Country Guide

Spain

Spain
Jaime Novoa

Guest Editor

Jaime Novoa

Investor at K Fund

Jaime Novoa is a venture capitalist based in Madrid, Spain. Before joining K Fund in mid 2016, Jaime spent the majority of his career in journalism, working for local publication WeblogsSL and then Tech.eu and his own site covering the Spanish tech ecosystem, Novobrief.

Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind? Nominate a country guest editor.

Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.

Startup ecosystem summary

Key Startup Cities

Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Malaga

Connected Country Ecosystems

Portugal, UK, France, Germany

Differentiators

  • Experienced developer density
  • Affordable talent and operating costs
  • Two mature city hubs very well connected with each other: Barcelona has the ability of attracting a lot of international talent, while Madrid has a high quantity of corporates and VCs that also favor the local tech ecosystem

Challenges

  • Over-regulation
  • Lack of senior talent
  • Lack of big exits and of high number of companies that have raised Series C+ rounds
  • Lack of expertise in SaaS companies and in core areas such as sales, marketing, customer success

Editor's Guide

Introduction

Spain has a young but thriving startup ecosystem. The country started producing its first tech companies around 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until the past 5 years that entrepreneurship has become significant and companies with international ambitions have been created.

Spain is one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, and that has also impacted the local tech ecosystem, showcasing a significant ability to attract foreign talent to cities such as Barcelona or Madrid looking for the right work-life balance.

As a young market, the Spanish startup scene still faces challenges, such as over-regulation in sectors such as transportation or fintech, as well as lack of senior talent in key scale-up positions.

Outlook

Spain is behind neighboring countries such as the UK, France or Germany in producing large tech companies. It’s a younger ecosystem and, as such, it still needs time to continue to develop and attract more talent to its companies.

The country recently surpassed the US$1 billion mark in VC funding (2018), but there’s still a lack of exits larger than €200 million, with only a limited number of those in the past 5 years. 

Given the fact that local talent remains more affordable than in other European countries, and even more compared to the US, we’ll continue to see companies with a dual structure of engineering and product in Spain, and sales and marketing in the US.

Featured Tech Startups

Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.

Startup Showcase

Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.

Typeform has re-invented the way forms work. You’ve probably never thought about it, but every time you use the Internet you fill in several online forms. Co-founders Robert and David were working on his own web agency when a client asked them to develop a form system, which ended up becoming what Typeform is today. Typeform is used by millions of people around the world and the company has several millions of dollars in ARR, while employing around 200 people in its Barcelona headquarters.

Focus Industries

Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.

BiotechSpain, and especially Cataluña, has a long tradition in biotech and life sciences.
FintechTwo of the world’s largest banks are Spanish: BBVA and Banco Santander. These institutions positively impact the development of talent in financial services and the launch of fintech and insurtech companies.
TraveltechAs one of the main tourist destinations in the world, Spain has produced several large travel tech companies in recent times, such as Amadeus, eDreams Odigeo and several others.

Talent

Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.

  • Technical TalentAdvanced
  • Marketing TalentModerate
  • Experienced TalentUndeveloped
  • International TalentAdvanced

Culture and History

Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.

Spain continues to attract talent across a wide variety of industries due to its climate, lifestyle and possibilities of work-life balance. That is one of the main reasons behind the flock of international talent to coastal cities such as Barcelona or Valencia, which infuses the local ecosystems with international flavour and expertise.

The country also has one of the larger smartphone penetration rates in the world and a high degree of technology adoption by its young population, thus representing an opportunity for technology companies building products and services for such an audience.

Contrary to Anglo-Saxon countries and cultures, Spain suffers from a more conservative government and over-regulation, which could impact the development of its local ecosystem.

Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.

Community

Active Investors

Abac Capital (Barcelona): A €320 million fund to invest in Spanish medium-sized companies. (Source: Abac Capital)

Antai Venture Builder (Barcelona): A VC investing across the e-commerce, on-demand, digital native vertical brands, marketplaces, and SaaS sectors. (Source: Antai Venture Builder)

Ariol Capital (Barcelona): A private equity firm formed by a group of successful business managers and investors to acquire, operate and grow healthy businesses in the middle market. (Source: Ariol Capital)

Bonsai Venture Capital (Madrid): An early stage and growth fund investing in mobile focus startups based on classifieds, e-health, games, payments, security, travel and other high growth sectors. (Source: Bonsai)

