How was Barcelona Global founded, and how has it evolved?
Barcelona Global is an association created eight years ago after a group of entrepreneurs and prominent people in Barcelona felt the city was losing its momentum as a global city. We decided to create an association that is fully private and completely open in terms of representing different sectors, from large to small companies, culture to economics, and artists to entrepreneurs, with the clear mission of bringing more talent and economic activity into the city. Now, we have more than 1,000 members, partly because of the work we have done and partly because of people worrying about the future of Barcelona. When people get worried they have two reactions: stay at home or commit themselves to solving the problem and getting involved.
What is your take on the talent pool in Barcelona, and what solutions is Barcelona Global offering?
Barcelona without a doubt is a city of talent, both in terms of provisions and attractions. Our challenge is not to be a city of talent, but to develop and grow this local talent since one of the major problems we face is that after people succeed here, many move on. It is also to attract the right mix of talent, which means we do not just have to be attractive to a certain type of talent, such as digitally talented young people, but also to other types. Today, talent is much more important than capital for growth. In order to achieve this growth, we must work on the type of ecosystem and landscape to maintain our locally generated talent and continue to attract international talent to come to Barcelona in every field, age, and stage of development.
What is it about the atmosphere in the city that generates such entrepreneurship?
It is a mixture of soft and hard things. It is both a mixture of natural resources, weather, lifestyle, quality of life, and culture here as well as a fantastic education network. For example, in October we celebrated MBA day at Barcelona Global, with more than 600 MBA students from 55 countries now attending three fantastic business schools here: IESE, ESADE, and EADA, each of which are ranked in the top 30 European institutions, not merely in business, but also engineering, design, and other subjects. If one has the right natural conditions, a well-trained workforce, and a flexible and open-minded ecosystem that creates the right conditions, then things happen. There was a huge barrier to that in the past, namely access to capital, because investors were not looking at Barcelona. Fortunately, however, this has changed, and there is a great deal of interest from investors to come here. All the pieces are there.
What initiatives or tangible services do you offer your members?
We do three different kinds of things. The first is strategic thinking regarding Barcelona as a global city, which means identifying the challenges Barcelona can improve upon in its mission to be more attractive for talent and the economy. That opens a wide range of things, such as how a city like Barcelona can manage tourism, resolving the affordable housing problem that many successful cities face, improving the tax portfolio for foreigners that want to work here, and getting the public and private sectors to cooperate on culture, science, and medicine. One of the things one discovers being a global city is that they share problems with other successful global cities such as Paris, London, and New York. One can learn a lot by looking at others. Secondly, we get involved in many projects to implement ideas that came from this strategic thinking. Finally, we are working with the international press to rebuild the reputation of the city by bringing the press here, not to deny the political turmoil, which is part of our current landscape, but to explain that beyond that, Barcelona has much more to offer.
How is Barcelona Global structured?
As a private association, we are a strictly governed association, which means the chairman and executive committee have to change every two years. This is extremely demanding for the chair, but it is fantastic because it gives the opportunity for people like me, who have their own business and agenda, to be part of the story for a time. We also have an executive committee that has to approve every new project. Once that has done that, we open it to our partners to decide who would like to take part and get involved.
Does Barcelona need more diversification away from just innovation?
The idea of cities being oriented to one activity is part of a vision of what is happening today because people work both for Barcelona and from Barcelona. For example, there are people working for the market here who might concentrate on the digital world or tourism. However, something interesting that is happening in Barcelona is that people are moving to Barcelona to work remotely. If we want to succeed as a global hub in the long term, we have to create the conditions that will help remote workers serve the whole world, which means a well-connected airport, excellent infrastructure, a high quality of life, affordable housing, and a respectable health system. It does not mean all our resources and work should go to a single project like 5G. You have to create the conditions for things to happen, and if you create them things will happen.