How Barcelona Tech is Attracting Funding and Talents

barcelona-skyline

By Dennis Clemente

Vivien Magyar, a journalist from Hungary currently living in Barcelona, recently talked to us about the city’s tech and startup scene in Barcelona. In her piece for Barcelona Startup News, “Why Software Developers Are Moving to Barcelona,” it showed an infographic (click here or download here) that highlights some of the best things about Barcelona such as its burgeoning tech industry, salaries, temperate climes and low cost of living.

For example, it shows Barcelona’s 4th ranking among European countries in terms of total investments, according to Atomico. Beyond the infographic, the city has always enjoyed good weather all-year-round. August is the hottest month in Barcelona with an average temperature of 74°F (24°C) and the coldest being January at 49°F (10°C). Who doesn’t like that…in Europe?

If you’re in town, the Mobile World Congress, the largest gathering and exhibit of the mobile industry, starts today and ends in March 1.  

Here’s what Magyar has to say about her adopted country:

Does fluency in English correlate to success in tech in European countries?

Fluency in English is definitely a factor that can contribute to the success of a city as a tech hub. However, I don’t think that it’s the ultimate key. Take Paris, for example. It is a much bigger tech and startup hub than Barcelona at the moment, however, if you look at the level of English, Barcelona is way ahead of the French capital.

The main difference between the two cities is the availability of venture capital and other funding, the volume of which is significantly higher right now in Paris than Barcelona, although Barcelona is catching up.

I think using English as a business language is definitely a plus (it’s a given in London and it adds a lot to the success of tech businesses in other European hubs like Berlin, Amsterdam or Stockholm), but by itself, it’s not something that can lead to a real breakthrough.  

Is the relatively mild weather part of the decision of startups and developers to move to Barcelona?

The climate is indeed a factor that attracts a lot of people to Barcelona. It’s a huge selling point for companies that are trying to recruit developers from the UK or Northern Europe. Salaries may be lower here but the quality of life and the weather that you get here in Barcelona makes for a superb tradeoff.

We’ve noticed that people are willing to go 20 to 30% below the salaries they’re earning in say Germany or England, just to be able to move to a city with much warmer weather like Barcelona. I think the city (as well as tech companies that are hiring) are doing their best to capitalize on this.

Is Spain open to junior to intermediate web developers or only senior web developers ​from different countries?

I can’t say for Spain in general, because it depends on the company but yes, there are companies that accept junior developers from overseas and will help with the visa process. It depends on how badly they need developers.

If a certain position has too much of an urgency, they can’t afford to wait 2 to 3 months until a visa process goes through and the candidate can relocate. However, if their hiring strategy is more long-term, there’s definitely a chance that they’ll sponsor the work permit and help with relocation. I’d say 2 to 3 years of experience would be the minimum for juniors.

Do developers have to be fluent in Spanish or Catalan?  

As for foreigners living in Barcelona, Spanish is the recommended language to start with. Everyone who speaks Catalan speaks Spanish as well, and once you get better at Spanish, you will start understanding Catalan as well, even if you don’t actually speak it. Hardly any workplace is made up of only Catalan people, especially in tech.

It’s fairly rare for a meeting to be held in Catalan, for example. Even if everyone in the team is Spanish, which is also quite rare, usually there will be someone who comes from a different part of Spain and doesn’t speak Catalan. Of course, learning the local language is appreciated, but by no means a must.

Some people say Barcelona is not a place for starting something but for settling down? What do you think?

I disagree. Of course it depends on one’s own personal experience, but I find that Barcelona is a wonderful place for young people to find their calling and/or start their first business project. Are there better places in the world to do that? Yes, maybe….San Francisco must have its advantages, too. (Ed: downplaying the obvious.)

 

2017 App Revenue: $26.5B: Tech Solutions Push Mobile Industry Growth

yelp

By Dennis Clemente

SAN FRANCISCO–What a difference over a year makes. In the Yahoo conference I attended in New York  City in 2016, an eternity in the tech world, the panelists were not as confident about the future of apps, as they talked about how apps are either downloaded but not used or downloaded less because people need space on their smartphones.

Then early 2018 reports by QZ.com pegged the 2017 revenue of apps at $26.5 billion, bigger than Starbucks and McDonald’s for the same year, which made me curious how the Mobile Growth meetup sponsored by Branch Metrics at the Yelp offices last January 23 would turn out. Of course, companies know that for their app business to thrive, they have to add more gigs to their phones.

So it seem the app industry figured out that dilemma, thanks to utility apps like uber and how technology and marketing work together these days. Proof: App store optimization, push notifications, first-time user experience on an app and paid acquisitions may be tech solutions, but they’re also marketing-driven tech solutions. Users are constantly engaged.