Cabiedes & Partners (Madrid): A Spanish venture capital firm that provides seed funding, early-stage investment services. Investments are concentrated on the E-Commerce, Enterprise Software, Design, and Fintech sectors. (Source: Apiumhub)

Caixa Capital Risc (Barcelona): The venture capital arm of CriteriaCaixa, an investor that provides equity and convertible loans to innovative companies in their early stages. The fund invests in the seed phase and offer support during the A and B Series rounds, if necessary. Caixa Capital Risc manages a capital of 195 million euro and invests mainly in Spanish companies in the following fields: time (corporate software, communications equipment, and Internet/mobile business), healthcare/ Life sciences (therapeutic treatments, drug development, medical devices, and healthcare services), industrial technology (new materials, sustainability, process technology, etc.). (Source: Caixa Capital Risc)

Draper B1 (Valencia)

Galdana Ventures (Barcelona): Galdana Ventures is a €900m fund of funds family focused in venture capital that invests in some of the top tier firms in the United States, Asia, Israel and Europe. (Source: Galdana Ventures)

Idodi Venture Capital / IVC Digital Tech (Barcelona): A Spanish and Irish independent firm that invests in technology startups in the early stages (seed capital). It targets the entire digital and technological industry, with a special focus on ecommerce, Saas, Mobile and Platform devices. (Source: IVC)

Intelectium (Barcelona)

Inveready (Barcelona, Madrid): Inveready is a leading asset manager in Spain investing in early-stage technology-based companies. It currently invests through 4 verticals (Venture Capital in Digital Technology, Venture Capital in Life Sciences, Venture Debt and Hybrid Financing for quoted companies in growth markets), with +€330M of assets under management. (Source: Inveready)

K Fund (Madrid): K Fund is an early stage VC firm that, with an entrepreneur-centric philosophy, aims to fuel the evolution of the Spanish startup ecosystem. (Source: K Fund)

Kibo Ventures (Madrid): Invests US$200K – US$5 million per deal in the earlier stages, in internet and mobile companies, with a “Super Angel” approach. (Source: Apiumhub)

Nauta Capital (Barcelona): A Venture Capital firm investing in early stage technology companies. Main areas of interest include B2B Software propositions, disruptive Digital Media companies, and enabling technologies for Mobile and the Internet. Nauta has US$260 million under management and invests in Western Europe and the USA. Nauta has presence in London (UK), Boston, MA (USA), and Barcelona (Spain). (Source: Apiumhub)

Nero Ventures (Barcelona): An early stage firm investing in enterprise software technology (cloud/SaaS, data center, management, networking, security and storage) and consumer software technology (B2B2C) including advertising, e-commerce, marketplaces, media, mobile and services. (Source: Nero Ventures)

Seaya Ventures (Madrid): A Spanish venture fund investing in early and growth stage Internet and technology-enabled companies in Spain and Latam. (Source: Apiumhub)

SI Capital (Barcelona): A private equity firm founded in 2004 with operations in Barcelona and London. The firm is focused on growth opportunities in the environmental and energy markets. (Source: SI Capital)

Sitka Capital (Barcelona): Focuses on pre-seed and seed stage investment. (Source: Sitka Capital)

Ysios Capital (Barcelona): A leading venture capital investor that provides private equity financing to early and mid-stage human healthcare and life science companies with a special focus on pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices. Founded in 2008, Ysios Capital has more than € 200 million in assets under management distributed over two funds. Its investments include Prexton Therapeutics, Medlumics, BioClin Therapeutics, Vivet Therapeutics and Anaconda BioMed. (Source: Apiumhub)

incubators

Cloud Incubator (Murcia): Aims to promote education in entrepreneurship and innovation in the ICT sector throughout Europe. (Source: Cloud Incubator)

IE Business School’s Venture Labs (Madrid): IE's startup incubator, which is designed for students and alumni to explore market opportunities, incubate ideas and accelerate business. (Source: IE Business School)

Programa Explorer (Madrid): The entrepreneurship program of Banco Santander that helps land projects driving its market launch. The program offers support, training, advice, cash prizes and trips to Silicon Valley. (Source: Programa Explorer)

Tetuan Valley (Madrid): A pre-accelerator organization that helps entrepreneurs implement a business idea from start to grow through skilled engineers and business people who directly transfer their knowledge to the workforce. (Source: Tetuan Valley)

accelerators

Conector (Barcelona): An accelerator dedicated to matching entrepreneurs and mentors. It focuses on startups in the Internet and Mobile sector to participate in the 6-month acceleration process. (Source: Conector)

Impact Accelerator (Madrid): Founded in 2014, IMPACT has accelerated more than 100 startups and awarded more than €7 million equity free. (Source: Impact Accelerator)

Itnig (Barcelona): A startup builder/accelerator based in Barcelona.

