There was an article in Expansion today about efforts to create incubators for startups in Spain. There was a bit of handwringing about why there aren’t more high tech startups in Spain. If I had to come up with reasons, imagine (for the sake of the Spanish who only seem to understand excellence in football) that you wanted to make a football team that would be as good as Barca, but lived in a country that had no tradition of football.
1) Identifying and nurturing talent early. In the Spanish educational system, you can’t specialize in technology (unless you consider building a chair out of wood technology) until you reach university. Imagine that people only started playing football in university. In addition, you lose out on the filtering that happens throughout childhood, where kid who do well are constantly promoted and placed with peers of similar talent.
2) Specialized high-school education for the super motivated. It is clear to people in Spain that a regular school day is incompatible if you want to practice football for hours a day. In a similar way, having education that is customized to the needs of kids studying in high tech.
3) Money. Madrid decides they want a world class team to beat Barca, so they blow a couple hundred million on the best players they can find. Unnamed Spanish technology company wants a world class director of development, whom they are willing to pay up to 100,000 euros a year. Good luck with that.
4) Consequences of failure. Not having an effective bankruptcy regime in Spain means that a mistake in a startup could put you on the hook to have your paychecks garnished for the rest of your life. In Spain, there is a presumption of fraud when you declare bankruptcy, and you actually have to prove that you are no longer a danger to society before you can incorporate again.
5) Specialized universities. Every autonomous community in Spain wants to be #1 in every field. This means that you have 17 badly funded effort in each area, instead of just dividing things up and having each university be excellent in a few areas.