Spanish & International Investors: Who is Holding the Cards?

Picture this:

Friday night, a casual get together with some mates, a couple of cigars, a couple of drinks, and some chips on the table… You know the deal right? It’s a friendly poker game, with some laughs, some tensions but all in the purpose of having fun and making some money (but gambling is illegal, so lets say we are playing for bragging rights). Typically, since we are friends, the blinds start very low, no one usually raises pre-flop, and the bets remain small until finally the blinds grow large enough to induce play and alas, a winner is born. In layman’s terms for non-poker players, this scenario is a non-threatening game amongst friends.

spanish vc's - barcelona barcinnoThen, one day someone brings a friend from out of town to join the local game. He or she (lets call this person “The Big Gambler” – TBG) just got here and is planning on staying for a while, but TBG is unfamiliar with the etiquette or friendliness of the local players. The game begins and TBG starts raising pre-flop and never lets a card be dealt without a significant raise. This quickly intimidates the other players and changes the dynamics of the local game to a much more cutthroat environment, one in which friends now become enemies and the stakes heighten quickly.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

Well, welcome to the Spanish Venture Capitalist (VC) Ecosystem (and now you can bring in the lions to eat me alive). After several talks with foreign investors and companies, I have come to picture my home-country of Spain as a poker game where bets are low and people are hesitant to take any risks. Spanish VC’s typically invest in the range of 50K-100K, and if they are feeling adventurous perhaps 150K, but will very rarely go above that.

In the last few years, we have observed the arrival of international VC’s who are used to a much more cutthroat game of poker or “investments.” These newcomers typically start their bidding in the ballpark of 500K, 1M, 2M funds, which is much higher than the local standard and they will soon be here to fund the top companies here in Spain.

Why is that?

From what I have gathered from my resources and contacts from other ecosystems, such as the UK or Silicon Valley, many VC’s are looking for uncharted waters, Spain being one of them. They see the great investment opportunities here at a much cheaper price and less competition.  Actually, let me rephrase that: at a competitive price that hasn’t been totally inflated by the post-flop bets and turn from other aggressive players at the table.

This means two major possible changes for the local ecosystem: First, the Spanish VC’s will be put to the test to either step up their game in order to compete with more aggressive international players or, they will quickly be put into very uncomfortable positions that could result in major losses. Second, healthy, growing Spanish companies might now have the opportunity to raise money locally rather than having to go abroad to find investment dollars.

The Poker-esq Investment Game is just getting warmed up here in Spain. Spanish players or VC’s better suit up and get ready if they want to make it to the final table or they might find themselves out of chips even before the flop.

 

Comments

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Comments

  1. Sindhu says

    Quite an interesting article.. and one that is long due!! Spanish technology entrepreneurs like us are looking forward to this change. Its time home VCs up their game (except a couple of exceptions who are realising this already). Meanwhile, we remain content to live with sequoias and Baldertons from the other world!!

    • Scott Mackin says

      Thanks Sindhu! Sorry for the delay. The international VCs will eventually open offices in Spain and take all the best deal flow for themselves. The local players will be forced to “modernize” their investment approach or settle for the second-tier opportunities. Survival of the Fittest!

      I hope all is well with Cognicor – keep us updated to your news!

  2. Raoul says

    I mostly agree with you but I know for certain that Active Venture Partners being based here in Spain are investing millions in local and European start-ups. So there are signs of hope ?

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