4YFN: Digital Media Day and a Recap of Barcelona’s Annual Startup Conference

The fourth edition of 4YFN, the startup business platform of Mobile World Congress went by way too fast. We were just starting to get into the habit of watching startup pitches every day, running from one stage to the other and back again to be able to attend as many talks and panels as possible, and we even had our own little spot at one of the workstations within the conference grounds! Now that the event is over, we look back on the past three days with a lot of gratefulness, a residue of excitement, but also a little bit of new-found criticism. Read on to find out how we spent Digital Media Day, the third day of 4YFN, and how we see the entire 2017 event in retrospect.

The third day of this year’s 4YFN started with ten amazing pitches by startups in the NUMA Barcelona acceleration program: from chatbots that help you reserve hotel rooms, to peer-to-peer food delivery services, an online marketplace for filmmakers and a monthly subscription service that lets you attend any party you want, the young and ambitious teams of NUMA presented their ideas in three thrilling minutes each. The show was no less celebratory than the Oscar Gala, with the presenters dressed in proper evening gowns despite the early hour, and armed with jokes fit for any good comedian on American television. Our favorites this time were HiJiffy from Lisbon, Sheltair and Filmarket Hub, both hailing from Barcelona. We were fortunate enough to catch up to them after their pitches, so make sure you check  back on our blog for interviews coming up soon!

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“Barcelona has the potential to become the most important VC hub in Europe,” – Daniel Sánchez, Nauta Capital

The Nestlé stage did not disappoint after the first two days that set the bar really high, and hosted some great talks on the third day as well, including Daniel Sánchez’s take on Barcelona as a growing VC hub. As a General Partner at the most important VC firm born in Barcelona, he attributed the growing attraction of the city to the success stories that it has fostered in the past couple of years, and had some really good news for us. He believes that Barcelona is growing as a VC hub and has every chance to become truly significant – especially when companies born and bred here will grow big enough to become the Facebooks and Googles of Barcelona, and have the power to start buying up other startups, supporting the ecosystem along the way.

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“Always observe what people do, not what they say,” – Michael Spiegelman, Netflix

Michael Spiegelman’s talk about why we we’re probably wrong most of the time when we listen to our intuition was definitely one of the highlights of the entire conference. It made us realize that even giants like Netflix had to go through several rounds of trial and error, and place huge bets that could go sideways very easily before they achieved their success. We learned that we need to try and understand “consumer science”, study our users’ biases and “Always observe what people do, not what they say.”

Don’t forget to read our post about the first day of 4YFN (Disrupted by Mobile) and the second day (Internet of Things) as well!

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Now for a short recap of what our overall thoughts are about the conference in retrospect.

The best moments of 4YFN were:

  • When we found out that Josh Quittner from Flipboard was actually the original owner of mcdonalds.com at a panel about the relationship between startups and the media
  • When we were slapped in the face by our own prejudices and discovered just how unconsciously biased we were at a Women4Tech workshop about diversity
  • When former navy SEAL Alden Mills encouraged us never to quit during his powerful speech at Startupbootcamp Demo Day, and in the same instant something behind the stage went down in an earth-shattering bang
  • When Emily Becher from Samsung NEXT Start gave us a wake-up call and told us not to follow our dreams, but to focus on what the world needs instead
  • When Michael Spiegelman of Netflix recounted a story about the biggest mistake Netflix has ever made that made them lose 80% of their market value, nearly wiping them out for good – and how they recovered from it all

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The things that sucked the most:

  • Clearly they weren’t expecting this many people to show up: all the stages could have done with maybe twice as many chairs, as half the audience had to sit cross-legged on the floor.
  • We would have liked to see more female speakers on the big stages, not tucked away in the workshop domes or the Nestlé tent.
  • None of the power extension cords at the Correos working area seemed to work, at least not when we tried. A lot of people left disappointed after realizing that they’d plugged their laptops in for nothing.
  • The food festival happening at Plaza Mayor was probably unavoidable – people need to be fed and that’s that – but the unpleasant smell of frying oil constantly permeating the Innovation Market certainly would not have been missed.
  • Security just didn’t cut it. We could have taken anything into the conference hall in a bag and no one would have given it a second glance.

Want to share your thoughts about 4YFN? Feel free to add a comment!

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