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.

Continue reading “The Rise of Alternative Data and Foursquare’s Pilgrim to Sophistication”

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.

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.

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.

How to Analyze Data and Extract Insights from IBM Watson Analytics

ibm-watson-analytics

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK— Last November 10, the meetup called Data Science & Analytics for Communications Industry showed us how IBM Watson Analytics is making it easier for business professionals to analyze data and extract insights for businesses across data intensive disciplines, including marketing (social media and networks), sales, operations, finance and human resources.

Host Rachel Wells showed us how Watson Analytics works a smart-data discovery tool with guided data exploration, automated predictive analysis, dashboard creation and visualization service. It is designed to help different professionals — from salespersons to company CEOs – find patterns and pursue ideas for their business.

In collaboration with industry partners, its new data discovery models called Expert Storybooks is aimed at helping guide users on how to understand, learn and reason with different types of data sources to surface the most relevant facts and uncover patterns and relationships for predictive decision making. Examples of the types of Storybooks IBM will make available are as follows:

  • AriBall – a Storybook that will help users analyze the performance of baseball players to build predictions about player performance that they can use to gain an edge in their fantasy lineup.
  • Deloitte – a Storybook that measures the effectiveness of incentive programs to help sales leadership determine how and when to effectively deploy short term incentives for revenue uplift.
  • The Weather Company – a Storybook that helps users incorporate weather data into their revenue analysis to understand how weather is impacting their business.
  • OgilvyOne – a Storybook that shows users how to analyze marketing campaign data while integrating disparate data points such as weather information to bring creative inputs into campaign planning.
  • Twitter – a Storybook that helps users analyze social media data from Twitter to measure reputational risk, and also get a better understanding about how social sentiment could reveal drivers behind fluctuations in stock prices in real time.
  • American Marketing Association – a Storybook that helps users identify and analyze the key drivers of customer profitability.
  • Nucleus Research – a Storybook that enables users to benchmark projects for return on investment (ROI) and to project expected returns for proposed technology projects based on Nucleus Research data from more than 500 ROI case studies.
  • MarketShare – a Storybook that helps users achieve a clear understanding of how their investment strategy compares to industry standards, as well as a view into how to optimize investments across online and offline media channels such as TV, paid search, digital display, online video, radio, print, and others.
  • Intangent – a Storybook that will help finance managers examine the relationships between pay, performance, and credit risk in lending to better align incentive compensation with risk taking.

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Instead of fumbling over data, searching for answers or testing hypotheses, the Watson Analytics user can focus on understanding the business and effectively communicating results to stakeholders. Business users often struggle figuring out what analysis would be relevant and how to tell the story in a report or diagram. Watson Analytics automates these steps to accelerate users’ ability to get to the answers quickly and on their own.

As users interact with the results, they can fine-tune their questions and the data to surface the most relevant facts and uncover unforeseen patterns and relationships, which will enable predictive decision making for all levels of users.

However, Wells is quick to point out the differences between IBM Watson, which means the whole process of reasoning which does its full A to Z job, while IBM Watson Analytics is all about helping anyone explore data easily.

Facebook Shows Roadmap to AI; Qubole Addresses Big Data’s Low Success Rate

qubole

NEW YORK—Why do companies struggle with Big Data and why is Ashush Thusoo, founder and CEO at cloud-scale data processing Qubole, concerned about it? The answer is obvious: Big Data gives you competitive advantage if companies can manage it; unfortunately, not all the time. It has been reported that only 27 percent of Big Data initiatives are classified as successful in 2014.

What are the impediments of aspiring data-driven enterprises? Thusoo enumerated it as follows: a rigid inflexible infrastructure, non-adaptive software services, highly specialized systems, and how it’s difficult to build and operate.

Thusoo was joined by Antoine Bordes, AI research scientist at Facebook; Katrin Ribant, founder and CSO at Datorama and Nick Elprin, founder and CEO at Domino Data Lab last October 26 at the Data Driven meetup at Bloomberg. The meetup, hosted by First Mark Capital’s Matt Turck, was back at Bloomberg after holding several events at AXA Equitable Center.

Why is data important? “You get left behind (if you don’t tackle it),” Thusoo said. “Data has been the driver. What data can do if you open it up if you make it available on the cloud? A cloud-based SaaS approach is turnkey. Get there quickly.”

“There has been a marked change in cloud. It’s more secure now. It keeps everybody honest,” he added.

Qubole simplifies, speeds and scales big data analytics workloads against data stored on AWS, Google, or Azure clouds.

It’s refreshing to hear a grounded perspective on the state of artificial intelligence.

An AI research scientist at Facebook, Bordes showed decks showing how computer vision is not full-proof yet as he showed photos where the captions were not translated properly. “We have 20-year roadmap to AI.”

A team of 80 researchers at the social network is making use of synthetic tasks, even Wikipedia, as it works on improving AI. “Our motivation for work is not project driven. Our mission is to advance what AI can do. Everything we do should be applied to any format/visual input.” These include bAbl tasks, end-to-end memory networks, neural reasoner, and dynamic memory networks.

Facebook now has 1 billion stories posted every day; 100 million hours of video watched every day and 2 billion photos shared every day.

