What it takes to become the mobile capital of the world

What it takes to become the mobile capital of the world

The Catalan city of Barcelona is going to be the focus of the tech universe from 24 February for a whole week as tens of thousands of business people attend Mobile World Congress, an event organized by GSMA and a number of partners.

But there’s another lesser-known event called 4 years from now that will take place at the same time and will target developers, entrepreneurs and startups operating in the mobile segment.

We caught up with Aleix Valls, the head of entrepreneurship and innovation at Mobile World Capital (not to be confused with Mobile World Congress) in order to find out more. TechRadar Pro is giving away tickets to the event worth 299 Euros each. Find out more here.

1. Why Barcelona is the Mobile World Capital?

In 2012, GSMA chose Barcelona as the world capital of mobile technologies, a status which will be extended until 2018. The success of Barcelona’s candidacy, having competed against the likes of Paris, Milan and Munich, is due to the quality of the plan adopted, which involves a public-private partnership model in which industry and government work together, and the fact that since 2006 Barcelona has been successfully holding the sector’s biggest global event: the Mobile World Congress.

The Mobile World Capital Barcelona Foundation, formed on March 13, 2012 and responsible for managing the capital, is governed by a board formed by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, the Regional Government of Catalonia, the City of Barcelona, Fira de Barcelona, and GSMA- an entity that represents the interests of more than 800 mobile operators and more than 200 companies in the worldwide mobile ecosystem.

Mobile World Capital Barcelona is an initiative designed to turn Barcelona into a leader in the area of mobile transformation. Its objective is to generate the optimum conditions so that companies and agents from different areas can carry out that transformation, and so that all this has a local impact.

2. In a few days, Barcelona will hold a huge event of Telco’s industry, the GSMA Mobile World Congress. What’s its relationship with Mobile World Capital?

MWCB leverages the city’s differentiating assets, such as the Barcelona "brand," the fact that it has been successfully hosting the Mobile World Congress, and the strength of strategic sectors as Health, Tourism, Smart Cities, Automotive and Creative Industries, among others.

In addition, the mobile world capital draws upon Barcelona’s own assets, such as its talent and knowledge – universities, research centers and technology parks – and the city’s outstanding infrastructure.

Barcelona has been hosting for some years now the Mobile World Congress, and in fact, the Congress is one of the assets that GSMA took into account when Barcelona was chosen Mobile Capital in 2012. We consider the Mobile World Congress a pillar within WMBC, as it responds to the city’s aim to enhance the transformation of the Mobile sector.

So, for one week, Barcelona will become the global epicenter of innovation. Today, the Congress is held in Barcelona thanks to the MWCapital, and that is the reason why the Mobile World Congress is an event of the Mobile World Capital.

3. What’s 4Years From Now?

4Years From Now (4YFN) is an international forum organized by Mobile World Capital Barcelona under the auspices of the Mobile World Congress from 24 to 27 February 2014.

4YFN will bring together supply and demand and promote knowledge transfer and networking among more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, professionals, startups, accelerators, incubators, and investors from around the world.

The 4YFN program is slated for four working days. For the first three days, from 24 to 26 February, activities will be held at the Fira de Barcelona’s grounds in Montjuïc, taking advantage of the fact that the Mobile World Congress 2014 has recovered this facility.

On 27 February 4YFN activities will be held at the Gran Via facility, where attendees will have the opportunity to schedule meetings with exhibiting companies and convention attendees.

4. How did the idea of creating 4YFN for entrepreneurs came up within the Mobile World Congress?

Barcelona will host over the next four years, the Mobile World Congress, the largest gathering of the ICT sector and technology corporations.

During the weeklong Congress, Barcelona is subjected to a strong financial impact and we realized in the past years that it did emerge entrepreneurial activity, acceleration programs, corporate ventures and startups with Mobile solutions that were visiting the city and being able to take full advantage of the fact that the whole Mobile industry is concentrated here.

Being faced with such a massive event as the Congress, it was unlikely that this entrepreneurial activity would go ahead in an organized manner, therefore we decided to build and design an experience targeted to this audience.

Hence 4 Years From Now was born, an event featuring conferences, workshops, rounds of investment and dynamic networking aimed specifically at the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

5. Why did you named it 4Years From Now?

4YFN wants to explore how the world will be within four years, based on the transformation of mobile technologies. We wanted to reflect on this, but also in the entrepreneurial world, 4 years is the time that takes for a start-up to gain its maturity.

6. What’s the vision of the event and the highlights of the program?

4YFN comes as a response to the importance which MWCB assigns to programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation as essential assets to transform industry.

The event’s aim is, in short, to be a real forum for entrepreneurs under the claim "A connected World" which includes topics such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, user experience, augmented reality or creativity.

Thus 4YFN is presented as the first European event to incorporate Beacon technology as a user experience. 4YFN will incorporate 20 Beacon points in their facilities for the user to interact with the stages and different activities.

The event will offer lectures and round tables at which entrepreneurs from around the world will share their experiences and knowledge with attendees.

Of special note is the participation of Jan Koum (WhatsApp), Martin Varsavsky (Fon), Di-Ann Eisnor (Waze), Pepe Agell (Chartboost), Michael Näf (Doodle), Massimo Banzi (Arduino), Pablo Villalba (Teambox), Anand Chandrasekher (Qualcomm), Nathan Blecharczyk (Airbnb) and of the investors and entrepreneurs Morten Lund and Yossi Vardi.

4YFN will also host the first international mobile entrepreneurship competition (The Mobile Startup Competition), and will also allow entrepreneurs to connect with up to 50 venture capital groups, accelerators and private investors and to meet with mentors and experts to help them develop their ideas or projects.

As featured program, 4YFN will be the platform where the hack train, Imagine Express will take off to the 4-day trip.

It is a program aimed to generate businesses in the Mobile sector, which takes place during a 4-day trip by train to and from Barcelona-Paris-London. This event, will take place during the Mobile World Congress 2014 (24-27 of February).

The participants (12 creative minds, 12 software engineers and 12 MBA students), who will not meet each other in advance, will have the challenge to form groups of 3 with the goal of generating apps for one of the 4 strategic sectors selected.

The ideas will be presented to investors through an Elevator" Pitch on the London Eye (5 min per team). The best team in each sector will receive funding and mentorship to carry out their project successfully.

During the trip back to Barcelona, the winning projects will be set up as a company. Once in Barcelona, the entrepreneurs will present in the Mobile World Congress and will be installed in incubators of this city.

7. Why should an entrepreneur choose Barcelona as a city to start his business?

Barcelona has potential to be a great city to start a business. The city attracts a lot of talent, it is a place likeable for its quality of life, there is good talent, it’s international, there’s an entrepreneurial attitude.

Indeed, we have to work to improve the critical mass and acceleration structure, because once a startup is created, it might be decided to base its expansion somewhere else. For this reason, we want to support the business growth of these startups.

8. Within the European startups ecosystem, in which ranking can we find Barcelona?

At the moment, London takes the lead in Europe. The British capital is a financial centre that provides to entrepreneurs a financial structure, and moreover there is regulation that encourages investment such as the stock options.

London is followed by Berlin and Helsinki, and Barcelona is now in the fourth position, but we have the right conditions to become second in this ranking.