Edward Snowden to speak at Challengers Conference in Barcelona
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Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

The startup event, taking place from June 17-18, will feature 60 speakers and house 1,500 participants

Challengers is a startup event in Barcelona that specializes in people and companies that challenge the established norms and aim for the impossible. Focusing on four verticals where Europeans traditionally excel – commerce, entertainment, security and transportation – Challengers sets to showcase the innovators, disruptors, leaders and senior thinkers in these emerging fields. With an impressive lineup of speakers including Edward Snowden, founder of the Pirate Bay Peter Sunde, and Kim Dotcom, it’s going to be memorable for anyone interested in European tech.

Hundreds of startups from Europe, including the tech publications of TechCrunch, ArcticStartup, Inc.com, Make Use Of and EL Pais, are also set to join 60 speakers and 1,500 participants for two days of debates, keynotes and interviews – all done in complete privacy, without the presence of video cameras. During some key sessions, especially in some security vertical talks, smartphones will be taken away. So if you want to see Snowden’s speech from the conference, for example, you’ll have to come.

With the abundance of local cerveza, food and the laid-back atmosphere (shorts and t-shirts are encouraged), it’s more than likely that friendships instead of networks will be formed.

Challengers is taking place from June 17-18, and readers of Geektime get a 40% discount until June 16 with the code: GEEKBCN. The event is fast selling out due to the partnership with the legendary music festival Sonar, which attracts more than 120,000 people to the city and features artists such as Chemical Brothers and Die Antwoord, who recently starred in Chappie with Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.

Barcelona as an emerging tech hub

Challengers, a premiere startup conference in Barcelona, taking place from June 17-18.

Challengers, a premiere startup conference in Barcelona, taking place from June 17-18.

Did you know that startups love Barcelona? According to Wired UK, it’s one of the main startup hubs in Europe along with Tel Aviv, Berlin and London. Similarities with Tel Aviv are uncanny – both cities are on the coast, have great local culture, attract a massive influx of expat entrepreneurs and the local governments support the ecosystem by cutting the red tape and getting out of the way.

Local startups such as WuakiTV (Spanish Netflix acquired by Rakuten), Wallapop (widely thought to hit €1bn valuation), Scytl and Zero2infinty (redefining space exploration) are fuelling the momentum and helping to build a critical mass, which is being noted internationally. Investors such as Index, Nokia Growth Partners and Anderseen Horowitz are also paying attention to the growing scene.

Getting smarter

Recently, the citizens of Barcelona did something very surprising: They voted in a new mayor, a lady called Ada Colau, who raised funds via crowdfunding and did the majority of her campaigning via social networks and gatherings. This might not mean much to you, but in Spain, this is as close as you can get to a revolution.

The city has also become very smart. According to the European Commission, the city ranks 4th in the Smart city index and is constantly improving on every level, pushing the envelope as it moves forward. While many cities encourage its inhabitants to use bicycles with mediocre results, Barcelona’s residents don’t need any encouragement because so many bike lanes have sprouted across the city that residents actually stop using their cars (many of my Barcelona friends have sold theirs).

Since the year 2000, the city has introduced a solar thermal ordinance that requires all new buildings over a certain size to generate hot water from solar thermal energy. This along with smart sensors in the trash collectors, free WiFi in majority of public spaces, movement detectors in street lights and much more, elevates the city’s status as a genuine champion in the smart city space.

Beyond the growing number of startups, investors, and smart city tactics, Barcelona is also growing its startup ecosystem with hubs such as @22 Barcelona, Betahaus, and Makers of Barcelona fermenting talent, with associations such as Barcelona Tech city and Barcelona Global providing support with the backing of massive corporations such as SEAT, Abertis and Applus.

If you’re moved by any of this, please come to Challengers this week!

The views expressed are of the author.

Geektime invites global tech and startup professionals to share their opinions and expertise with our readers. If you would like to share your point of view, please contact us at [email protected]

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Kayvan Nikjou

About Kayvan Nikjou


Founder of SiliconKarne, the Spanish startup blog.

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