Barcelona’s startup ecosystem is bigger than Madrid’s. But does it really matter?
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Woman using a smart city gadget to get directions in Barcelona. Photo Credit: GaudiLab/ Shutterstock

Spain’s startup scene is thriving, and yet many remain preoccupied with whether Barcelona or Madrid is the bigger ecosystem. But this misses the point. Instead of comparing, we should be celebrating the innovation coming out of this tech hub.

Novobrief

People from Madrid and Barcelona love to talk about who’s got a bigger startup scene. It doesn’t really matter, since both cities are a short train ride apart and should be focused on complementing each other instead of competing against each other, but from time to time the debate about which startup ecosystem is bigger comes back to light.

It happened again recently when Webcapitalriesgo circulated its annual report analyzing the Spanish investment landscape. This was followed by a post by Hemerotek claiming that ‘Barcelona is the startup capital of Spain’. Many, mostly from Madrid, considered this outrageous and started looking everywhere for figures that could dispute such claims. Well, there’s no need to keep on looking because it’s true.

There are multiple ways of analyzing startup ecosystems, but one of the most common ones is through the number and size of investments received by startups. One might argue that this doesn’t truly reflect the importance or relevance of an ecosystem, but it’s certainly correlated if we take into account the key role investment plays when building and scaling technology startups.

And if you use investment as a measure, Barcelona’s (and Cataluña) technology ecosystem has been traditionally bigger than Madrid’s.

Thanks to figures shared by Webcapitalriesgo, we’ve put together the two graphs and table visible below, which show that Barcelona’s startups have attracted more investor attention over the past few years.

Photo Credit: Novobrief

Photo Credit: Novobrief

While in 2012 and 2013 the difference between Madrid and Barcelona was of less than €10 million, things changed significantly in 2014 thanks to Scytl’s €77.8 million Series C round. Although some have claimed that Scytl’s round is the main cause of this increase, this is not entirely true. If we were to subtract Scytl from the analysis, Cataluña’s companies would have still received €34 million more than those in Madrid.

Interestingly, the number of deals over the past 3 years have always been far superior in Barcelona than Madrid. It’s also worth noting that despite seeing a decrease in investments compared to 2012 and 2013, Valencia continues to solidify its position as the third main startup region in Spain.

Does this mean anything? Is this really important? Not really, but at the same time it is. As mentioned before, there are many ways of measuring the relevance of startup ecosystems and not all are quantifiable. As an example, some say that Valencia’s scene is more tightly connected than in Madrid, but that’s hard to quantify and almost impossible to measure.

What’s quite clear at this stage is that Barcelona’s startups have received more investment over the past few years -possibly going back 10 to 15 years. And the effect of rounds like Wallapop’s $120+ million might make the difference between regions even greater in 2015.

Does this really matter? Instead of debating who’s got a bigger scene, shouldn’t we celebrate that the country’s ecosystem as a whole is growing, and that its two main cities are a short train ride away from each other?

This post was originally published on Novobrief.

Featured Image Credit: GaudiLab/ Shutterstock

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Jaime Novoa

About Jaime Novoa


Chief editor and startup ecosystem analyst for the blog of Startupxplore. Startupxplore is the leading startup funding community, connecting investors and startups all around Europe. He also writes for Novobrief, an English language publication covering the Spanish startup ecosystem.

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