The scaleup “clásico”
Barcelona vs. Madrid

The New Economy is concentrated in one hotspot per country, typically the capital city. Cities like London and Paris aggregate almost 70% of the innovation economy (number of scaleups and capital raised), despite representing only 20-25% of the GDP.
However, there are few exceptions and Spain is the most relevant one.

It is the only European country having two main scaleup hotspots (Barcelona and Madrid) of almost comparable size. And the main tech hotspot is not the capital city, but rather, Barcelona.

Quality of life, ability to attract international talent are the main factors supporting Barcelona’s prevalence. This despite the fact that the vast majority of the large Spanish companies are headquartered in Madrid. Then corporate venturing activities seem to have not yet been properly captured. That said, recent funding data suggest that Madrid is catching up. The Super Scaler Clásico sounds intriguing (Job&Talent reaching the Unicorn status last year is the Madrid answer to the €2.3 billion acquisition of Glovo of last December).

The “two-horse” Spanish Tech Race is without a doubt intriguing. But where do they stand in the European landscape of innovation hubs?

Barcelona stands in 5th place on our index of European tech scaleup city hubs, while Madrid closes the top ten ranking. Their current size is comparable with hotspots such as Amsterdam and the Nordic capital cities, Munich, Zurich and Milan. The gap between the top European cities (London, Paris, Stockholm and Berlin) remains large and it mirrors the gap between the Spanish ecosystem and the main European countries.

The question (still to be answered) is whether having two hotspots is paying off in a world where innovation tends to be brutally concentrated. Data seem to suggest the opposite. Nevertheless, a need for a more sustainable, distributed geographical economic development and – last but not least – post Covid trends of work remotization may hint at radically changing future scenarios.

Time will tell whether the Spanish multi-polar system will become a model of distributed development for the whole European new economy.

– Alberto Onetti | Chairman, Mind the Bridge

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