From my now cross-country exposure to start-up and venture ecosystems across North America, Europe and South East Asia, I’ve spotted a few key ingredients that make for a vibrant and thriving innovation ecosystem in a country.
- Ease of doing business – making it an easy place to see the upside in innovation-led decisions.
- The correct stakeholders – research-led institutions, with an experimental mindset that encourage innovative actions and are comfortable managing risk; a capital environment that not only includes lending to small businesses by financial institutions, but, a strong presence of individuals living in the country that are privately willing to invest their own capital. These individuals often have close ties with the companies they used to work at, and/or, the businesses they have supported due to a more hands-on co-creative investment style.
- The correct legislations, policy and culture – these generally support attracting young talent, branding the city as an attractive place to live and work, and, encourage a healthy approach to taking risk. But, importantly, they tend to have an inherent drive to pursue self-improvement and eagerness to push forward. Outside the office, you can feel a clear sense of this drive and energy in the rising populations, the food and drink, the music / arts, the environment and the presence of nightlife.
Chilling on the beach in the mid-day Valencian sun searching for beers with Andre Lejeune, we unpicked exactly what was wrong with Valencia in meeting all 3 of the key ingredients. And we unpicked nothing.
Valencia’s tech and innovation start-up ecosystem features –
- Incubators and accelerators such as PlugandPlay.
- Innovative research institutions such as the Marina De Empresas and the forward-think EDEM.
- Larger corporates including telecoms, engineering companies, supermarkets, railway companies and sustainable infrastructure companies and others, who are all digitally transforming to meet EU policies for sustainability, net carbon-zero and smart city goals.
- Public-private organisations that are focussed on shaping policies and encouraging investment in Valencia.
And the The Next Web Conference, powered by the Financial Times, featured all of them.
The Wednesday evening pre-party hosted by Zeus, a data visualisation start-up, gave TNW attendees a warm introduction to the key organising parties behind the conference, and, the major themes that formed the backbone of the 2-day agenda – Myrthe gave an opening address highlighting how Valencia’s changing politics and venture landscape were now pushing for the city to be a major tech hub in Europe and this was echoed by the state address by vice mayor Sandra Gómez. The address also highlighted the importance of promoting corporate + start-up partnerships.
The rest of the party featured an electric vibe powered by an outdoor pier-side bar, delicious paella stand and a crowd filled with investors, entrepreneurs, teams of European start-ups, and, government bodies, all congregating to celebrate and promote Valencia as a rising start-up hub in Spain, with a fitting DJ to support the energy.
Below are some clips and pics from the pre-party.
Read on for insights, talks and my own highlights from Thursday day 2 which marked the start of the formal conference agenda.