Flywire, listed on the Nasdaq; Jeff, which has revolutionised the laundry sector; and Afterbanks, which lets you manage all your bank accounts from a single space, are examples of the talent that resides in Valencia. The support of institutions and other companies has managed to place this community on the global map of innovation
he city of Valencia, with over 800,000 inhabitants, is the third most populous city in Spain and is the nerve centre of the Spanish Levant. High speed trains, its extensive motorway network and Valencia International Airport connect this cosmopolitan city not only with the rest of the country, but with the whole world.
As a city with beaches and many days of sunshine, the economy is largely based on tourism. There were almost 2.5 million foreign tourists in 2019, its record year to date. But, as with Malaga, the city hides a cultural, innovative and business potential that should not be overshadowed by tourism.
With 836 startups registered in the region, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has experienced significant growth in the last five years. This is because the interest in making Valencia an innovation hub does not come from just one source, but from all of the main social actors – the Generalitat, the City Council and private companies.
The first reason that the local talent stays in their homeland innovating is precisely what brings tourists to visit the city. This is what Valencia City Council has to say about it: “We sell a pairing of quality of life and cost. It’s cheaper to live here than in Barcelona or Madrid, and the quality of life is better partly because of this, and partly because it’s a big city but one where all the services are close at hand for citizens”, explains Javier Mateo García, Deputy Director of Entrepreneurship at the València Activa Foundation.
This feature not only convinces the people of Valencia to stay, but also attracts foreign talent that is looking for a place to grow as a professional. “Thanks to investments in recent years to turn the city into a technological hub, outside talent is increasingly interested in Valencia. Startups from around the world come here ready to set up and grow, to change the world from Valencia”, Mateo enthuses.
Thinking along the same lines is Nacho Mas, Executive Director of Startup Valencia, one of the organisations most responsible for driving the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city: “Valencia is not only the ideal city to be an entrepreneur and to innovate, it also offers a lifestyle and quality of life that can’t be found in other larger hubs. The size of the place, its geographical location, connections, culture and climate are added bonuses that make our city a place to stay and innovate”.
The mission shared by the main actors in the autonomous community emerged in early 2015, when institutions and private entities saw that the future of the region lay in Valencia becoming a European tech city where talent would be looked after.
“While the innovation gene and the desire to grow have been with us for years, you could say that it was that year when we joined forces to keep talent and knowledge in the city, empowering it and providing the tools to make Valencia a tech city”, recalls Mateo.
To make this happen, incubators, accelerators and other organisations have been creating all kinds of programmes, awards, events and courses that, one way or another, would make life easier for the startups who were initiating their professional adventures.
Lanzadera, an important Valencian accelerator and incubator created by entrepreneur Juan Roig, has several programmes designed to help these projects, whether in the seed phase or in full development:
General Director of Lanzadera, Javier Jiménez, believes that “entrepreneurship is fundamental to progress and innovation in society”. Because of this, in addition to the programmes, the accelerator offers assistance that ranges from €1,000 up to financing worth €500,000 for startups that join Lanzadera.
For their part, Startup Valencia has been organising the annual Valencia Digital Summit since 2018. This platform provides an opportunity for startups to network and present their projects to corporations and national and international investment funds.
From the point of view of the administration, the Council has focused on training and bureaucracy, helping all those entrepreneurs who have needed advice, training or technical assistance, for example “registering the company, enrolling as self-employed or solving tax queries”.
Observatorio Startup Comunidad Valenciana, VLC Startup Awards, Capital4Startups.org, Corporates4Startups, Valencia Investors Day, Tech Transfer and the Ciclo El Mundo que Viene are just some of the initiatives happening today in Valencia thanks to the collaboration of all these actors.
And after so many initiatives, the success stories. Flywire is a fintech founded by Valencian Iker Marcaide that has been listed on the Nasdaq, the American technology industry stock exchange. Their idea is an easy-to-use payment solution that offers payers the ability to use their local currency from abroad, track the status of transactions and receive 24 hour customer service in different languages to resolve any issues. It began life as an app designed for exchange students.
And if we’re still talking about young people, the creators of Jeff came to Valencia at 28 years old, fresh out of university and with a revolutionary idea: a mobile app that offers domestic laundry services at competitive rates. They currently have 1,200 franchises across a dozen countries.
In the fintech sector, Afterbanks stands out – a startup that specialises in banking APIs that operates in eight countries, supports over 100 banks and has more than 20,000 users. Its advantage is that it is a technology that brings together customers and companies on a single platform where they can see current account banking movements and business billing.
This startup, which last year carried out a Fast Track with BBVA as part of the Open Innovation initiatives looking to improve the bank’s financial aggregation platform and offer better services, is an example of the talent that has chosen to evolve and grow in Valencia. David Lozano, Managing Director at Afterbanks, explains his view; “We started off in Madrid, but we had to find somewhere that could offer us good conditions to develop our business. That place was Valencia, primarily thanks to Lanzadera, which welcomed us with open arms and helped us a great deal, but also because of the city, which is becoming a great technological hub that offers quality of life”.
Talent and innovation are constantly on the move, ideas don’t stand still, and Valencia is an ideal destination with an infrastructure that offers everything you could need. The city that hosts the City of Arts and Sciences is now, thanks to initiatives by public and private actors, also home to emerging companies that are making it the city of open innovation.