Lanzadera (Valencia): A program launched by the President of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan Roig. The 9-month business acceleration program offers advice, adapted financing and training for the development of entrepreneurial projects, based on a proven management model. The program is constantly open and the entry months are: January, May and September. (Source: Lanzadera)

NUMA Barcelona (Barcelona): In exchange for a 5% equity stakes, NUMA brings high-quality mentorship, €36K cash investment with a potential € 100K follow-up round, network, business opportunities and 4-month access to co-working space in the epicenter of the startup ecosystem in Barcelona. (Source: Gust)

Seedrocket (Barcelona, Madrid): The differential value of SeedRocket lies in the involvement of Business Angels and reference professionals in the sector. It is a network of experienced mentors who engage with young entrepreneurs in a proactive and coordinated way, contributing their time, dedication and knowledge. Likewise, SeedRocket is also made up of a network of investors who are committed to new technology projects, innovative and with high growth potential. (Source: Seedrocket)

Startupbootcamp IoT & Data Tech (Barcelona): Focused on startups building disruptive solutions with connected devices and the immense associated data these machines create. During the course of an intensive 3-month acceleration program in Barcelona, 10 selected startups work with 100+ mentors, coaches, partners and investors to build the next generation of products, services and companies that will change the world. The program officially ends with a Demo Day at the 4YFN stage of the Mobile World Congress, where startups pitch in front of over 400 potential investors and customers. (Source: Startupbootcamp)

Wayra Spain (Barcelona, Madrid): The startup accelerator of Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica. They are dedicated to promote startups and train them in academies and provide them funding for their projects being a success. (Source: Yeti)

Startups Raising Capital
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Startups Hiring
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Coworking Spaces/Hubs

Betahaus (Barcelona)

Co.lab (Bilbao)

CREC (Barcelona)

Geekshubs (Valencia)

Impact Hub Barcelona (Barcelona): A global network of coworking spaces, with 54 all over the world and more than 7,000 members. In Spain they have offices in Madrid and Barcelona, housing not only freelancers but also startups such as Ironhack or The App Date. As is the case with most spaces, numerous events associated with creativity and technology are held at both HUBs every month. (Source: Startupxplore)

Impact Hub Madrid (Madrid): A global network of coworking spaces, with 54 all over the world and more than 7,000 members. In Spain they have offices in Madrid and Barcelona, housing not only freelancers but also startups such as Ironhack or The App Date. As is the case with most spaces, numerous events associated with creativity and technology are held at both HUBs every month. (Source: Startupxplore)

Utopicus (Madrid): More than 150 coworkers work from its offices in downtown Madrid and every week they put together events related to the world of arts and entrepreneurship. (Source: Startupxplore)

Wayco (Valencia)

WeWork Spain (Barcelona, Madrid)

conferences

EU-Startups Summit (Barcelona): A two-day networking event, and a meeting point for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors who are aiming to build international tech companies. The conference includes fireside chats with internationally successful founders, great networking opportunities (with a dedicated networking app), workshops, and an exciting pitch competition on the main stage with 15 startup teams. (Source: EU-Startups)

Mobile World Congress Barcelona / 4YFN (Barcelona): MWC Barcelona is the largest mobile event in the world, bringing together the latest innovations and leading-edge technology alongside today’s most influential visionaries. 4 Years From Now [4YFN] is the startup business platform at MWC that enables startups, investors and companies to connect and launch new business ventures together. (Source: MWC)

Sonar+d (Barcelona): An international congress that explores how creativity is changing our present and imagining new futures, in collaboration with researchers, innovators and business leaders. Since 2013, this anti-disciplinary meeting gathers in Barcelona leading artists, creative technologists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, thinkers, scientists, entrepreneurs, makers and hackers. (Source: Sonar+d)

South Summit (Madrid): The leading Innovation Global Platform that connects top innovators from Southern Europe and Latin America to the world’s most powerful investors, and corporations, who are searching for the next big thing. (Source: South Summit)

Startup Grind Tech Conference (Barcelona): Meet top investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and journalists from all around the world in the fourth edition of the Startup Grind Tech conference, focused on tech and startups: SaaS, product, hiring developers, architecture, freelancing, remote work, etc. (Source: Startup Grind)

Unleash (Madrid): The biggest international talent festival designed for the youth, where knowledge, enjoyment and excitement converge into one unique experience. It is a free-spirited event lasting 3 days and held every year in Madrid, Spain for 1,000+ people who come from more than 100 countries. (Source: Unleash)

meetups

Startup Grind Barcelona (Barcelona): One of the leading Startup Grind chapters in Europe and in the world, having been selected Chapter of the Year in 2016, with an average attendance of 130+ attendees per event since April 2014. Startup events are held monthly.

