It’s that time of the year again, Mobile World Congress time, when more than 90,000 techies and reps sporting gorilla arms descend on the city. This year’s invasion will take place between February 22nd and 25th. It’s the 11th of its kind in Barcelona and visitors’ numbers are said to surpass last year’s record. So brace yourselves, Barcelonins, and hide your Samsung Ace II’s if you don’t want to ruin your city’s repute! Mas spent millions on it.
This year, however, something else mobile-related is happening at almost the same time: Barcelona Tech City has secured a prime location in Barceloneta, creating what will be one of the three largest physical tech and start-up spaces in Europe. It will span 7,500m2 of office space shared by more than 40 companies and will host 700 workers. Have they secretly converted the Hospital del Mar into a massive co-working, you wonder? Is that why our healthcare is so shitty? Or did they beat the biomedical peeps in poker and walk home with their research centre? Oh no, amics, they’ll be watching the multibegillionaires on their mega-yachts from inside El Palau de Mar! The offices have been empty since 2012 when the Departamento de Bienestar Social y Familia de la Generalitat couldn’t afford the four million euros per year in rent. Barcelona’s future – bright and techie. Can you imagine the app developers in El Rey de la Gamba 5 enjoying their paella and getting all rojo? We can!
Two of the Barcelona-based companies that got in early on the Tech City offer (yup, there’s a waiting list now) are innovators in one of the biggest trends in mobile: the Sharing Economy. The apps are called Wallapop and LetGo and both focus on virtual “flea markets”. Somehow that makes us feel a little bit better. The social, connecting people, local economy emphasis seems somewhat in line with the city’s tradition (right?). Though, we thought that about AirBnb once. They should have set up shop in Can Batlló. We hear they still have plenty of space available.
Outside of Tech City, Barcelona is also at the forefront of the emerging world of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is essentially physical devices being connected and measurable, with the Apple Watch and other wearables the familiar example to most people. Several companies have bootcamps and accelerators based here, including Cisco who are setting up a global IoT development centre in 22@, investing €30 million over the next five years.
One of the more interesting projects in Barcelona’s IoT sphere is ADmira Digital Signage, specializing in retail. With sensors in shops they’re able to analyse what kind of people enter and what they look at, thereby giving shops the opportunity to improve the way they sell. Some would call it Big Brother manipulation of customers, but hey, ADmira is just the tool. It will probably be Inditex sales managers facing the 2034 Nüremberg II trials once we’re done with capitalism.
We asked Christopher Pommerening of Active Venture Partners and one of the driving forces behind Barcelona Tech City why this city is such a great space for start-ups. He answered: “The Mobile World Congress obviously made Barcelona the hot spot and the capital of Mobile in the world. There’s no other city that would have that kind of branding to it. And it’s the quality of life. Any start-up entrepreneur is already seeking or following their dreams and passions somehow right? There are certain qualities of life you won’t find in any other major metropolitan city in Europe.” Swell! Aren’t we lucky to be such an attractive, spirited and sunny city!