The startup ecosystem is rising up again as one of the forerunners of entrepreneurship and innovation in this space during the Mobile World Congress, one of the world’s biggest tech fairs. Which trends will define the future of this sector? Which new technologies and tools will drive its growth?
To walk through the doors of the Mobile World Congress is to embrace transformation, entrepreneurship and innovation with every step. The latest edition of this event, which brings together companies from around the world to discover which technologies and innovations will become part of our day-to-day lives, has come to an end. There were new and powerful lessons to be drawn from it.
The first figures released by the GSMA, which organises the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, offer an optimistic outlook. Over 60,000 attendees from almost 200 countries, 1,900 companies and more than 1,000 speakers reignited the spirit of transformation that has always been at the heart of this technology fair.
These numbers also allow the focus to be shifted towards 4YFN, which was again consolidated as a key contributor to the essence of this gathering. This space, dedicated to startups and entrepreneurship, proved its worth by addressing key issues such as decentralised finance and the latest trends in the fintech sector.
“If I had to describe this year’s 4YFN in one word it would be ‘energy’. It was the first big Mobile World Congress that we’ve been able to enjoy following the pandemic, and there was a lot of activity right up to the last day”, says Núria Pastor, CEO and co-founder of HumanITCare, the company that won the 4YFN Awards.
During the 4YFN event, over 500 startups contributed to envisaging new horizons through the use of technology. One thing that became clear in this edition was the importance of having such frameworks in place so that emerging companies can make their voices heard and get the support they need to develop their solutions.
Pere Durán, Director of 4YFN, referred to the celebration of this event as “incredible”. “We’re euphoric about the 2022 edition of 4YFN because it represented the full return of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to the MWC, and we’re very exited by the consolidation of the event within the Mobile World Congress”, he explained in an interview with Metrópoli.
Núria Pastor, CEO of HumanITCare, is head of one of the most striking examples. In 2017 she met her business partner Unai Sánchez at 4YFN, when she presented the idea that has just been recognised by this space as the best digital startup. The mission of this connected health company is “to radically improve how those who are suffering from a disease are cared for and treated”, says Pastor, who runs this company that uses technology directly to help people.
“We’ve developed a platform that connects hospitals, home care companies and insurers with patients remotely. Patients have an app that they use to connect via bluetooth to different medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, which send information to the doctor’s computer”, she explains.
With the data collected, healthcare professionals can make a diagnosis or customise each patient’s care plan. Pastor explains their vision as follows: “We are looking to improve people’s access to healthcare and to prevent failures in hospitals and medical centres”.
In addition, HumanITCare has received financing from the European Commission to launch a specific cardiology product, and these funds are supporting the ongoing evolution of projects like this.
Foto: Núria Pastor and Unai Sánchez, co-founders of HumanITCare.
Seeking investment is one of the main concerns for any emerging company. However, the way that investors choose which projects to back has changed. As Itxaso del Palacio notes, the mentality regarding fintechs is “much more open”. Trends such as open banking have contributed to this, boosting the growth and consolidation of the sector.
The Director of Investments at Notion Capital believes that now “there is a much more mature entrepreneurial ecosystem”. In her view, small companies were seen before, but “there are now a large number of bigger companies in the market, both in Spain and in Europe”. This is why we can talk about big players, “companies like Qonto have just raised almost €500 million in a round of investment”.
The expert highlights a change of model in recent years, which has meant that the presence of banks and startups is much more visible in settings like 4YFN. And it’s not just a passing phase – according to del Palacio, future editions will also be marked by this development.
As a result, spaces are opening up for certain trends, including what are known as decentralised finances or ‘DeFi’. This is a range of apps that are based on blockchain networks and do not need intermediaries to operate. The ultimate aim of these technologies is to contribute to creating a more transparent and secure financial system, in which collaboration and open innovation play leading roles.
This is an issue that has also received special attention since 4YFN. Notion Capital’s Director of Investment points out that decentralised finances are going to play “an important part in the next generation of the market”, although she notes that it will require a network built through cooperation between entities.
While an event like the Mobile World Congress – closely linked to connectivity and mobile telephony – develops, the startup ecosystem is already attracting the attention of attendees. In fact, in Spain there are already 4 companies valued at over €1 billion (known as unicorns).
So, in a space where experts and emerging companies meet, it has become impossible to imagine the Mobile World Congress without a framework like 4YFN. If the necessary amenities and support are provided, then the breeding ground for the creation of companies that can transform fields like finance is ready. At the end of the day, as Núria Pastor points out, “innovation has to happen at the right time and in the right place”.