The Rock of Gibraltar (aerial view)

3 Things for Gibraltar to Establish its Startup Hub after Brexit

With Brexit ahead and Article 50 triggered, the side effects are uncertain. Yet large changes bring along large opportunities — for Gibraltar, one of the large opportunities is the international startup hub.

Begining of Brexit

Despite the alarming recent news of placing Gibraltar as a bargaining chip for the Brexit process between UK and EU, Spain receiving veto rights over a potentially separate deal between EU and Gibraltar, Theresa May statement raising the possibility of a war scenario with Spain over Gibraltar, there still is a bright side filled with hope and opportunities.

We are living in the 21st century, a time of maturity for our world leaders, including the leaders of the United Kingdom, European Union, Gibraltar and Spain. As citizens, we pleged our vote with good faith for the leaders in power and trust in their ability to resolve any outstanding matter peacefully through communication and mutually reasonable agreements.

While it is good to stay informed on the matter of Brexit, with confidence we can focus on identifying and working on the new opportunities for Gibraltar.

Opportunities for Gibraltar

Gibraltar is progressing the movement for innovation, led by entrepreneurs with support from the local Government. Glancing at the local startup scene, the startup businesses together with the support organisations are making the right progress to help establish Gibraltar as an international startup hub.

Juan Verde, a social entrepreneur who worked on the political campaigns of Senator Ted Kennedy, President Bill Clinton and President Barak Obama, encouraged Gibraltar at an event organised by AmCham Gibraltar in late 2016, to continue the bet on entrepreneurs and innovation.

The focus on entrepreneurship brings economic growth, creates educational, professional and employment opportunities and opens the door for new industry verticals which attract new businesses.

1. Startup Infrastructure

The startup infrastructure layer marks the foundation of support for new startup companies to be created and developed. In its absence, the friction can impair startups and the startup ecosystem from growing.

The key elements of the startup infrastructure are:

a) One-Stop-Shop for the Startup Setup — Incorporation, banking and business license, all need to be easy in terms of process and affordable in terms of cost. Ideally, the startup setup should be available online, for minimum friction.

b) Startup Perks — Early stage startups are generally in bootstrap mode and starved for capital. Any form of support in the first year of existence, such as perks for legal consultancy, accounting, web hosting, co-working space, online advertising credits and more, are very helpful and well appreciated by founders.

c) High Speed Internet — This goes without saying, startup companies being heavily technology oriented, every startup hub location requires excellent high speed internet coverage. The local internet broadband providers are making good progress in this space.

d) Remote Model — Being specific to Gibraltar, the remote company model unlocks the ability to compete with economies at scale, advantage that was not on the table beforehand. Encouraging companies from Gibraltar to be set up remotely will help expand the economy beyond geographical limitations and unlock access to the world-wide talent pool, with relocation becoming optional.

e) Talent Network — Startups require world-wide talent: students eager to create, entrepreneurs, experienced professionals, visionaries and many others. Talent recruitment agencies play a crucial role in connecting and linking startup people with Gibraltar.

f) Digital Country — It is the move towards a single point of contact with the government and complementary institutions, available online for citizens and non-citizens. This enables everyone to register as a digital citizen, open and manage a company, open and manage a bank account, pay taxes and communicate with the government. e-Estonia is currently leading the digital country movement and represents a good case study in this direction.

g) Established & New Industries — Gibraltar enjoys the prosperity created by the Financial, Legal, Gaming, Insurance and Tourism industries. It pays well in the mid-term to focus the new startups around the established industries, yet for long-term prosperity diversification with complementing industries is key. New industries such as Advertising (AdTech), e-Commerce, LawTech, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and possibly a few others can exponentially expand Gibraltar’s economy in the long term.

2. Startup Culture

With the startup infrastructure in place, people are driven by culture to take action. Passion, interest and curiosity are elements infused and developed through a nurtured environment.

a) Universities — Entrepreneurial mindsets start early on and involving students in startup programs is the first step towards fostering the startup culture for the young minds.

b) Startup Events — Bring together people interested in startups on a regular basis, through local and online events, meetups, hackathons, pitch days and many other gatherings. Startup founders always appreciate the networking opportunities with like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, service providers and other startup people. Startup Grind, Girls in Tech and the Software Development Meetup are among the most notable startup and talent events from Gibraltar.

c) Co-working Spaces — Every founder needs a physical space to get the work done and build the startup business. Co-working spaces are essential to grow the startup work culture. In Gibraltar, the companies offering co-working spaces are Easy Office, Gibraltar Business Centre, Regus (in the new World Trade Center building) and Paper Cloud Office.

d) Startup Brand & Networking — Locally and internationally, the startup hub brand for Gibraltar is further built and grown with online content, startup conferences, international networking and social media, to expand the audience reach and promote our startup value proposition world wide. Gibraltar-Israel Chamber of Commerce (Gibrael) organised in March 2017 the first delegation for business from Gibraltar to Israel, with the focus on startups.

3. Startup Capital

With the available startup infrastructure and people passionately building startups with the right culture in place, there is one missing ingredient, essential for the startup hub success — startup capital.

Almost every startup business needs capital at one stage to further progress and grow. In the lack of available capital, a startup hub can be seriously crippled and fade away.

Gibraltar very much needs a startup fund for pre-seed, seed and series A/B investment rounds to massively accelerate the startup hub, in synergy with the startup infrastructure and culture elements in place.

The process of deploying capital in startups requires special attention and can become a risky affair if not handled properly. One of the best practices is to invest in startups through organisations such as startup incubators, accelerators or startup networks, which offer a streamlined validated system to de-risk investment operations.

Ending Note

Startups are instruments aimed to solve problems for a larger group of people. To become viable, sustainable business models are created and implemented around the provided solutions.

Innovation is created by startup hubs around the world. The new products and services improve the life experience for many people and cause significant economical growth. Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber, Snapchat, and many others are real life examples of the real startup potential.

Gibraltar has the opportunity like never before to grow and expand the international startup hub, reaching more and more people world wide. Nowadays is clearer than ever, Gibraltar is no longer local, Gibraltar is global.


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Alex Biet, Founder of Future Day — Connect via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.