If you didn’t know, Barcelona’s tech scene is thriving. In fact, British investment firm Atomico released its 2017 annual report ‘The State of European Tech’; it found Barcelona to stand in 3rd position of best cities to set up a startup within Europe.
As I start writing this piece, Barcelona currently stands 5th in the world in the list of best places to live, work and play for digital nomads. Of all the 4416 cities in the world, Barcelona ranks 5th, I say that’s pretty high. This statistic brings us nicely to the first reason the technology industry is thriving in Barcelona right now; lifestyle.
Barcelona is undeniably attractive as a city to live in so it’s no wonder it currently ranks 5th in the world for places to live, work and play on the Nomad List.
Lets begin with the weather. Barcelona has 6 months of summer from May through to October and 15 hours of daylight in the summer months (double that of cities in the Northern Europe). It has less than 55 rainy days a year (in comparison to London’s 109 days), a beautifully pleasant average temperature of 28-29 degrees in the summer months and a mild average of 16-17 degrees in the winter months.
Barcelona’s higher education is internationally renowned. The city boasts two celebrated business schools IESE and ESADA, two highly prestigious universities: The University of Barcelona and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Lastly, It hosts University Pompeu Fabra, a university ranked by The Times Higher Education as one of the seven fastest-rising, young universities in the world, to name but a few. Those are to name but a few.
A 2017 study published in The Lancet, a UK journal, placed Spain’s healthcare 8th in the world. The study looked at the quality of healthcare in 195 countries around the world by calculating mortality rates from causes that should not be fatal with the presence of effective medical care. It did this by tracking death rates from 32 diseases between the years of 1990 and 2015; Spain scored 90 points out of the total 100.
Barcelona offers a wide range of environmental features. You can find an urban city with energy and buzz, coastline with white sand beaches and secret coves, soaring mountains ideal for hiking, and vast stretching countryside all within immediate access from Barcelona.
The cost of living in Barcelona is considerably lower than in other European cities which means your money goes much further. To highlight this point, let’s look at some cost comparisons between Barcelona and London, UK:
- Rent prices in Barcelona are 55.03% lower than in London.
- Restaurant prices in Barcelona are 34.67% lower than in London.
- Grocery prices in Barcelona are 17.38% lower than in London.
The cost of the monthly travel pass summaries this point nicely; the cost of a monthly travel pass in London is £132.00 (€152.50), in Barcelona a monthly travel pass costs £45.01 (€52.00), that’s a whopping 65.90% more. Even beer is between 38.90%-47.81% (imported-domestic) cheaper in Barcelona than in London!
Creativity runs through Barcelona´s veins and is a playground for those in, or who want to break into, the creative industries. Barcelona boasts an impressive list of architects, artists and designers, including but not limited to: Antoni Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.
What do all these things have to do with the rise of the tech industry in barcelona? All of these features attract international talent and these young, international talented people play a big role in the tech industry in Barcelona. As of October 2017, around 1 in 4 people working within the Barcelona startup ecosystem are internationals i.e. not from Spain; this number continues to rise every year. That’s not a bad figure for a relatively small city!
It didn’t happen by accident; Barcelona’s thriving tech industry was thought through, was planned and was deliberate. The city started planting the seed of it’s tech industry many years ago in the 1980s. What this means is that it took decades of directed effort innovation, focused and deliberate action, by more than one generation, of fostering and nourishing the ecosystem that has now become the tech industry we see today.
A big game changer in this incentive was, and still is, Barcelona Activa. Barcelona Activa began in 1986 as a business incubator with a goal to direct all of its energy towards supporting entrepreneurs. It did this, and continues to do, by offering advice, training, recommending service providers and connecting early stage companies with investors. Today, Barcelona Activa has 10 different facilities through which they carry out their activities including but not limited to; Glòries Business Incubator (spaces for innovative startups), Glòries Entrepreneurship Centre (the city entrepreneurs’ facility), Business Support Office (the symbol of Barcelona’s economic strategy), Barcelona Advanced Industry Park (an innovation cluster in the north of the city) and Cibernàrium(a technological training centre for professionals and companies).
The planning was and continues to be a combined effort by the government, the universities, mentors, service providers, investors and entrepreneurs. What has all the deliberate planning resulted in? According to Catalonia Trade & Investment, the following is true of the startup scene in Barcelona:
-A turnover of 1.2million euros
-30 Barcelona based private accelerators
-5th place standing in Europe for healthiest startup ecosystem
The thriving tech scene we are looking at in Barcelona is the result of decades of hard work, deliberate planning and focused action to bring about this precise result. It is down to a convenient blend of two factors; a well-planned and correctly executed incentive along with the enticing lifestyle unique to Barcelona.
The Nomad list I mentioned in the opening of this piece? Well it fluctuates constantly; at the point of finishing this article, Barcelona stands 2nd in the world to live, work and play for digital nomads.