When I first heard about Startup Grind, I assumed it was an event series initiated by a corporate giant with a global reach trying to dabble in the startup world. How else could it spread from one city to over 250 in under a decade? Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Startup Grind started out in California as a very local and very personal venture, and has somehow managed to retain all its values while growing into a community for entrepreneurs present in more than 100 countries with monthly events and global conferences. Last week saw the premiere of Startup Grind conferences in Barcelona: here’s how we experienced the event that was supposed to be about the two startup hubs Barcelona and San Francisco, but ended up being about much more.
The Barcelona Chapter of Startup Grind is one of the strongest and most active chapters of the community, and last Tuesday was a demonstration of just how much they can do. Despite the series of unfortunate political events that pushed Barcelona to the brink of chaos, the first ever Startup Grind conference held in this city presented a perfectly complete lineup of local and international speakers, and attracted quite a crowd – although there were some empty seats in the back rows.
In our interview with the man behind the event, Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit, Startup Grind Regional Director explains what it took to make the conference happen!
The conference was called the Barcelona – San Francisco Summit, so one had reason to expect that the majority of the talks and fireside chats would focus on the connection between the two cities and their respective startup environments. Even though every speaker had experience in one or both startup hubs, there wasn’t much talk about the pros and cons of each ecosystem. There were some interesting comments here and there, with the most in-depth comparisons given by Howard Love, CEO of LoveToKnow, and Derek Andersen, Co-Founder of Startup Grind. Having spent two years in Barcelona but never having set foot in San Fran, I personally would have liked to find out more. Here’s a short recap of what we did learn though:
- People in Silicon Valley work their asses off, constantly. The work-life balance in Barcelona is much more reasonable.
- Living in San Francisco is impossible in terms of cost.
- Expectations towards young startups in SF are extremely high. It’s not rare to feel pressured to become the next unicorn – even though the chances of that are pretty low.
- If you compare yourself to other players in Silicon Valley, you get discouraged really easily.
- Investors are starting to move away from Silicon Valley and looking at investment opportunities in Europe.
- But, it is true that you can get tremendous amounts of help in Silicon Valley, and you can find mentors that can make all the difference in the life of a startup and in your career as an entrepreneur, too.
So what were the rest of the talks about? From my point of view, the general theme of the conference seemed to be how we see entrepreneurship and how we understand ourselves as entrepreneurs. Some of the highlights for me were Carina Szpilka (General Partner at K Fund) and Anne Driscoll (CMO at Startup Genome), and not just because they were the only female guests in the line-up. I was really inspired by their remarkable insight on what it means to be an entrepreneur and to be helping others along their journey.
I also enjoyed hearing the story of how Startup Grind came to be from Co-Founder Derek Andersen himself. The icing on the cake was Kamran Elahian‘s moving speech. As Founder and Chairman at Global Innovation Catalyst and Global Innovation Advisor at 500 Startups, he is on a mission to change the world and put a stop to terrorism with the help of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship for everyone.
Were some of the speakers pushing their own agendas? Yes. That’s to be expected at an event of this scale. But to be fair, those “agendas” were, in most cases, either educational or charitable. There wasn’t one talk that didn’t carry any value whatsoever for the audience, which is rare for startup conferences.
- Barcelona is not the best of all possible startup worlds, and neither is San Francisco.
- Scribbling on your own presentation slides while you’re explaining your point is cool and powerful. As demonstrated by Michael Eckhardt.
- The world needs more female speakers.
- Armchairs placed on stages are awkward and uncomfortable.
- The person who thought of offering a vegan option for lunch should get an award.
The first ever Startup Grind Conference held in Barcelona last week was proof that no matter how different our backgrounds are, no matter how diverse the conditions that the cities where we’re based provide, we’re all entrepreneurs that need help, or have needed help in the past. And that’s what Startup Grind is for.
Special thanks to Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit for making it all happen!
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