Startup Grind Madrid (Madrid): Monthly startup events hosted in Madrid in partnership with Google for Startups.

Government Programs

ENISA: A state-owned company that falls under the management of the General Directorate of Industry and SMEs, itself integrated into the Spanish Government’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. ENISA provides small and medium-sized enterprises that wish to bolster their innovative entrepreneurial endeavours with financial support. (Source: ENISA)

FOND-ICO Global: The first public venture capital "fund of funds" created in Spain, with a total of €1.2 billion, which seeks to promote the creation of privately managed venture capital funds that invest in Spanish companies at all stages of their development. (Source: ICO)

ICF (Catalonia): Institut Català de Finances (ICF - Catalan Finance Institute) is the public financial institution owned by the Government of Catalonia and founded in 1985. ICF's mission is to foster and improve access to funding for enterprises in Catalonia in order to contribute to the growth of the region's economy, complementing the private financial sector. The institution offers companies a range of products and services in the area of corporate finance, focusing on loans and guarantees and venture capital investments. (Source: ICF)

Non-Government Organizations
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Universities

EADA (Barcelona): An international business school founded in 1957, and one of the first Spanish institutions to run manager training programs for the business community.

ESADE (Barcelona): A top college and business school located in Barcelona.

IE Business School (Madrid): A top undergraduate and graduate business school based in Madrid.

IESE (Barcelona, Madrid): The graduate business school of the University of Navarra, with programs in Madrid and Barcelona.

Iron Hack Spain (Barcelona, Madrid): An international school with courses in Web Development and UX/UI Design offering a full-time 9 week bootcamp program and a part-time 24 weeks program. (Source: Iron Hack)

La Salle Barcelona (Barcelona): An international university campus offering studies in Engineering, Architecture, Business, Digital Arts and Animation. Technology and innovation to solve the challenges facing society. (Source: La Salle)

Universitat de Barcelona (Barcelona): A public university considered by many to be the best university in Spain.

Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya (Barcelona): The largest engineering university in Catalonia.

Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona): A public university specializing in Economics and Business Sciences.

Tech Publications

Dealflow: A manual curation of the week’s most relevant Spanish tech articles, delivered to your inbox every Monday morning in one single and easy-to-read email. (Source: Dealflow)

Country Snapshot

Economy

Startup funding
Startup funding
US$932 million (2020)
Standard of living
Standard of living
Global rank: 36
Innovation
Innovation
Global rank: 30 (2020)
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship
Global rank: 34 (2018)
Annual GDP growth
Annual GDP growth
2.0% (2019)
(Global avg. 3.0%)
Ease of doing business
Ease of doing business
Global rank: 30 (2019)
Ease of starting a business
Ease of starting a business
Global rank: 97
Research and development
Research and development
1.2% of GDP
(Global avg. 2.3%)
Contract enforcement
Contract enforcement
Global rank: 26

Sources

Startup Funding: Dealroom
STANDARD OF LIVING: International Monetary Fund - GDP per capita (PPP)
INNOVATION: Global Innovation Index
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Global Entrepreneurship Index
ANNUAL GDP GROWTH: World Bank
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: World Bank
EASE OF STARTING A BUSINESS: World Bank
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: World Bank
CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT: World Bank

*Updated with latest available data based on listed source.

Society

Population
Population
46.8 million (2020)
Government
Government
Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Stability
Stability
Global rank: 37 (2020)
Internet usage
Internet usage
90.7% (2019)
Smartphone usage
Smartphone usage
74.3% (2019)
Literacy
Literacy
98% (2018)
Population under 15
Population under 15
14% (2019)
Median age
Median age
42.7 (2018)

Sources

POPULATION: Worldometer
GOVERNMENT: The World Factbook
STABILITY: Global Innovation Index
INTERNET USAGE: International Telecommunications Union
SMARTPHONE USAGE: Newzoo
LITERACY: World Bank
POPULATION UNDER 15: World Bank
MEDIAN AGE: The World Factbook

*Updated with latest available data based on listed source.

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