World Economic Forum recently published an article that Lisbon was aimingat becoming the next unexpected tech hub in Europe, just like Ireland has become the last decade.

Lisbon is a great city with an increasing number of tech startups, now hosting the Web Summit, and the government recently made an investment fund of 200 million for early growth companies. All of this is great, but they’re missing something Ireland had all along. English.

Barcelona is way ahead of Lisbon in becoming the leading European tech hub along the Mediterranean. We’re talking in amount of VC’s, accumulated investment, amount of startups, accelerators, incubators, I could go on for a while.

But like up and coming Lisbon, Barcelona is also missing one vital element.

  • English.

Boosting the expat community

It’s not that people in Barcelona in general are lacking English skills. As a person that’s learning Spanish, I think people’s skills generally are too good, it makes me learn the local language much slower.

It’s more about the willingness to adopt all the great activity in the tech ecosystem from Spanish to English.

There’s too many interesting events and meetups around Barcelona that are done in Spanish. And there’s too many expats, digital nomads and visitors that aren’t able to attend.

The more active people, the stronger an ecosystem is, and if we want Spain and Barcelona to grow one of the strongest communities in Europe, we need everyone we can get our hands on.

Barcelona is already attracting a lot of talent from abroad, but I’m sure more people would set up shop if they knew they could survive with only English, everything to make the transition easier.

An old man’s problem

Before writing this article I talked with many local entrepreneurs and developers in Barcelona. I was a bit hesitant to ask them the question, I don’t want to come as a guest, asking them to abandon their language.

But everybody I talked to agreed. Spanish is great, but the tech community would benefit from being solely in English.

The people I spoke to were young people, and I think I would get another answer from some of the older generations of entrepreneurs, which unfortunately is where the power often lies as well.

At itnig we’re many Spanish people, and the lunch chat is usually conducted in Spanish. But all of our events, media and content are in English, and all of our employees can at any time switch over to English.

That’s why many of our recent hires has been people from outside Spain: Lithuania, England, Germany, Italy, Norway, etc.

Far from a Spanish thing

Before writing this post, I was aware that this is a topic you either agree or disagree with. You hate it or like it.

Either way, I think it’s important to know that this is not a Spanish challenge (if it is a challenge at all), it’s a concern all entrepreneurs living outside an english speaking country should address, at least consider.

Both Berlin and Paris are thriving startup hubs in Europe, and their tech communities are growing rapidly, despite German and French being the main language. But Barcelona (and many other cities) doesn’t have the privilege of being financial and economic centers in Europe, and to speed up the development of the current ecosystem, a common language might be helpful.

According to EDCi (European Digital City Index) Stockholm and Copenhagen ranks as the 2nd & 7th best cities on the continent.

If you research some of their biggest startup communities like #CPHFTW in Copenhagen, or SUP46 in Stockholm, they’re all communicating in English, making it super easy for all kinds of people to join in.

Amsterdam and Helsinki are the 3rd and 4th countries on ranking. All of these countries are known for good english skills, the EDCi even lists it as a criteria for ranking so high.

Small, but necessary step

Many would probably argue that there’s other more important things to change or improve to boost Spain and Barcelona as a tech friendly environment, than increasing English as a working language.

  • Friendlier tax regulations would certainly help.
  • More access to venture capital would be fantastic.
  • And for more established tech companies relocating to the city could also be great.

My idle theory is that a broader use of English could make all of the above happen faster.

Huge tech companies would be more likely to relocate if they knew they could operate in English.

This again would stimulate the ecosystem, and more VC’s would open their eyes to Spain, and know that they could operate deep in the community without worrying about language.

And in the end, if key tech players together with an increasing amount of VC’s establish themselves in the country, the authorities would eventually follow and adapt.

A Spanish ecosystem where English is the main community language wouldn’t fix everything, it’s always a work in progress, but it’s about putting up the right domino so all the others follow.

Do you have NO national pride??

Please, I understand that you’re proud of the Spanish and Catalan languages, they are beautiful, complex and huge – bigger than English.

If Spanish was the spoken language by Silicon Valley companies, and most tech hubs around the world, my argument would be different, but right now all are more or less done in English.

I would never want anyone to stop speaking Spanish to their friends and family. Like I’ll never stop speaking Norwegian with my friends.

But it’s about breaking down barriers for business, including people in the ecosystem and making it easier for both tech giants and small startups to relocate to beautiful Spain.

I think it’s a matter of time, but why not speed it up?

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs & Tech Lovers

Podcasts are a great way to discover new subjects and new people. Whether you are a tech lover or an entrepreneur, bellow you will discover podcasts for entrepreneurs you should – without a doubt – listen to. 

Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre
Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre

« Masters of Scale » 

with Reid Hoffman

The host: Reid Hoffman decides to turn to the corporate world instead of pursuing a university carrier. He worked for Apple, Fujitsu for then starting his own business: SocialNet and left it in 2000 to join Confinity. Confinity gives life to Paypal after fusionning. Finally, in 2003, Hoffman co-founds LinkedIn. He is Master of Scale’s host. 

