“Madrid needed a space like this one”

Google Campus Madrid is, in the words of its manager, Sofia Benjumea, “a neutral space that brings together all the startup communities and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Defined more informally, it is turning out to be a “healthy kind of madness”. Although it has only been running for three months, it already has a life of its own. It has been the venue for more than 30 events and has more than 6,000 registered users. Benjumea is satisfied with “how small success stories are coming out of it.”

Google chose Madrid as the site of its fourth campus. “This is reason to celebrate because, in the wake of the innovation and knowledge hubs opened in London, Tel Aviv and Seoul, this is recognition for years of hard work and the potential of this city,” says Benjumea. In her opinion, the site was chosen because of the concentration of talent, “both at the technical and the management levels,” that exists in the city and because Madrid “has three of the main business schools.” In the words of the founder of Spain Startup and The South Summit, “Madrid offered a lot in the way of opportunities and ingredients to work with, but it needed a space like this to make challenges more feasible and to create meeting points.”

Now Madrid is finally part of a “global network of more than forty business spaces and accelerators around the world.” Campus Madrid will be a window onto the Google partners network (in the USA, Dubai, Paris, Berlin…) which will provide unlimited connections.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of entrepreneurs and investors, and in the institutions’ commitment to startups. “In 2013 and 2014, investment in startups grew by between 30% and 40%,” says the head of Campus Madrid. Together with this, we are seeing “a very important change in attitude. People are less and less afraid of failure.” Benjumea provides a figure to support her statement: “A study by the Círculo de Empresarios association shows that more than 50% of parents want their children to be entrepreneurs instead of working for someone else.” Until now, says the expert, there were few role models to follow. “But little by little, we are seeing examples of entrepreneurs who are showing that, with hard work, success is possible.”

Benjumea talks about some success stories that have come out of Campus Madrid. One is the Wazypark app, developed by Carlos Rodríguez. “This is a community that notifies users when parking spaces become free. It is just like when you stop and ask someone standing by their car, ‘Are you leaving?’” she jokes. Ricardo Varela of Localístico was a regular at the Campus from the first day. His business took off when he secured a meeting with a major corporation and then entered an acceleration program.

When a startup does not work, the error might be “in the team or in a lack of focus.” Benjumea believes it is important to have a clear idea of “the niche and the need your product is responding to” and not to lose concentration until it responds to that need. But these are not the only difficulties facing entrepreneurs: “there are many obstacles, and each one has to be overcome.”

Campus Madrid presents programs both for those just starting out and for those whose business is at the growth phase. “We want to accompany people, offering tools and education programs to all entrepreneurs.”

By Isabel Garzo