“We’re Creating a Space Where Startups and Big Companies Can Work Together” – Interview with Gonzalo López, The Valley Barcelona

A new innovation hub has been born in Barcelona. It’s in a beautiful old building right by the harbor and it’s home to Barcelona’s only Digital Business School, The Valley.

Apart from being one of the only schools in Spain where students can attend courses focused specifically on digital innovation, The Valley also acts as a strong force in shaping Barcelona’s digital community by injecting talent into the ecosystem and fostering collaboration between big companies and startups.

To find out more about the role of the Valley in Barcelona, we spoke with Gonzalo López, Director at The Valley Barcelona, about the history of the school, the work they do as mover and shakers of digital transformation, and how they’re planning to unite startups and corporates under the roof of their new innovation hub.


The Birth of the Valley

The Valley was started seven years ago in Madrid and landed in Barcelona just about four years ago. The founders, who have backgrounds in advertising and media, had noticed that a surprising number of companies had not started investing in digital media – they were still placing their bets on traditional outlets, like TV and press.

The directors of these companies were clearly unaware of the advantages that digital marketing offers and didn’t understand why they should spend their money on it. So the founders of The Valley created a school to train directors and professionals working in marketing departments and prepare them for the digital revolution which was already happening.

At the time, hardly any of the business schools in Madrid and Barcelona provided courses on digital business. “It’s a very practical field and it’s constantly changing, so it cannot be taught by academic teachers. It has to be taught by someone who lives and breathes it every day,” says Gonzalo.

Instead of employing a team of professors, The Valley works with experts who have full-time jobs as, for example, digital marketers, and put their knowledge to use every single day. This ensures that they are always up-to-date on the latest advances in their field and can paint an accurate picture of the realities of the job, providing real-life solutions to real-life problems for students to learn from.  


The Valley Digital business school in Barcelona
Gonzalo López, Director at The Valley Barcelona


Learning How to Build a Digital Business

There are two main courses at the Valley. One of them is the Master in Digital Business, which “is a ten-month training where students can learn how to create a digital business – how business models are evolving, how you can create innovation in your business with methods such as design thinking, lean startup, and agile. Students work in groups of four, and by the end of the ten months, they will have created a digital business from scratch, from the challenge to the solution,” Gonzalo explains.  

The second course is aimed at directors and focuses on digital transformation.

“The idea for this program stems from the realization that organizations seem to move at a faster pace than their directors. Sometimes, certain changes are needed in a company’s way of working, and if directors don’t have an open mind, if they don’t understand the need for these changes, they won’t allow the company to grow in that direction,” Gonzalo says.

“Digital transformation is a cultural change – technology is only a driver. This is what we try to help directors to see. We show them the impacts that digital innovation can have on their companies, how to use digital tools to communicate with their customers, how to use digital data to be more proactive, and so on. We help them see the big picture, without going into too much detail about the specifics. For example, directors don’t have to understand how a social media plan is created, but they need to understand why a social media plan is crucial for their company. They don’t have to understand the details of big data, but they need to know why data needs to be collected and what can be done with it,” he breaks it down for us.


The Valley, a hub for digital innovation in Barcelona


Helping Companies Succeed with Digital Transformation

The digital business courses are not the only way that The Valley is helping companies go through a digital transformation. They have a headhunting branch that provides companies with the digital talent to fill in the gaps in their teams, and they do in-company courses to kickstart the process with education.

They’ve also created a methodology called Scale to help guide businesses through the process.

“It’s a solution that is 100% tailored to your company’s needs. We never tell you what to do. We harness the internal knowledge of the company as well as the company’s knowledge of the sector and complement it with our experience. We use creative thinking, disruptive technologies, innovation methodologies, and agile development, and we do everything together with your teams and the people that make up your company. We empower them to become leaders of innovation,” Gonzalo describes Scale.

“We accompany you through all the phases of your company’s digital transformation, from the change in mindset and the creation of a culture of innovation to designing your own route to digital transformation,” he continues. “There are thousands of projects that you can do within digital transformation. It’s a very complex process that has to be in line with the various areas of the organization and the company culture. So we always start with something small, get quick wins, then move on to bigger things. We always propose to do a bootcamp with the directors so that we’re aligned with the priorities and the strategy of the company,” he elaborates.


Barcelona's first digital business school, The Valley


A New Innovation Hub in Barcelona

The new space that The Valley occupies, sharing a building with other members of Barcelona Tech City very close to Pier 01, is meant to become a place of collaboration for different players of the digital ecosystem in Barcelona, with The Valley acting as the middleman.

“In Madrid, we have a space of around 4,000 m² called The Place that is home to quite a few companies and startups. We’re creating something similar in Barcelona, keeping in mind the specific needs of the local ecosystem. We want to keep the experts that we work with close; we want to see companies collaborate; and we want our students to have a place to come back to and work with each other and their teachers,” Gonzalo explains.

According to Gonzalo, one of the most exciting things about Barcelona is that there is a large community of digital professionals that can help companies grow. The role of the Valley within the local ecosystem is to provide that digital talent, as well as to encourage collaboration between corporates and startups, the most important agents of innovation.

“We’re creating a space where startups and big companies can work together. We’re big fans of open innovation: companies come to us with a specific challenge and we connect them with the people or the startups that can help them. We also help big companies understand how they can give back and contribute to the ecosystem,” he says.  

As for other future plans, Gonzalo says that they will be focusing on attracting more foreign students – one of their courses is taught in English – launching summer programs and starting a new course on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Valley Barcelona now offers an Executive Program in Digital Marketing taught exclusively in English! Sign up to obtain an in-depth understanding of all the key tools for the planning, execution and budgeting of a global marketing plan.

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