I was pretty impressed by the weather on Thursday – started off feeling cool with a bit of a breeze yet warm enough to be able to wear a shirt and jeans with maybe a light jacket. Since the conference venue was set in the outdoors under a large roof, it made all the difference.
In the conference’s opening address Oisin Lunny outlined how the city had the fastest growing start-up ecosystem in Spain with the most start-ups per Capita, topping Madrid and Barcelona.
This headline was elaborated upon in the following talk “The Rise of the Spanish Tech Ecosystem” featuring Christophe, Lucia, Jose and Javier, who’s discussion featured themes –
- The presence of local venture capitalists.
- The entrepreneurial DNA of the city due to being a commercial region with big import-export history via the port.
- The city having exploded with public-private initiatives over the last 6-7 years that has pushed the city at 15% growth each year.
- Valencia having a bed of talent and being a fertile ground for technically good internationally competitive engineers.
- The city’s aim to be in the top 10 start-up ecosystems in Europe.
- Tech European policies to support entrepreneurship and investment in start-ups in Spain, which has resulted in investment multiplied by 5 since 2015.
- The first European regulation for start-ups (ENISA) is going to implemented and a fund for digitalisation and artificial intelligence being leveraged.
- Valencia is Valencia and proud, with no ambition to take the place of Barcelona but rather work closely in partnership with them.
- Investors want to see a diversification of risk and need to see the ability for start-ups to scale up.
- The innovation in Valencia is heavily focussed on Industry, IoT and industrial processes.
- The biggest challenges to keeping growth momentum are –
1. The Academic-Commercial bridge.
3. Attracting foreign investment and international investors.
The perspective from Phill Robinson, who drew from experience with the Silicon Valley start-up ecosystem, was that to compete internationally in innovation Europe needs to have –
- An environment of government / legislative support
- Access to capital with investors who have capital and domain expertise to invest from early stages.
- An eco-system of learning from mistakes
- Founders who are mission driven
Phil also noted that of all the early investment rounds, Europe has as much venture money as in the US with today holding record levels of European dry powder (money raised by VCs that hasn’t yet been deployed): powered by a strong sense of community spirit, like Silicon Valley due to Geography, it feels like diffusion its imminent and there is a clear multi-stakeholder collaborative effort to develop the ecosystem.
From the late morning onwards we had talks taking a deeper dive in to the ecosystem by the larger companies, start-up founders and their investors. These talks featured insights –
- How Mercadona is transforming from a supermarket to a tech contender and how this comes from creating a presence with the tech audience. The talked about a key part of this transformation being shifting to cloud-native architecture from an outdated monolith architecture. They use this with private and public clouds. They also noted how they were previously very dependent on tech suppliers but then began to internalise knowledge and make their own decision.
- Venture capital advice on how Spanish start-ups can go international. These included start-ups’ needing different strategies for international mindset; knowledge and culture being different internationally; Spanish start-ups requiring a greater sense of urgency to internationalise.Leveraging the bridge between Spain Miami and Latin America due to cultural and language similarities.
- Direct founder insights from VC Andy Lurling (Lumo Labs) and the founder of one of his portfolio companies, Theresa Vob (Chunx). They talked about navigating investment, international expansion and beyond. Andy’s advice was that collaboration is the key to either failing fast or keeping pace, both of which are strong strategies for growth. Theresa echoed this by noting you need to be open to pivoting your product-market fit, which I suppose would naturally come through collaborating often and well. An important piece of wisdom for founders on that talk was “It’s not over till money’s in the bank”.
- From the now parent company of TNW, the Financial Times Power Hour talk was about Transforming Heavy Industries such as Telco, Trains, Water and Smart City infrastructure focussed on creating regenerative infrastructures through the mindset “ You have to rethink from scratch what you are trying to do e.g when you build a road, don’t just think of it being a road; it could be anything that you can drive on. The talk also featured a healthy disagreement about whether we need to speed up infrastructural innovation or slow it down and plan it more carefully, but, the consensus for both was that we need to create alliances to achieve infrastructural change.
- Internet of Things Start-up Pitches that featured; NSign, a Spanish smart digital signage platform; Plasmics, an Austrian 3-D printing company; Therminer, a liquid cooling solution that contributes towards a circular economy by powering data centres with solar energy and recycling waste heat to power heating and cooling systems while reducing the energy consumed and offsetting CO2 emissions.
- Naturally, a talk about the now sexiest thing in AI – Generative AI – which essentially reiterated the fact that it is 1. Super early stage 2. It needs some regulatory and governance structures in order to distribute value fairly.
- One of my favourite talks – The rise of a new creative industry: amplifying the power of music through community and experiences – which ran through some interesting case studies of examples where tech had been implemented in the music industry such as collaborations by –
– RCRDSHP x HYTE – an NFT platform where if you buy 10 digital collectibles, you get a free ticket and flight to the in-person concert with a VIP experience travelling to the event just as an artist would.
– Endel x Mercedes-Benz Research Group trying to optimise sounds through AI for wellbeing and producing optimal sounds for driving.
The talk also featured some other interesting examples of AI Generated Music from the likes of Beatoven.ai, Soundful, Soundgrab and Boomy.
Whilst these were just deep dive insights into the talks I was stuck into, you can find the entire agenda on the event website here.
Here are some visual bites from the day…