As the 2016 Mobile World Congress creeps ever closer, Barcelona readies itself for the busiest time of the year. During an intimate event organized by Barcleona Tech City, general manager of Mobile World Capital Barcelona, Aleix Valls sat down with John Hoffman, the CEO and Director of GSMA Ltd, to talk about the state of the Barcelona startup ecosystem and its future.
For some background, GSMA is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to the standardizing, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system, and the brains behind the Mobile World Congress global conference series.
“When we first came to Barcelona 11 years ago with the Mobile World Congress, we chose the city because of its ecosystem, its city brand and its good connectivity“, says Hoffman.
Need to embrace failure
Hoffman went onto say that the way the MWC has developed and led to the establishment of the Mobile World Capital, 4YFN, mVenturesBCN, and other things is amazing.
“To have a place to connect in a good way, you need more than a venue, you need a city that people want to visit, this is why Barcelona is perfect“, Hoffman explains.
He has a lot of good things to say about the ecosystem in the city, but also some words of reflection.
“The ecosystem in Barcelona is on the right path, but something they miss is idea of embracing failure as a way to learn“, Hoffman says, referring to the US and Israel as better examples of this type of mindset.
He says that when he worked in Denmark, he met people that valued having a “safe job” and strived to find one working for the state.
“I would never want to work for the state!“, was Hoffman’s matter of fact reply.
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Embrace failure or die
“The startup industry is critical to the world, and we need to foster that“, Hoffman told the audience of around 60 people at the InGracia venue in Barcelona.
He says the mobility industry, which GSMA represents, approaches the digital transition in many different ways.
“Some companies partner up with startups, others ignore them, or try to destroy or buy them“, Hoffman explains.
He also talked positively about how the public (local and regional) is partnering with the private industry in a good way in Barcelona.
“Barcelona is not a global brand of innovation today, but with more success stories it will get there“, Hoffman says.