Barcelona’s startup ecosystem was rocked last week when the biggest annual event in town — Mobile World Congress (MWC) — was cancelled due to coronavirus fears.
But the city’s entrepreneurs were quick to respond, announcing plans for a new, pop-up event in its place within less than 24 hours.
Angel investor Carlos Blanco, who has been one of the masterminds behind the initiative, told Sifted that there would be an event of similar magnitude to MWC during the same week, so what will it look like?
Speaking at a press conference today, Miguel Vicente from non-profit organisation Barcelona Tech City gave more details of what we can expect from the new event, named Tech Spirit Barcelona.
The event will run from 23-27th February, a day longer than MWC, which had been scheduled between 24-27th February.
There will be more than 50 events over two days, comprising panels, key-note speeches and meetup-style events between startups and investors. More than 100 venture capital investors will be present and organisers are hoping that more than 2,500 people will attend.
It's considerably smaller scale than MWC / 4YFN, which attracts 100,000 visitors. Vicente said organisers were not trying to emulate the conference, but offer a "distinct, one-off event in a very short period of time".
The event will kick off on Sunday 23rd at Barcelona's iconic La Boqueria food market, with a lunch featuring 300 representatives of the city's digital ecosystem,
Monday 24th will see a second welcome event hosts at CaixaBank's "All In One" space.
Other events will take place across the following locations:
Casa Llotja de Mar, Pier01, Pier03 and the Mobile World Capital Collider.
The event is being coordinated by Barcelona Tech City, Barcelona City Hall, the regional government of Catalonia and tech foundation Mobile World Capital Barcelona.
Confirmed speakers include:
- Jerome S. Engel — UC Berkeley
- Mauricio Prieto — eDreams
- Oscar Pierre — Glovo
- Carlota Pi — Holaluz
- Elies Campo — Telegram
- Mar Gonzalez — Microsoft
- Philippe Gelis — Kantox
- Ferran Adrià — El Bulli chef and entrepreneur
Representatives from Airbnb, Uber, TravelPerk, SEAT, Telefonica, imaginBank and Novartis will also be present.
All events will be free of charge and a full programme is expected to be published tomorrow.
A sigh of relief?
The news will come as some relief to early-stage founders who look forward to Mobile World Congress and the accompanying 4YFN event as key opportunities to meet potential investors.
Last week Andrea Oliver Garcia, founder of sexual wellbeing app Emjoy, told Sifted she was concerned about some meetings with venture capitalists (VCs) being called off due to the cancellation. As of yesterday, it was still something of a mixed bag.
“One meeting with a VC has been cancelled because they won’t fly in now that MWC isn’t happening. Another is confirmed but rescheduled because the investor will be in the city for less days than planned, the other is still pending confirmation,” she says.
Meanwhile, startups with international teams are scaling back their presence in Barcelona next week. Dmitry Gorokh, head of strategic communications at fintech ID Finance, says that while he and cofounder Boris Batine will be flying in for the event, the team’s Mexican colleagues will not be.
There’s no doubt that organising Tech Spirit Barcelona within a week of MWC’s cancellation is an impressive feat of cooperation and resolve. During an interview with Sifted last Thursday, Barcelona Tech City founder Miguel Vicente admitted he hadn’t slept for 48 hours, as he and other senior figures in the ecosystem worked through the night to come up with a plan B.
And while this spontaneous event will certainly be lower key than MWC / 4YFN, it’s a PR win for Barcelona’s startup ecosystem, which has proven that, no matter the setback, the city remains open for business.