The two — web apps and mobile apps — have again managed to co-exist.

 

 

 

The panelists Jay Garg of Yelp; Genevieve Owyang of Realtordotcom, James Chang of Udemy and Carrie Buonaccorsi of Pandora Music shared their insights on the mobile phone industry -and why it’s all good again — and how to keep apps relevant.

Partnering with the right companies can be extremely beneficial on both sides, said Buonaccorsi. The partnership of Panora with TMobile. which involves sharing of Pandora Premium, reportedly saw a 14% uptick on number of trial starts.

Buonaccorsi said she uses its closest competitor’s app to understand it. “You have to know your competition in order to improve your product.”

Owyang suggests running an A/B test through the Google Play Store.

As for analyzing a new user versus an existing user, Chan made great points about not making onboarding one-size-fits-all, and by extending the onboarding experience beyond the first few screens.

“Don’t forget to check if (people) use the app within the first 7 days after download. If they don’t, they never will,” he said.

“Word of mouth really helps. On our listing detail pages, users typically want to share the app with their partner, friend, or family member. We also ask (in a friendly way) that they download the app,” said Owyang.

And testing is crucial.  “Sometimes, you don’t have enough users to run tests. In these instances, consider cohort analysis,” said Chan.

 

 

The Rise of Alternative Data and Foursquare’s Pilgrim to Sophistication

jeff glueck of foursquare

By Dennis Clemente

Guests panelists talked about alternative data with Foursquare, Captricity presenting their companies

NEW YORK–Last March 1, the Data Driven meetup hosted by Matt Turck sat down with his guests to talk about about alternative data (no relation to alternative facts). The guests were Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare; David Loaiza, managing director & chief data scientist of Point72; Andrej Rusakov, founder of Data Capital Management as well Matei Zatreanu, founder of System2.

Zatreanu explained alternative data as a non-traditional form of data, later adding how it’s more intuitive. Still,  many seem to be downplaying its advantages.

What are the uses of alternative data? Before handing you a credit card, banks could determine other alternative means of data if usual information is not available. This could certainly make institutions less rigid, as it helps measure different types of businesses on a case-by-case basis.

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How Music Sector Uses Technology, Data for More Collaborations

subdrive-event

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK — “Technology is getting better that it’s allowing people to collaborate wherever they may be,” said Souheil Medaghri Alaoui, product designer of Splice.

“I see how people want to collaborate more but still want to be in charge of their work,” she said. “I think data is being more useful (in this regard),” said Cynthia Meng, engineer of Next Big Sound/Pandora.

Alaoui and Meng were in the panel that included Harry Benson, director of US Strategy of Boiler Room in a talk hosted last March 2 by New York music label and creative collective Subdrive. The talk was its first one titled “Fostering Emerging Music Communities Online and IRL (In Real Life).”

Benson, a renowned cultural marketer and creative director specializing in music, fashion, art and culture, also talked about how virtual reality is still not there when it comes to music immersion.

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2 Opposing Sides Debate: Can Fake News be Solved?

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—There was no faking it. The Daily News Innovation Lab meetup last February 8 at Microsoft was packed for a good reason. The debate, “Proposition: We can solve fake news” had people giddy with anticipation. The debaters would not disappoint.

The hopefuls were Sally Kohn, political commentator and columnist, CNN and The Daily Beast; Dean Pomerleau, co-director, Fake News Challenge; and Melissa Ryan, expert in politics and technology.

The skeptics were John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks; David Carroll, associate professor of Media Design at Parsons The New School for Design; and Jane Elizabeth, senior manager at the American Press Institute.

Justin Hendrix, executive director at NYC Media Lab moderated the debate with an equal dose of Orwellian seriousness and aw-shucks disbelief following the rise of fake news on social media platforms in the 2016 presidential elections.

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How to Play Computer Games for Social Good

ari-powerplay

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK– Why hasn’t computer games (with an educational bent) reached critical mass? “Technology changes so fast. It’s about evolution,” said Asi Burak, the author of “Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World,” his book written with Laura Parker, which was also launched last January 31.

Burak talked about computer games for social good at the Storycode meetup last January 24 at the Elinor Munroe theater.

In their book, Burak and Parker explored how video games are now pioneering innovative social change around the world. After all, the remarkable growth of gaming has inspired plenty of hand-wringing–from the press, politicians, parents, and everyone else concerned with its effect on our brains, bodies, and hearts.

As the former executive director and now chairman of Games for Change, Burak has spent more than decade championing the use of video games for social good. He has worked with such revered organizations as the White House, NASA, World Bank, and The United Nations.

