Spanish Innovation

When most of us think of innovation or entrepreneurship, we think of places like Silicon Valley, California. The birthplace of Google, Twitter and Apple. So many huge technology and product innovations that started in the valley from graduates of Stanford, and others that migrated there for tech jobs in the 80’s and 90’s when HP was the big dog, and Oracle was coming on strong. But SV isn’t the only place where people are thinking differently.

I’ve heard many times how behind the Spanish are in their embrace of new ways of doing things. After reading about the history of the country from the Civil War until the early 90’s that is an understandable perspective. Under Franco, Spain remained separate from the rest of Europe after WWII. So they didn’t benefit from the economic booms as the post-war European economies recovered in the 1960’s. But times are changing.

We saw this sign on a wall in El Carmen right before we discovered the event.

It used to be part of my job to find innovative companies and people who were thinking differently to solve problems. And innovation and forward thinking is booming in Spain, and Valencia in particular. There are a signs of it everywhere. You can see it in architecture and the country’s thinking on tackling climate change. So, when we were out for a walk on a Sunday morning I was thrilled to see this in the Ayunamiento.

A Start-Up weekend underwritten by the Generalitat de Valencia had taken over the streets in front of the town hall. Start ups, both big and small, were showing their wares and making their pitches. Bespoke chocolate and ice cream makers. A shoe makers who is using grain alternatives to rubber to manufacture athletic footwear. Innovative manufacturing for 3D printing homes. Micro lending start ups and those trying to disrupt the personal services market. Even a team from the Universitat de Valencia showing their design for a global contest for the future of clean high speed rail. They’ll be traveling to the US to compete in 2020 with other university programs from across the world.

A few are looking for angel investors to expand their concept. Others have already received tens of millions in investment as they look to solidify their positions and expand beyond the border of Spain and Europe. I find this incredibly exciting! Jeff laughed as I made a b-line for the event.

‘I just want to look and have a chat.’ I told him, as though I was shopping for a new hand bag. But it was great to hear these entrepreneurs talk about their products and ideas. Some pitches were more refined and polished than others, but they’re all learning and growing as founders. That’s what’s important.

So Spain might have been late to the game in comparison to the rest of Europe, but they are swiftly catching up. And it’s nice to see. Those coming up are ready to compete on the world stage for market position and investment capital. And while its not my business anymore, I’ll be watching and cheering them on.

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