How Green is the Grass in Barcelona and San Francisco? Startup Grind BCN – SF Summit

Barcelona and San Francisco. Sister cities since 2010, they’re both uncannily alike and radically different. We often find ourselves comparing and contrasting the two, and the reason is that there is a compelling connection, a dialogue between them that was recently strengthened by the creation of a direct flight between BCN and SF by not one, but two airlines.

The two cities have a lot in common: there are similarities in culture, mentality, even weather and food. They’re not the capitals of their respective countries, but they are their entrepreneurial cradles. Barcelona is not the best place to be in the world, and neither is San Francisco. And – let’s get this straight once and for all – Barcelona is definitely not the next Silicon Valley.

So what are the pros and cons of each city? What do Barcelonians need to know about the Valley, and what do SF people need to find out about Barcelona? This is exactly what the first Startup Grind Conference in Barcelona will be about.

The Startup Grind BCN – SF Summit, held between 9-10 October, will see famous entrepreneurs and investors talking about the connection between the two cities, with special regard to the perspective of entrepreneurship and tech. To find out more about why it’s more than worth to get your tickets and attend, we sat down with Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit, Co-founder of MarsBased and Startup Grind Regional Director.


How was the idea of the conference born? When did you start planning it?

I go to San Francisco every year for a few months, and the idea first came up during one of my usual visits. I had a meeting with one of my biggest mentors, who was directly involved with the San Francisco – Barcelona sister city initiative. He’s also one of the people behind the direct flight. He was the one who asked me whether I could do an event for him here in Barcelona, since this connection is going to be crucial for business between the two cities. He knew that at the time, I’d been involved with Startup Grind for about a year and a half. We already had a reputation, we’d organized twenty-something events. So he thought that we’d be the right ones to organize the conference, and I said sure, why not? We had to wait a year to do it, because the direct flight was pushed to June 2017. And now here we are.


Use our discount code to get your ticket to the Startup Grind BCN – SF Summit!


The event is a collaboration between your company and Startup Grind, right?

Technically, this is an independent Startup Grind conference organized by our company MarsBased, in partnership with Startup Grind. I feel like we earned some sort of a reward for being one of the strongest chapters in the world. We were named the best Startup Grind chapter in 2016. So MarsBased is the organizer and the number one sponsor, and we have joined forces with several local and international entities to make this a reality. I’m quite proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. We’re one month away, and we still have a lot of work to do.


“The conference is aimed at people who want to know how green the grass is on the other side.”


alex-rodriguez-bacardit-Startup Grind Barcelona - San Francisco Summit - Conference
Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit, Co-founder of MarsBased and Startup Grind Regional Director

Are you nervous?

Not really. I’ve been nervous about bigger events in the past. I was probably nervous when I had to introduce, in front of 5K people, the co-founder of Facebook a couple of years ago at a Startup Grind global conference. I’ve played concerts in front of hundreds of people, I guess I was nervous then. But now, I feel like everything is going to go really well.


Which speakers are you most excited about?

I’m super excited about the founder and CEO of Couchsurfing. I’ve been a couchsurfer myself for many years, and I’m really inspired by companies whose names are now being used as verbs. Like Google, Twitter, Instagram – and Couchsurfing. Casey Fenton was the first speaker to commit to the conference. He didn’t even know what the conference was about, but when he found out it’s in Barcelona, he immediately said yes.

I’m also a huge fan of Pocket. We’re having one of their co-founders, Jonathan Bruck too. Ingrid Verschuren from Dow Jones will be there, as well as Anne Driscoll, the CMO of Startup Genome, and international investors like Kamran Elahian from 500Startups.

And I’m also really excited about Typeform. They’re an amazing company from Barcelona that just raised 35 million dollars.

Who is this conference for? Who can take away the most?

The conference is aimed at people who want to know how green the grass is on the other side. So if you’re someone who’s considering setting up a company in Barcelona, or a developer who wants to move to San Francisco, I want you to have the full picture. Or, if you’re an investor who wants to invest in companies in Barcelona, or you want to take a sabbatical and come live here for a year, I want you to have the full picture.

Startup Grind Barcelona - San Francisco Summit - Conference tickets

It’s probably more for people who live here and want to know more about SF. Some people can’t afford to go there, or they don’t have the time or the opportunity. So we want to bring a little bit of Silicon Valley to you. And the other main reason is to bring business to Barcelona. We’re bringing people who are either already doing business here, or want to do business here. Some of them are coming to meet people, get to know the local culture, and see if maybe this will be the location for their next startup.


Use our discount code to get your ticket to the Startup Grind BCN – SF Summit!


And you’re showcasing a bunch of startups too, right?

Yes, we have a startup program that we’ve already done twice in Silicon Valley and twice in London. We closed the application last week, and we got hundreds of applicants from all over the world. These startups get a chance to be highlighted during the event, they can exhibit for a small fee of 700 euros, and they get access to our network of investors. We will be giving them back-to-back meetings for half a day before the conference starts, and then they’ll each have a booth and a couple of pitching sessions during the conference. The price is super affordable, so we’re giving them a fair chance to be seen. The prices at bigger conferences are outrageous: some of these small startups can’t afford to exhibit there. It’s a first step for them: if they get some exposure now and things go well, next year they can probably go to a bigger conference.


“We’re bringing a bit of Silicon Valley to you.”


What do you think Barcelona can be most proud of?

I think that it’s the fact that we’re such a welcoming city. Even though Catalan people are quite cold and not so open, the city itself is really welcoming. It’s very easy for expats to settle down here. I’ve got so many friends that came here from other countries, to stay for shorter or longer periods of time. And if we take a look at some of our most successful startups, like LetGo, Typeform, 3scale or Kantox: they all have expats among their co-founders. And they make all the noise. So I think that this is a good recipe. Different cultural upbringings are really positive for companies.

The Catalan and even the Spanish mentality is that if we’re doing OK locally, we’re not going to try to expand. The first big, successful companies founded in the late 90s and early 2000s – like InfoJobs, El Tenedor, and even Softonic in the beginning – didn’t try to go over the borders of Spain. Maybe they expanded to South America, but that’s it. They were limited by the language barrier. So I think that bringing expats into the equation really helps us think more globally. Most of the success that our startups are encountering right now is radically rooted in the fact that their founders are from different countries.

Update: Here’s our review of the Startup Grind Barcelona-SF Conference. Find out how it went!