“Power Play” sees the future of games as a global movement. Burak and Parker profile important people behind some of the movement’s most iconic games, including former Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor and Pulitzer-Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Burak pointed out the unlikely gamer in O’Connor helped to develop in line with her civic-mindedness with iCivics. As he quotes her: “…One of the reasons learning games make so much sense for teaching civics is that any government’s role is sort of like creating the parameters within which we play the game of life. Regulations, Policy, Law enforcement….”

As mentioned in the book, iCivics reportedly proved instrumental not only at teaching kids, but also at helping game metaphors thrive in the world of education. Burak thinks we need more social games that introduce players into the world of political discourse. As for technology, Burak said virtual reality should be able to address social and political issues.

Burak, who went to Carnegie Mellon, said he was taught to think using both left and right brains. Not all games need to be a war, it turns out, as he  pointed out he also produced a little game about peace.

Games are not just for entertainment anymore, they are meant to solve problems – hand in hand with technology.

Buzzfeed Tasty’s Quadrant Video System Makes Choosing 4 Recipes Easier

buzzfeed-quadrant-tasty

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK— How would you like to do things in 4 ways? asked Alvin Zhou of Buzzfeed Tasty at the Design Driven meetup last December 13 at Buzzfeed.

Now if this applied to your life, imagine being able to restart your day four times, so you can pick the best one and end up with a perfect day. Of course, we don’t live in that world. But Tasty on Buzzfeed does. Watching, say, breast chicken baked in four ways certainly saves you time searching for recipes on Google or YouTube.

The videos are presented in quadrants and come easy to digest the way they’re edited. They’re edited precisely to make 4 videos fly by like it’s just one video. Best of all, the quadrants give us four recipes to choose from in one video. You’re bound to click on one video – and before you know it, you’ve seen them all; the way Buzzfeed presents them animatedly.

Zhou was joined by 3 other presenters, Emery Wells, CEO and founder of frame.io; Caroline Wurtzel, designer of Bustle and Laney Caldwell, product manager of x.ai.

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How Dipjar Produced 200 Credit Card Tipping Devices

dipjar

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—If George Constanza of Seinfeld lived in the 21st century, he would have solved the issue he had with tip jars back in the day. They never made a sound. When a pizza hired hand took his eyes off him for a second, he didn’t see Constanza show his generosity. So what does Constanza being Constanza do? He tried to grab his dollar back only to be caught as if he were stealing the latter’s tips.

It’s one colorful story among many that DipJar founder Ryder Kessler shares with the audience at the Mobile Payments NYC meetup last December 8 at Alley. DipJar enables cashless generosity via tip jars and donation boxes for credit cards—with a loud “clinking” sound this time, so a staff will you know you’ve tipped. You simply dip your credit card to make a donation in the amount illuminated in this gadget.

Kessler said he was inspired to think of a solutions eight years ago when he was at a café and he saw how baristas were not getting enough tips, although he didn’t pin down DipJar then just yet. He said he would try lots of different things, working for a startup for four years, before he eventually got around to conjuring the idea for the DipJar.

Initially, Kessler said he cast a wide net of potential customers, but he eventually found his market – the non-profit sector. There are reportedly 1.5 million non-profit organizations collecting $240 billion per year in donations, 90 percent of which are made offline.

 

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Released initially in 2012, the patented DipJar now has 2,000 of these devices collecting nationwide for customers, with more than 6 large organizations as customers.

Kessler thinks DipJar is also addressing the overall decline in fundraising in general, because of the diminished use of cash and checks, which makes the device even more relevant now, especially when many low-income workers rely on tips. Tablets solve this somehow as it works as a payment system now–with a prompt for adding tips.

For this reason, targeting non-profit organizations is even more vital for Kessler. However, being in this sector also means getting VC money is not easy. “Some VCs are allergic to hardware,” plus he is in the non-profit space – not a priority for VCs.

What has he learned these years with DipJar? He acknowledges that he “underweighted hardware, payments, VC money and sales and marketing”.

How does one tip with DipJar? Inside the jar is a standard credit card reader. One only needs to insert his card and pull it out to swipe and it will automatically deduct an assigned amount set by the business or DipJar owner.

Derek Webster hosted the meetup.

Using Back End Development to Improve Content Strategy

carrie-hane

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—Is content strategy going to be more effective if you consider it part of back-end development? If companies think marketing is all after the website or app is done, they should really think again. More than ever, structure is essential to making content future-friendly.

Carrie Hane of Tanzen Consulting, who works in both front and back end, said developers appreciate it even more if a content strategist can communicate with them about how content should be structured on the back end. Hane spoke last December 7 at the Huge meetup at its offices in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Hane is an independent consultant who helps organizations increase income and decrease costs by rethinking how they create, manage and connect their content.

