“We Want to Show Talent, Not Muscle.” Behind 4YFN, the Hottest Startup Event in Barcelona

4 Years From Now (4YFN), the leading startup platform in the entrepreneurship and digital innovation field is returning to Barcelona with its fifth edition between 26-28 February 2018. The event taking place within the framework of the GSMA Mobile World Congress will gather local and international entrepreneurs, startups and professionals working at large corporations in order to create and launch new tech-based businesses. In anticipation of the biggest startup event of the year, Barcelona Startup News had a chat with 4YFN Programme Director Esteban Redolfi about how the high-performance team behind 4YFN works and what’s new at this year’s conference.


How the 4YFN Universe is Created

Before we say anything else, let’s appreciate the fact that the entire 4YFN universe is built by a team of 20, and brought to life by 200 volunteers. Considering that nearly 20,000 visitors will pass through the gates of the Barcelona event this year, the focus and dedication of this small group of young doers is admirable. For instance, we have the three high-performance individuals of the Content Team to thank for almost 275 speakers from all over the world, and just two people are responsible for all the networking activities that make up the core of the event.


“We have doers who are very good thinkers.”


The high-performance team behind 4YFN itself functions like a startup, based on how Esteban describes their way of working.

Esteban Redolfi, 4YFN Programme Director

“We try to maintain the startup spirit in everything we do. We build prototypes of every activity and initiative before we scale them. Throughout the year, we organize activities in London, Berlin, Shanghai and San Francisco. These are great fields to try out new ideas, new formats of networking activities, new content that we will eventually make bigger at 4YFN Barcelona, our main event. Our community is in constant evolution, they’re getting more mature and their expectations are becoming higher every year. So we need to keep learning, adjusting and reinventing what we do in order to deliver value to them. We test everything and eliminate what our community doesn’t value. It’s the only way to do it with such a small team. We don’t have huge strategy or product development teams. We have doers who are very good thinkers – that’s the way I like to put it,” says Esteban Redolfi, 4YFN Programme Director. 

“One of our main goals is to provide every startup with the same visibility as the other. For example, a startup that has raised €50K may be neighbors with a startups that has just closed a funding round of €30M. We don’t want to show muscle: we want to show talent. The most important thing for us is the idea behind the project,” he adds.


4YFN Barcelona 2018 expects to attract over 19,000 visitors in an event that will see the participation of 600 investors. Additionally, the exhibition area – the Innovation Market – will welcome more than 600 startups from 145 countries and 12 international delegations.


What’s New at the 5th Edition of 4YFN

This year’s 4YFN will debut countless innovations that the team has perfected throughout the year. According to Esteban, the new activities will take into account the preferences of the community.

“The networking activities have become the core of the event. In the past it was the content – don’t get me wrong, content is very important for us and we do have amazing speakers every year. But we’ve noticed that people value more the activities that they can take part in than the names that they see on stage. So the event will be a combination of both.

We will also have different formats of interaction between corporates and startups, since corporations are much more involved now than they were just a couple of years ago. There will be lots of new investor activities as well. Previously, startups used to pitch investors. Now we will have activities where investors pitch startups, and also where investors pitch investors. International investors are looking for partners in other markets to do business with, and this is a way for them to get to know each other in a playful way.

4yfn – 4 Years From Now – Mobile World Congress GSMA startup platform and tech conference, BarcelonaLast year we started the Pitch the Press activity, where startups talk to journalists not only to get visibility in the media, but also to get feedback. Journalists that are specialized in technology and startups are used to listening to pitches and they are very good mentors. They can give advice to startups on how to explain their idea and delivers their pitches. They’re experts in this topic and their opinion is extremely valuable. So we’re scaling this activity, too.”


The leading international speakers who will take the stage at 4YFN 2018 include Rob Glaser, Chairman & CEO of RealNetworks; Kathrin Buvac, Chief Strategy Officer at Nokia; Andrew Bolwell, Vice President, Chief Disrupter and Global Head at HP Tech Ventures; David Tennenhouse, Chief Research Officer at VMware; Howard Love, Founder & CEO of LoveToKnow; and René Obermann, Managing Director & Partner at Warburg Pincus. Local entrepreneurs and startups that have grown with the 4YFN event will also share their experiences, including Carlota Pi, Co-Founder of Holaluz; Javier Suárez, Co-Founder of TravelPerk and Agustín Gómez, Co-Founder of Wallapop.


Besides these new activities, Esteban highlights two more important changes.

“This year, we have more official country delegations than ever, and we have been working with them throughout the year to select the startups that they’re bringing. All the startups that we’ve selected are at a mature point, so that they can scale and become relevant in the European ecosystem, for example.

Finally, we have also added a couple of summits within the event. One is the Digital Health Summit, and another is for legal matters, which is a very real struggle for startups that are scaling. Not only for copyright or intellectual property issues, but things like data protection, investment models, shareholders, and so on,” Esteban explains. 


Tech Trends and Special Sessions

The event programme includes specific sessions on blockchain, IoT, tech transfer, corporate venturing and artificial intelligence, among others. These are all topics that have a highlighted significance this year. But which technology is Esteban himself most excited about?

Artificial intelligence. There’s amazing power in it. If thirty years ago someone tried to describe to you what we’re able to do today with the help of AI, you would think that he was either crazy, or some kind of a sorcerer. But AI is not just about the technology itself and the possibilities it opens. As a society, we also need to start reflecting on how we will manage this power. It needs to be integrated in our culture in a way that it becomes productive and positive for everyone.

Also, I think that there are lots of solutions that are wrongly described as artificial intelligence, when they should be understood as machine learning, for example. We have yet to properly define what AI is, and what we ask from it, to manage our expectations,” Esteban concludes. 

For more information about the conference, visit 4YFN’s website.

Also read our recap of last last year’s 4YFN!