Something’s happening in Southern Europe. The success of South Summit 2016

By José del Barrio, founding partner at Samaipata Ventures

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Skype and Atomico founder Niklas Zennström and e-Republik Labs founder Alexis Bonte opening South Summit

In our last post, we talked about the talent opportunity for start-ups in Southern Europe. Nothing illustrates this better than what just happened in Madrid over the last week: South Summit 2016. In a refurbished factory in the south of the Madrid, over 12.500 attendees, including 6.700 entrepreneurs, 600 investors and more than 400 speakers, got together during three days to share views, ideas or simply, see first-hand, the latest movements in the European tech ecosystem.

The spirit of South Summit embodies exactly our thesis at Samaipata, and made me feel more excited and optimistic than ever before with our project. Something is going on in Southern Europe. In the past five years, South Summit has evolved from a humble event hosting a few Spanish investors and entrepreneurs to attracting, in this last edition the founders of some of the most successful tech companies of the last years; Niklas Zennström (Skype and Atomico) or Allen Blue (LinkedIN), to name a few.

When South Summit was initially launched in 2012 one of the biggest challenges was convincing international investors travelling to Madrid was worth their time. Now I can proudly say, from the conversations I’ve had with many of them, they have all been greatly surprised –of course, in a good way– by an event that was completely unknown not too long ago. Indeed, South Summit has yet again been a success, attracting top international investors, real market disruptors and inspiring thought leaders from all the world.

We didn’t just see new entrepreneurs fighting their way up; many also came with their exciting success story to share with us. I was thrilled to share a panel with my friend Ander Michelena, who along his partner, Jon Uriarte, recently sold Ticketbis to eBay for 165 million dollars or Zaryn Dentzel, who sold Tuenti to Telefónica for 70 million euros, or Gerard Olivé and Miguel Vicente, founders of Wallapop and Corner Job. But these represent just a few successful stories –along with Privalia (sold to Vente Privée for 470M€), Trovit (80M€ to Next Co) or Blablacar– the Southern European start-up ecosystem has bred in the last few years.

And because success breeds success many of these successful entrepreneurs have followed on to create founder’s funds (like Atomico), or continued their path as entrepreneurs, fighting once again, for a new project that disrupts the market. But that’s not the only novelty in the Southern European start-up ecosystem. We are constantly seeing new venture capital funds, and even better, more and more hands-on or specialized ones. Funds that are not only a source of funding anymore, but rather a genuine support for entrepreneurs and their teams. That’s exactly our goal at Samaipata.

Chema González, Ander Michelena, Zaryn Dentzel and José del Barrio, at South Summit 2016.

Many were surprised when Google opened its 4th global campus in Madrid. After London, Seoul and Tel Aviv, all of them renowned global tech capitals, why the leap to Spain many wondered? Spain, as Google has put it many times, is the perfect spot for connecting the tech ecosystem at both sides of the Atlantic; a European country but with strong ties to Latin America and with one of the largest concentrations of new startups. And of course there are many more reasons to it, which we at Samaipata work daily to get through.

Entrepreneurship as a career is on the rise amongst the younger generation of Spaniards, with more and more success stories. Moreover, there is a huge pool of talent awaiting opportunities in the tech start-up sector. In fact, Skype and Atomico founder Niklas Zennstöm spoke exactly about this in his opening firechat: Europe has enormous competitive advantages to contend at the same level as the US and one of the most relevant ones is exactly that: a huge pool of top university graduates. Indeed, an advantage we had already talked about in our last post: 1.6 million professional software developers in Europe vs. 1.4 million in the US. Europe also doubles the US in terms of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates and southern countries hold some of the largest ratios, per capita, in the whole OECD: France (27%), Portugal (25%) or Spain (24%).

But unfortunately the question that inevitably still comes to many people’s mind is “Why Madrid? Why Spain?”. We add to Head of Google Campus and co-founder of South Summit, Sofía Benjumea’s, response to it: we at Samaipata are also tired of hearing it. Something’s happening in Southern Europe. Thank you South Summit for contributing to this change.