MADRID, SPAIN. The Spanish start-up scene is an inspiring and exciting place to be. Following Zinc Showers just a month ago, Startup The Fusion brings start-ups and investors together again in Madrid. The economic crisis has had a positive impact within the Spanish economy by encouraging risk-taking, new avenues of funding and new events of this kind, thus sparking interest abroad. Organised by Kayvan Nijkou with a budget of just €7000, the majority of which, he claims, has come from his mother, Startup The Fusion has big ambitions and managed to sell-out in its first year. This is matched with an impressive list of sponsors and partners, including the Startup Europe Partnership. Compared to Slush by Nikou himself, one of the world’s leading start-up events taking place in Finland, translating the event into a Spanish setting didn’t quite match up in terms of organisation, however, as one Nordic attendee pointed out.
In his introduction, Nijkou highlighted that with approximately 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide, the Hispanic world is a huge market. Despite this focus, the event took place in English, a strange choice when the majority of start-ups, investors and audience were native Spaniards and many of the products operated only in Spanish. Whilst all attendees made an effort to stick to the English-only rule, it prevented some start-ups especially from displaying their true enthusiasm, focusing on the need to be understood and caught up in the language barrier.
The planning may not have been as smooth as anticipated but the fresh energy was palpable with a strictly no suits dress code. The event made use of the innovative start-ups as portable phone chargers were available for use and blow-up sofas sat on stage, both provided by start-ups showcasing at the event. All volunteers also came from young start-ups.
Seven minutes of pitching were followed by seven minutes of questioning from the audience. The most exciting and truly inventive start-ups were those that were easy to use and to understand, with a near universal market. These start-ups principally featured in the ‘Mobile’ category, with applications such as Infinitespot which allows reservation of parking spaces and saves both time and money for users. The pitching sessions were interspersed with discussions by panels of investors and other specialists, such as a Northern vs Southern panel, where Northern and Southern European investors discussed what they look for, stating that the capital and knowledge sits in the North, but the energy is in the South. For Northern investors to move South, building a network of trust is vital, and this can be done at events like Startup The Fusion. Though, even the successes of Northern Europe are ‘kindergarten’ compared to Silicon Valley.
Whilst not as successful as Zinc Showers, and not living up to its Nordic counterpart Slush, by bringing so many cutting-edge ideas together Startup the Fusion inevitably has a buzz that will hopefully continue into next year. After all, Slush began with 300 attendees in 2008 and now has over 8000.