Domino Data Lab’s Elprin, for his part, talked about his belief in experimental agility and deployment agility. He thinks the best organizations work together as teams to advance common knowledge, even if “many data scientists think of their work as a solo act.

“Great outcomes come from a culture of discipline, collaboration, constant improvement,” he said.

Dataroma’s Ribant, which offers Big Data management for advertisers and ad agencies, talked about how marketing with data puts you ahead of the digital revolution

“We’re an end-to-end marketing analytics platform. Next year, we will apply machine learning to create insights from existing data assets.”

 

Is App Economy Dead? Fintech Gets Real About Challenges

empire-startup

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—“Is the app economy dead? When was the last time you bought an app?” The question was directed at Vivek Nasta, founder & CEO, Scout Finance at the panel discussion on fintech by Empire Startups last October 17 at Rise

Nasta was suddenly speechless, as the audience chuckled nervously. Who bothers to purchase an app when many of them are free to download?

Even if Nasta didn’t respond, he did say how it’s tough to satisfy customers these days. “They want speed…They’ll ask for everything. And use one percent (of a feature),” he said. Still, he thinks it’s important to address this and find an answer, even if he it’s very hard to make money on mobile.

“It’s about anticipating what people need,” he said.

In the talk about the challenges of mobile fintech, Nasta was joined by Ed Robinson, cofounder, Stash; Raffaelle Breaks, VP of Global Digital Experience, American Express and Travis Skelly, SVP of Venture Investing, Citi Ventures. It was moderated by Matthew Hooper, VP of Open Innovation at Barclays.

It was Breaks who probably gave the most relevant question of the night, “How do we emulate customer experience online on a desktop and from one’s smartphone?” She also craves for some proper automation in fintech.

Skelly, for his part, thinks it’s still hard to aggregate all accounts.

Hooper asked the panel about the sustainability of apps, as there’s only so much space you can use on your smartphone.

“Apps will still be there,” Robinson said.

Answering for American Express, Breaks said, “Desktop still comprises most of our user base. While engagement is higher on mobile, people just don’t check their account all the time.”

This was echoed by Skelly who said fintech apps are not meant for heavy use or activity compared to some social media apps, naturally.  However, he thinks apps will still be there. He even sees incumbents and startups fighting it out.

Breaks noted how its customers still prefer to call someone at the company instead of interacting with an app.

On making apps relevant, Nasta said apps should have some two-way interaction and good user experience.  He doesn’t believe in a mobile only solution for fintech.

What makes them successful in this challenging environment?

Robinson believes it’s his 24/7 approach to the business. He believes in building trust and engagement. “We provide information ASAP or we lose them.”

For legacy companies, targeting millennials has not been easy as they’re likely to use instruments that are popular in their age group. “These customers may heavily skew toward iOS which is hard to infiltrate,” Breaks said.

In terms of targeting a broad audience, Breaks thinks small countries are good test areas for new fintech initiatives, especially underserved and underbanked markets.

Fintech is also looking into replicating their platforms with artificial intelligence, but it’s still early to tell where that is leading.

What do new fintech startups need to do to succeed in this space? Robinson said, “The more you can get the cadence of iterating, making changes and updating the app, the better off you’ll be.”

With fintech becoming more democratized, however, Skelly thinks branding will take a hit. “People don’t need to know what card they use on an uber, for example.”

This development should allow small underserved markets access to new fintech tools which is in contrast with countries like the US where banks are strictly regulated.

“(In the US), it’ll take a year’s worth of specking to make an app for a bank,” Nasta said.

“We’re still in the early innings,” he concluded.

What a Strategy ‘Kernel’ Can Do For Product Development

butler-kernel

By Dennis Clemente

A strategy kernel has a diagnosis, a guiding policy, a coherent action.  In diagnosing a strategy, it has to have an explanation of the nature of the challenge

NEW YORK—“Strategy isn’t just something you create, you iterate on it.” That was Chris Butler, senior product strategist at Philosophie, formerly with Microsoft, talking about how to build strategy in an agile environment at the Product School meetup last October 12 at Grind near Times Square.

Butler went about his presentation talking first about what makes a strategy a bad one. “Failure to face the challenge, mistaking goals for strategy, just having a list of things to do,” he said.

Having that out of the way, he proceeds to explain why “having the conversation about strategy, writing it down, and making it part of your process every day” is important. It certainly helps the group fine tune a strategy, a good one that can be the key to the agile group’s success.

Butler proceeds to show his own model canvas for strategy—a strategy kernel if you will. It has a diagnosis, a guiding policy, a coherent action.  In diagnosing a strategy, it has to have an explanation of the nature of the challenge.

“A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as being the critical ones.

A guiding policy is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.

Coherent actions are steps that are coordinated with one another to support the accomplishment of the guiding policy.

For Butler, strategy comprises the following:

  • Largely or entirely drives most of the subsequent decisions and actions of the business
  • Not easily changed once made
  • Have the greatest impact on whether the objective will be achieved
  • Combines your assets and capabilities to deliver value to customers
  • Creates a sustainable advantage based on doing something differently from your competitors
  • Leads to superior growth and profitability