a figure significantly higher than the 1,105 million raised in 2020, according to the Observatory of Startups of the Bankinter Innovation Foundation. These figures, which only include the January-March period, show a remarkable uptrend compared to previous years, such as 2013 or 2014, when early-stage companies received 184.3 million and 347 million respectively, according to a study by “Wecapitalriesgo” published in 2015.
Part of this success is the responsibility of the universities, which have progressively developed different strategies to promote entrepreneurship. Among other initiatives, support programs have been created for entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators,coworking spaces and events that put startups and investors in contact. The
college is a key piece within the innovative ecosystem, since for many people it is their first contact with the world of entrepreneurship. “Universities play a very important role in the training stage and in generating the talent that startups need to develop,” he says. Carlos Mateo, President of the Spanish Association of Startups. Mateo highlights the great efforts being made by public and private institutions to support entrepreneurs, especially when they barely have previous work experience. “When the entrepreneur is a novice, universities play an essential role in accompanying him during the initial stages,” he says.
One of the main ways that universities have to help the development of new companies is the assignment of spaces to work. “10% of nurseries in Spain depend on universities,” he says Nacho Ormeño, CEO of Startupxplore, an investment platform in companies with high growth potential.
Ormeño defines them as seedbeds of companies where they can develop their project, they meet with mentors or they expand their network of contacts as there are many entrepreneurs collaborating within the same building. In addition, universities have initiatives that seek the development of startups and the entrepreneurial spirit of their students. These programs offer consulting and seminars that stimulate the creation of the business project. This is the case, for example, of ‘act UPM, a program of the Polytechnic University of Madrid that has been involved in the creation of some 300 technology startups that have received a total of 120 million euros of private investment.
“Participants present a business idea and, if chosen, receive various benefits such as training, advice, access to investor forums and a physical space where they collaborate,” he explains. Aristides Senra, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UPM. ‘Actúaupm’ was launched in 2004 and is now in its eighteenth edition. One of the 300 startups that have emerged from that program is Agnitio, a company specializing in Voice biometrics that was acquired in 2016 by Nuance, an American software company listed on the NASDAQ stock market. Microsoft recently made an offer to buy Nuance for $ 19.7 billion, so Agnitio would end up being part of Bill Gates’ tech giant. “Every year we receive 400 ideas. They are generally presented by students, former students, professors and researchers from the Polytechnic of Madrid ”, says Serna. This case is no exception. There are many private centers that have programs to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. “Right now we are launching the ‘IE Module’ program. It is a kind of transversal experience for students of all grades to work on a business challenge based on the needs of society, “he says. Daniel Soriano, director of the entrepreneurship and innovation center of
IE University. It tries to generate an entrepreneurial mentality in students regardless of whether they study philosophy, architecture or law. That is, it is about introducing the ‘entrepreneurial gene‘in the student and not leave it alone as a subject for the graduates in ADE.
The needs of the current labor market force employees to be in constant training. This situation also requires that universities update themselves to provide adequate content. From the Spanish Association of Startups, Mateo advocates a close collaboration between startups, companies and educational institutions so that the courses are adapted to the knowledge demanded by the market.
“98% of entrepreneurs have undergraduate or postgraduate studies,” he says Maria Benjumea, CEO of South Summit, data with which he emphasizes the importance of the university to generate an entrepreneurial culture. In order to
Benjumea, the Spanish university has made many strides to implant a ‘startup mentality’ in students, but those efforts vary depending on the educational institution. “Some have an area that clearly drives entrepreneurship, while others still have a long way to go. The important thing, however, is that there is a culture that this situation must change and that entrepreneurship must be promoted, “he says. In his opinion, awakening students’ appetite to learn is a key element for Spain to transform its industrial fabric and become a more technological economy and innovative.
“To change the productive fabric it is necessary to take advantage of the research potential that is carried out from the universities ”, says Ormeño, CEO of Startupxplore, since on many occasions scientific studies are carried out in universities that do not end up being converted into commercial products. For the expert, biotechnology is one of the main areas in which the private sector and the university can more easily find synergies. Among the main challenges that Spanish startups must address, Ormeño considers that the most important are to gain greater knowledge of the operation of a company, accounting and above all to have a greater international vision. “It makes no sense to limit yourself to a market of 46 million Spaniards when you can reach the whole world,” he concludes.