The Pros and Cons of Basing Your Company in Barcelona
No one needs persuading to come and work in Barcelona; the city sells itself. But, that's not to say there aren't any drawbacks.
Since 2015, my co-founder and I have been building TravelPerk, a business travel tech startup that employs over 140 people at our headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. But, with a fresh infusion of cash and plans to expand beyond Spain -- after a recent $21 million Round B -- we're reflecting on what's worked for us in Barcelona.
The Barcelona decision
Young, vibrant, filled with ambition and opportunity -- this is the feel we wanted for the company culture and identity at TravelPerk. It was key for us to choose a city that reflected exactly that.
For our employees, Barcelona offers the opportunity to balance work and life perfectly -- work hard at TravelPerk and play hard in Barcelona -- a bustling city bordered by sea and mountains, offering a dynamic experience and the best of all worlds.
A growing startup ecosystem
No location for a startup is perfect, but Barcelona has more to offer than most.
The ecosystem of tech startups like Glovo, Badi and Typeform, means we have a network of companies in a similar growth phase to TravelPerk. This translates into support from our community, excellent opportunities to build a solid network and synergies, and an exciting energy about creating companies that will become household names.
Hiring the best team
The city makes it easier to attract talent. Warm weather, endless beaches and glorious Gaudi architecture would, wouldn't they? Plus, it provides an easy commute, bursts with local art and has a vibrant international community.
Barcelona is also a handy hub for travel to any European capital, America or Asia. Its easy-to-access airport has direct flights to most major destinations.
The bonus: With Spain cutting the red tape on work permits for non-EU nationals, it means people can easily relocate from anywhere in the world.
From an economic standpoint, Spain is generally more affordable for both businesses and employees (especially if they're relocating from a European hub with a higher cost of living). For employees, the affordable cost of living in Spain means their money goes further. It makes traveling within the city and other parts of the country cheaper, and eating out and buying or renting a home more affordable.
All this adds up to a high quality of life without the usual cringeworthy price tag.
For businesses, affordable real estate costs mean swanky offices are easier to find, team building activities are that much grander and events more exciting.
Finally, investors are increasingly open to looking outside of Silicon Valley, London and Tel Aviv for deal flow. TravelPerk, for example, was able to raise $30 million entirely from non-Spanish investors.
With the weather, prices, city and nature all in our favor, Barcelona continues to attract top talent to TravelPerk and keep our existing teams engaged both in and out of the office.
The risk factors
Typical of many European countries -- despite a move toward more business friendly practices -- lingering bureaucracy permanently frustrates us. The money and time it takes to handle can make our lives difficult.
In addition, the administration is building its understanding of startups and tech. While this happens, some ridiculous costs continue to baffle us. The yearly 2 percent wealth tax or an "exit tax" on unrealized capital gains is an example of this.
For all its advantages, Barcelona isn't the most obvious destination for potential employees. The talent pool in cities like London, Tel Aviv and Berlin is larger, which means we often hire new recruits from these cities and beyond -- hence our 30-plus nationalities!
If we started over ...
... we'd choose Barcelona again in a heartbeat.
It's the obvious choice for us and the delight our teams express when we talk to them about it is evidence of that.
While we will expand our offices to other countries and continents, Barcelona will always be TravelPerk's home. The city and all it has to offer serves as inspiration and aspiration. As the ecosystem here evolves and grows into something bigger and better -- something that might even rival other European startup hubs in the future -- we'll continue to do the same along with it.