When we decided to invest in a pan-Euro central sales office in Barcelona, our board of directors rightly asked us: “why should we build an office in Barcelona as opposed to places like Dublin, London or Amsterdam?”
We know the importance of having a second multicultural office as a compliment to our main Amsterdam office is an opportunity not to be passed up. However, making investments in new offices should only be done if it primes the company with additional drive, enhances fast knowledge sharing and adds yet another layer of cultural diversity to an already amazing company. Barcelona totally passes the test for us, and here’s why.
Ecosystem begets ecosystem
Barcelona has gained a great reputation as a hotspot for startups over the past few years. Robin Wauters brought this to the world's attention in 2013 with his post, “A deep dive into Barcelona’s startup ecosystem, and how it’s much like the Sagrada Família”. In 2014, our very own venture backers helped create an extremely successful event during the Mobile World Congress called 4 years from now (4YFN). The highlight was Martin Varsavsky interviewing Jan Koum just a few days after Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19B. Events like this and countless other startup happenings in Barcelona have become the norm, making the future very bright for the Spanish city.
What once were startups like Softonic and eDreams that mature into companies are another important part of the ecosystem mix. This is when accelerated hiring takes place, which is of obvious importance to Catalonia and Spain. In fact, Barcelona is probably a better place for later-stage startups (after product-market fit) than early stage (before product-market fit). For example, Softonic is about to go public this fall, and eDreams/Odigeo just went public in May.
Another great example of business in Barcelona is Yahoo Labs. Not many people know that Yahoo has a lab in the centre of Barcelona with 40 of the smartest PhDs in Europe who don’t work on just big data, but massive data. They come from all over the planet and are the best of the best at doing amazing things with data. Art is at the heart of Barcelona, and data is becoming another art form in the city. It all starts with an inspiration and a vision of what could be done. The rest is execution.
Barcelona has the basics
Barcelona has qualities that are very valuable, and free, such as sunshine. beaches, artistic freedom, cuisine and culture. It also has a few other important ingredients that are close to free. It has very good infrastructure, an extremely convenient airport and several very good universities including two top 10 MBA programs at IESE and ESADE.
From a talent recruiting and retention perspective, all of these things are a really big draw. For example, places like Dublin and London both have very good and distinct advantages of their own – but the labour market there is a brutal bloodbath of constant head hunting, poaching and perks. Conversely, in Barcelona the most valuable perks come with the territory and are virtually free.
From a cost perspective, Barcelona is very affordable, particularly with the salaries and bonus plans we are paying. Rents are relatively low for what you get. For example, you get 120 square meters for €1500/month with a sun-filled terrace, the local tapas bar down on the corner, a gorgeous Monday through Friday commute to work by foot or bike, and weekends in the Cuitadella Park, Costa Brava, the Pyrenees, Madrid, the Balearic Islands and so much more right at your doorstep.
The trade-off we expect
All of these incredibly dreamy life-balance ingredients make it easy to get top performance that translates into professional and personal growth. Barcelona offers a great place to enjoy the fruits of hard work with constant rejuvenation and daily inspiration for the next cycle of effort and success.