About: The podcast welcomes some of the greatest entrepreneurs. You will discover throughout the talk how they managed to take their companies from 0 to a lot of zeros. You can listen to Masters of Scale’s special guests like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Selina Tobaccowalla (Evite), Brian Chesky (Airbnb) or Nancy Lublin (Crisis Text Line). Must-hear: one of the top tech podcasts for entrepreneurs.

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Youtube

The Team: Reid Hoffman, June Cohen, Deron Triff and Jai Punjabi

« Rocket » 

with Christina Warren, Simone de Rochefort and Brianna Wu

The hosts: Christina Warren started as a Freelance Writer. Then, she worked at Mashable as a Senior Tech Analyst and Tech Correspondent and ended the journey at Microsoft as a Senior Cloud Developer Advocate. About Simone de Rochefort, she is  Senior Video Producer and co-host of The Polygon Show. Brianna Wu founded her first startup at the age of 19, Giant Spacekat. She was Head of Development at the time. She is now running for US Congress. 

About: In this podcast, you will discover three passionate women and their “geek conversation” as they like to call it.  No guest speakers, but you will be able to listen to a panel of tech subjects from Apple to Comics, you will not be disappointed. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« This week in Startups »

with Jason Calacanis

The host: Jason Calacanis starts as an internet industry journalist in New-York. In 2003, he co-founded Weblogs, Inc and then a few years later he joined Sequoia Capital, launched the web directory Mahalo. He also founded Furthermore, he created This Week in Startups podcast and a startup named Finally, he was part of the creation of the Sydney Launch Festival. 

About: Either you are looking to start your own company, or you are a successful entrepreneur, or you just love technology, this podcast will give you a peek to the entrepreneurship world. You will hear stories of all kinds! On his website, you will also find his events and some research on transportation, healthcare and more. This is one is part of the tech podcasts for entrepreneurs not to be missed.

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Youtube, SoundCloud and RSS Feed

You can also subscribe to their newsletter in order to receive episodes directly. 

The Team: Jason Calacanis, Jacqui Deegan, and Tony Agapiou

« Recode / Decode » 

with Kara Swisher

The host: Kara Swisher is an American journalist specialized in the technology industry. She first started to work for an alternative newspaper in Washington for then working for the Washington Post. She wrote articles for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and wrote her own books. Finally, in 2014, she created Recode, a website dedicated to the latest technology news. In 2015, she initiates Recode Decode. 

About: The weekly podcast welcomes tech experts and great entrepreneurs. They review how they got there, what’s on their mind about the current industry and what they would improve or create. Her recent guests were Elon Musk (Tesla CEO), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn

« K Fund PodKast »

with Jaime Novoa

The host: Jaime Novoa’s background is quite diverse. He is a writer and an investor, but he also worked in data analysis and social media analysis. In 2014, he founded Novobrief, a newsletter for startups. Then, in 2016, he becomes an investor at K Fund and he founds, in 2019, Dealflow, a weekly tech newsletter. 

About: The podcast discusses startups, entrepreneurs and Venture Capital. You will discover enterprises and their story. From data science, unicorns or digital platforms, you sure will find more than one interesting podcast. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website and Soundcloud

« Clockwise »

with Dan Moren and Mikah Sargent

The hosts: Dan Moren is an active author and writer as well as podcaster. He was a Senior Editor at Macworld. Today, he hosts two podcast shows: Clockwise and The Rebound. As for Mikah Sargent, he started as a Website Designer and Developer for then switching as a Senior Editor at Newsy. He now hosts few podcasts such as Clockwise on Replay FM or on 

About: The weekly podcast discusses technology and welcomes each time 2 special guests. For 30 minutes, they address 4 topics where all four speakers get to elaborate on the matter, highlight the issues and expose their thoughts. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« Itnig Podcast»

with Bernat Farrero

The host: Bernat Farrero starts his career as a Developer. In 2009, he founded Itnig, a startup ecosystem that organizes entrepreneurship events. They also have a coworking for startups, a podcast and a fund for early-stage projects. Furthermore, he is a Founder of Factorial, Quipu and Camaloon. He is also a Board Member of Playfullbet, GymForLess and Parkimeter. Finally, he hosts Itnig’s weekly Podcast. 

About: The podcast welcomes every week a new guest. If you wish to learn from successful entrepreneurs, you are on the right platform. The discussions turn around Technology and its industry. You will come across guests like Carlos Pierre (Badi), Vincent Rosso (BlaBlaCar) or Oscar Pierre (Glovo).

Listen to the podcast: Youtube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Ivoox, and Google Podcasts

You can subscribe to their newsletter if you want to receive the podcast’s link every Monday. 

Whether you are at an early stage of your project, an investor or you are just curious, these podcasts for entrepreneurs give you the opportunity to be updated on tech and business news. Also, you get to learn from successful international entrepreneurs, which can definitely be very useful for your business.