Catalonia continues to gain a reputation as a global destination for start-ups, as data released this week confirms that 2021 was again a strong year for new companies setting up and creating jobs in the region.
At the end of 2021 there were 1,900 start-ups operating in the region, an increase of more than 11% from 2020 and 26% up on 2019.
The international appeal of the region was also highlighted by the data, stating that 1 in 4 employees were coming from abroad and that 73% of start-ups are working for international clients.
Deep technology, such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing, continue to be a significant industry that start-ups are operating within and covering several sectors, with health, business services and ICT the most popular.
Investment into the region was also significant, with 1.4 billion euros invested in 2021.
The impressive data was published by Catalonia Trade & Investment, a public body agency that aims to attract foreign investment to Barcelona and Catalonia.
The report was presented at a press conference by Roger Torrent, Catalan minister for business and labour, and Lluís Juncà Pujol, Director General for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Catalan government.
Speaking about the region and its support of start-ups, Torrent said that ‘we are in a very good position, being established as the first hub for start-ups in southern Europe’.
Explaining more about the collaborations that have led to the growth of the hub, he said that ‘this is the result of the combined efforts of many people over the last 20 years: entrepreneurs, investors, and public administration … public-private partnerships are a key factor in the growth of Catalonia as a hub for start-ups’.
Pujol highlighted the importance of the ecosystem to job creation, explaining how start-ups entering the growth stage are increasing their headcount, saying ‘the size of Catalan start-ups is increasing more and more, which makes them more robust and able to generate added value to be more scalable and have a global impact’.
Revenues from start-ups in the region have also increased rapidly. In 2020 (the most recent published data available), revenues were 1.7 billion euros, despite operating during the Covid pandemic and periods of significant restrictions.
The data revealed the global outlook of the region and the international appeal for working in startups, with 26% of employees and 17% of founders coming from abroad.
Most of the international workforce coming to the region were originally from western Europe, North America and South America, with technology, management, sales, marketing and operational skills.
Citing Barcelona as a particular hotbed for start-ups, the report stated that the city is recognised by founders for its international connectivity and strength of entrepreneurial community.
In this respect, it is widely recognised as a leader in Europe, along with the cities of Berlin, Amsterdam, Munich, Lisbon and Paris.
The future for the city and region looks incredibly bright, with opportunities to expand from its current position and relative early stage as a start-up hub when compared to Silicon Valley in California, that has existed in some form for 70 years, with rapid expansion in the 1970s and 80s.
Catalonia is well placed to continue its rapid expansion of start-up activity during 2022 and will play an important part in the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.