Startup Grind is a global community for entrepreneurs that operates in some 250 cities across more than a 100 different countries and is powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. Since 2014, that community has extended to the city of Barcelona, and since then its organizers have successfully hosted a monthly event in the city without fail. This year, the annual anniversary of Startup Grind BCN is a big one: The upcoming Barcelona-San Francisco Summit on October 9-10 will connect the two cities with “a day of nonstop content, valuable networking, mentor sessions, and investor QA’s”.
One of the people responsible for this is Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit. An entrepreneur himself, he’s the current Director of Startup Grind Barcelona, as well as Regional Director for southern Europe and co-founder of MarsBased, a development consultancy also based in the city. Akuaro World had the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions about Startup Grind, Barcelona itself and the upcoming event that will connect both Silicon Valley and Europe.
First the basics: What led you to bring Startup Grind to Barcelona? What was the inspiration and how did you do it?
I quit my consulting job at VASS in December 2013 and immediately embarked in a three months trip to San Francisco on Christmas Day. I was to start in a new continent, new country and new job: my own company. I set out to learn from the best entrepreneurs in the cradle of entrepreneurship and spent three months in San Francisco, which I envisioned as crucial to deploying my own business: a development consultancy called MarsBased.
While I was there, a business contact of mine forwarded me an Eventbrite newsletter with the Startup Grind global conference, recommending me to join it. I took a look at the website, and Startup Grind’s values and mission immediately resonated with me. I had always believed in their values of helping first, and I was already doing a similar event in Barcelona called the Startup Circle. At that moment, Startup Grind were looking for new people to open up chapters in important cities like Berlin, Moscow or Barcelona, and so I applied for the chapter and got it!
The central idea for the upcoming summit is to connect both San Francisco and Barcelona. Off the top of your head, what do you think these cities could learn from each other?
Barcelona should learn that we need to speed the f*ck up when it comes to business, because we’re too slow. We can’t drag negotiations for so long. Also, that we should team up and cut the bullsh*t of not wanting to help others because they might harm your slow/small business.
San Francisco needs to learn that they work too much, and in a moment and a sector where employment is taken for granted, people are flocking to better life conditions: remote work, flexible schedule, unlimited paid leave, no overtime, no 24/7 thinking about work, etc.
These are—of course—two oversimplified situations which I’ve seen way too many times in either city, and I predict they will change in the coming five years, tops.
As Regional Director of Startup Grind for Southern Europe, what other city from the area has caught your eye, and why?
I started almost simultaneously as Asturias, the evergreen region of Northern Spain. They did an event every month in a different city of the following three: Avilés, Gijón, Oviedo. They had a really solid attendance average and cash sponsors all year round. They outperformed most major cities in my region, if not all.
Nowadays, I’m impressed by the drive of another small city: Gibraltar, and a sleeping giant like Milano, which never worked in the first year of Startup Grind, but now is one of the strongest in Europe without a doubt.
Startup Grind Barcelona has seen a steady growth in attendance since its debut in 2014. After this, where do you want it to go next? What is the long-term goal?
The long-term goal is to establish a yearly conference in Barcelona. We’ve mastered the monthly event with a solid 120-130 paid people per month, selling out in more than half of our events in the last year and a half.
If we are to go beyond that audience, we need to first of all find a suitable venue (and there are not many that comply with our requirements) and then complement it with some media: radio, TV or something else that makes us reach a whole new level of audience.
We want to become the startup hub of southern Europe and, if possible, for Northern Africa / Mediterranean as well, if there are no other contenders around. We’re a welcoming city and thus our doors are open to everyone. We’re ready to lead.
What changes have you seen in the city since you started hosting Startup Grind? What do you think is its current state compared to startup leaders like London, Berlin, Tel Aviv and the obvious San Francisco?
We’re obviously still behind all of them, and that won’t change anytime soon, much to our dismay. Look, in the latest Startup Genome we weren’t even in the top 20 startup hubs around the world. And I firmly believe that.
Paradoxically, I think we overestimate our ecosystem as a whole and underestimate most of our precious individuals. We think we’re too good for some companies, which eventually move out of the country to go elsewhere and most of them succeed.
I have however seen some change for the better: people act much less like rock stars, because it used to be horrible: “talk to my secretary” and stuff like that.
But more important than that, I’ve seen people giving back to the scene. Entrepreneurs who cashed out on their last exit have become Angel investors or are mentoring newcomers, which benefits both parties. More experience is what we need, more success stories, more failures to learn from and overall more people normalizing the fact that everyone might want to take a chance at being an entrepreneur.
Do you have a favorite memory from doing Startup Grind Barcelona? Has there been a memorable collaboration born from it or a story that you remember fondly?
I am very absent minded. All my friends know it, and actually, the story of Startup Grind in Barcelona is no exception of that.
When I discovered Startup Grind, they were about to celebrate their second Global Conference, which they always do in Redwood City for three days. I studied it before applying for the chapter, and guess what? I got it wrong. I thought Startup Grind was about creating a conference in every city of the world once a year, so I applied for that. I didn’t know it was a monthly event.
Luckily enough, our CEO Derek Andersen gave me a second chance.
To think that I almost screwed up like that still makes me chuckle after almost four years.
As an entrepreneur yourself, what is the advice you find yourself giving to other people the most?
It’s a traditional Catalan proveb: “si vols estar ben servit, fes-te tu mateix el llit”. Which kinda translates into “if you want to do things right, do them yourself”.
I genuinely find that a lot of the things we’ve accomplished so far have been without any external help. I love helping others and I will continue doing it as long as I think I’m the right person to do it.