“You will take blocks of content and break them down into smaller chunks which can be reused, remixed, restyled, and repurposed as needed. With a detailed content model in place, you can plan for implementation in a content management system (CMS) and for display across all your target interfaces,” she said.

She outlines the benefits of having back-end content strategy through the following:

  • Takes content out of its silos
  • Atomizes content, so it can be reused, remixed, restyled
  • Makes content available for each channel device, audience segment
  • Put technology to work to deliver content
  • Focuses on author as user in the design of the CMS
  • Ensures extensibility and scalability
  • Future friendly – ready for whatever is next

Taking this further, she said structured content is cross-platform ready and robot-readable.

Semantic meaning and relationships stored in the database and expressed through the interface. With relationships held at data level, rather than just at page level, you can design interfaces that allow readers to explore the content many different ways.

The future-friendly approach, she said, looks at structure as a developer would—separating out the model, the various interface views, and controlling interactions. “Designing content-first ensures the interface design supports the content. Not only will this process better serve the users, it will allow content to be created in parallel with the design and implementation.”

“Designing future-friendly content means applying as much effort to planning and creating content structures as you would to designing interfaces,” she said.

Some UX designers may consider a site or app’s flow and neglect to think about content as part of an entire back-end strategy, which could help immeasurably in terms of managing content and marketing it properly. It’s time designers think that loren ipsum text has a purpose beyond just being a placeholder text.

IoT, Artificial Intelligence and How They Transform Interaction with Physical World

temboo

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—When a meetup isn’t just a meetup, it’s an actual learning experience. Vaughn Shinall, head of product outreach at Temboo, did more than the usual company profile in his talk by providing the audience with some valuable tips for bringing IoT (Internet of Things) to anyone’s business at the Hardwired meetup last November 16 at WeWork in Chelsea. It was a lesson about how IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) can help people interact with the physical world.

Shinall’s Temboo, which offers software stack for IoT applications, gave the following tips:

  1. Start with a small but real, concrete problem
  2. Focus on saving time or money to create real value at the start
  3. Quick wins will help build confidence and expertise for IoT
  4. Get internal backing based on having a working system
  5. See how the data and functionality you’ve created can have additional uses
  6. See how existing applications can be modified for other uses
  7. Build new IoT capabilities on top of existing ones

Providing these tips is essential, as over half of business processes are projected to incorporate IoT by 2020, with about 22 billion IoT devices estimated to be connected already to the internet by 2018.

Shinall showed a factory that has retrofitted its existing operations IoT capabilities to reduce waste. It added automated alerts and sensors to its processes.

It was the modular music studio BLOCKS, however, that was the highlight for the evening for people hearing it for the first time. ROLI, the music tech startup behind it, has raised $43 million from FirstMark Capital. It will reportedly be in all Apple stores globally this holiday season.

The other presenters were Charlie Key, founder and CEO of Losant (IoT solution platform); David Lyman, founder and CEO of BetterView (drone marketplace for aerial photography jobs) and Leif Jentoft, co-Founder of RightHand Robotics (intelligent machines for e-commerce order fulfillment)

Key of Losant talked about real time GPS asset tracking which is expected to grow, as sensors, GPS units and cellular modems have become readily available.  About 38 billion devices are equipped with tracking capabilities. As such, many now see the value of tracking the location and health of nearly everything, including shipments.

The actual devices used will rely on cost, physical size, environmental conditions, geographical location and many more. Losant provides systems integrators and product manufacturers with the flexibility to choose and connect to any hardware using any communication method on any network. Its application services and additional platform capabilities cover remote asset management, GPS tracking and mapping, reporting and M2M data integration.  Understanding GPS data natively to visualize locations and geofence the information is crucial.

How does it make money? “People pay us based on data points,” explaining that the compay “works with companies with physical assets like tow trucks.”

As a platform for capturing and analyzing drone data, Lyman of BetterView claimed that they have software that makes it easy to capture data.  It reportedly combines drone-gathered, expert-analyzed imagery with public data like assessor’s permit, fire station proximity, and historical weather to pinpoint risks, estimate costs, and drive action around buildings and properties.

Founded two years ago, BetterView combines public data, drone imagery and computer vision plus human experts to analyze data to its 70 customers. It claims to have a 3,500 pilot network, analyzed, 4,200 rooftops or the equivalent of 130 million square feet.

Lyman said if you’re too early (in the drone space), you can get burned. If it holds its promise, he estimates the industry to rake in 1.8 million sales in by 2020. “We see adoption in commercial business.”

Already, drones and AI are improving insight and transforming how we interact with the physical world.

Another presenter, RightHand Robotics provides end-to-end solutions that reduce the cost of e-commerce order-fulfillment of electronics, apparel, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and countless other industries.