New generation of young entrepreneurs fight economic crisis

The economic crisis that has dragged on since 2008 has led many young professionals to create their own businesses. Such is the case of four Catalan entrepreneurs in new technologies, all of whom have built their own companies in recent months.

CNA / Toni Bardia

April 19, 2011 11:04 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- One of Catalonia’s stereotypes is its “entrepreneurial spirit” that boosts the economy. Another stereotype is that the current young generations are lacking from this spirit. These four young entrepreneurs vindicate innovation and effort while they are building up their businesses. Enthusiasm, confidence in the future and the support of entities such as Barcelona Activa ensure their survival if they have an idea based on solid funding and one which can adapt itself to the market.

“Cheaper, better, different”. These are the key terms that any developed country has to bear in mind according to economist Xavier Sala i Martín. In these lines, he blames the construction sector, whose model is based on keeping salaries low and hiring immigrants instead of opting to make a better product or investing in innovation.

When you cannot compete with price or productivity, innovation is the key. This is exactly what Pau Garcia-Milà, founder of EyeOS did when, at just 18 years old, he created an operating system that allows Web-browser-only access to a virtual computer to view and modify files. His company now competes with Microsoft and Google Docs and in 2007 they won theYahoo! Spain Revelation award in the category of Web technology.

Luis Ivan Cuende is another precocious talent. At just 15 years old, Cuende is the brain behind Asturix a distribution network for the free operating system Linux. This version has eight thousand downloads and has had the sixth greatest global impact. Cuende is convinced that the current education system does not foster creativity and is not designed for people like him.

Ramón Vilar Gavaldà is not quite so radical in his views. A year ago he founded Ymbra, a Drupal (content management system) website company along with a friend. He believes that "education guides you to know which part of your knowledge you can apply and is critical with an administration that "should encourage entrepreneurs by reducing spending, providing credits, but especially by making the first steps easier". Vilar gives specific examples: facilitating access to local courses, offering assistance with financial management, organising trade fairs to let innovators meet up or giving tickets to those fairs when held ??abroad.

Regarding the fear of taking the first step, Vilar Gavaldà thought it over dozens of times but, he says, "the clue is to think short term". For Marc Jover of Narande Technology, there are two types of workers: those who are born to be led and those who want to be part of something important and are prepared to take the first step. He considers that people have lost the spirit of sacrifice and what motivates him every day is to be able to offer work to employees and resolve customer problems.

‘Barcelona Activa’ helps them to develop their business idea

Barcelona Activa gives a full service that accompanies every stage of the process of company creation from developing the idea to the point of offering business training while the company is up and running. The process may only last a week thanks to an electronic program that reduces paperwork. Xavier Dumont, Head of the Resource Centre for Entrepreneurship, has dealt with 500 entrepreneurs since 2009. According to Dumont, any company needs solid funding. Just a few months after starting the business, "many cannot afford to make 90 day payments to employees and suppliers". He considers it essential to understand the market and to adapt it to follow what you want. On this issue he differs from Vilar because he considers that "you must always know what is your company line and be careful so as not to divert yourself from it, because you may end up on a road that although it seems to make more money, is not always the best plan for your future".

Sala i Martín concludes that in order to overcome the crisis we must gain in productivity. He points four possible ways of doing this: by liberalizing the supply through reducing bureaucratic costs and regulation; by promoting productivity from the public sector; by transforming the education system to foster creativity; and, by changing the banking system to finance innovative projects. For Dumont, the Catalan company structure is too “micro” and rooted in local territory, "we need to go further abroad” he says and pushes for a combination of innovation with traditional know-how.