Anatoly Kiyashko, Tekhnokratia Group: “What is the drive for innovation today and who is creating it in Spain?"

Anatoly Kiyashko, Tekhnokratia Group: “What is the drive for innovation today and who is creating it in Spain?

Among many other disrupted events, the main exhibition for the smartphone industry — Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — has become this year's coronavirus victim. Fears of spreading the dangerous infection forced GSMA to cancel the largest popular forum, which was one of the most anticipated events of the year, defining the development of the tech industry. Anatoly Kiyashko, the development director at Robots CanDream (part of Tekhnokratis Group), also intended to visit the exhibition. In his author's column for Realnoe Vremya, he spoke about the most striking innovations that were to be presented at MWC Barcelona.

How the coronavirus disrupted Mobile World Congress

This trip was supposed to be the first material in a series devoted to trends in the world of technology, interesting digital products, and hardware projects. During my business trip to Catalonia, I did essays from meetings and events that took place on the days when Mobile World Congress (MWC Barcelona) was to be held in Barcelona. This event is notable for that almost all major hi-tech companies and representatives of the technology crowd gather there. Apart from International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), MWC is one of the world's largest technology exhibitions. But the event was cancelled due to the threat of coronavirus.

Mobile technologies, content new products, 5G capabilities, everyday smart, wireless and other solutions and technologies, startups for developing devices and software solutions for business... Here is just a small list of what we were waiting to see at MWC and what to write about in this column. But I had the opportunity to get to the local events of Barcelona Tech Spirit, which Spain organized a couple of weeks earlier and to talk face-to-face with real people who are engaged in innovation.

Spain organized local events Barcelona Tech Spirit a couple of weeks before

As it turned out, the situation with innovations and technological projects in Spain, if you look at the challenges and problems, is very similar to what we have now in Russia. For example, a young startup needs to go through complicated procedures and spend a lot of time and effort to legally become an innovative company (get the status and support opportunities). As it turned out, they don't have a simple and “green corridor” either. As it turned out, in Poland, this process takes about a week (according to the fund manager at Brinc — an organization specializing in finding and investing in hardware startups, i.e. companies that develop not only software but also the device itself). Therefore, it is not surprising that some of the best startups that performed at events within the framework of Barcelona Tech Spirit festival are registered in Warsaw. However, few of the startups I met there knew about Innopolis. But I talked about it and its opportunities for residents and startups, and, of course, invited almost all new friends and even tech scouts to visit Tatarstan (perhaps, to come and help our local startups enter the international market).

“We are interested in working with Spanish companies and technology teams”

But let's go back to innovation. It should be noted that social groups such as the manufacturers of innovations and their consumers met in Barcelona even though the international exhibition was cancelled due to a viral threat. There were representatives from various companies and countries of the world. Except for the representatives of China. But there were representatives of Spanish authorities, venture and corporate markets from the countries such as the UK, the US, France, the Netherlands... The latter presented their projects and connections especially vividly at meetings and pitch sessions. These events were held every day from 22 to 28 February and gathered a “potpourri” of several thousand people. It mainly consisted of professionals, experts, and, of course, young professionals, engineers, and neophytes (novice startups) from the technology community. It was a pleasant surprise that both during evening events and during networking, professionals and the representatives of venture organizations did not disperse but found the time until late at night to discuss ideas, many received their chance for elevator pitch (i.e., just a minute to tell what their project's feature is, how they plan to change the world or monetize and, if interested, get a business card from a representative of the fund and a chance to continue communication). Most contacts were made on Twitter and LinkedIn. One evening, when there was a Champions League match, everyone who wanted to continue communication after evening pitches had to walk almost 2 km along the streets along the beautiful Sagrada Familia Cathedral in search of a cafe without football fans — to continue talking about interesting and technological ideas.

The manufacturers of innovations and their consumers met in Barcelona even though the international exhibition was cancelled due to a viral threat. There were representatives from various companies and countries of the world

The main results of such meetings can be considered that we and other representatives of Russia have an interest in cooperation with Spanish companies and technology teams. I did not have a chance to meet with other representatives of Tatarstan, but I met with Moscow and St. Petersburg colleagues from both service companies and representatives of large technology companies, telecommunications, financial structures, and petrochemical industries. “So that the interest is not limited only to conversations and exchange of contacts, you need to think seriously and weigh the possibility of opening a representative office of your company in Spain," this advice was given to me by one of the main organizers of the Startup Grind movement. In this regard, Barcelona really has a very attractive and developed infrastructure — something like Skolkovo and Innopolis, but it is located in the city itself, scattered in parts throughout the entire port city. BarcelonaActiv — where we were taken by local partners — a network of coworking sites, like We Work in Barcelona. I would like to highlight places that had previously designed as factories but are now green and used as coworking spaces, where almost anyone can get the opportunity to come up with an idea and launch their startup within six months (they are helped for six months, and as a result, there is a chance to get a pre-seed investment of 50,000-250,000 euros). Of course, not everyone gets this chance, but there are almost no free places in coworking, but there is almost everything you need to start.

Barcelona really has a very attractive and developed infrastructure — it is somewhat similar to Skolkovo and Innopolis, but it is located in the city itself

“Spanish perfectly understand that they are not the center of the world”

As the techno-Catalans themselves, who represent the community of innovators, say, first, the local rates are two or three times less than those of specialists and professionals in the United States; second, business education and technological or engineering practice are available to everyone who wants to study and work. Many people who have graduated, for example, IESE Business School, do their business and remain in Spain. Of course, you might think that the main reason people stay there is the climate, historical and beautiful places, and the local variety of food products. There really is a great variety of food and culture. But the level of development of hardware projects is much higher and more mature than we currently have. Therefore, we will try to apply in Tatarstan the best that we have seen there.

I was surprised that the Spaniards clearly understand that they are not the center of the world, and there were many points about the formation of interdisciplinary and cross-country project teams to achieve the best innovative and breakthrough results. In Barcelona, new campuses are being built on the basis of the first European 3D FactoryIncubator (the first campus is planned to be launched in 2020-2021) for prototyping and additive technologies, mainly so that more startups and corporations come and quickly make their prototypes there, test marketing hypotheses and get certification in one place. And this makes us think about the scale that the Catalan authorities and local innovators plan to achieve in the coming decades in the industry 4.0, agrotech, medtech and more.

By Anatoly Kiyashko, photo courtesy of the author