Esade Alumni Event Reminds of Innovation

Last night was Esade’s annual alumni blowout in Barcelona – 3000 alumni from all the school’s degree programs at the Forum de Maresme near the Olympic port. While the event packed two powerful headline speakers in Pablo Isla and Mikael Ohlsson, CEOs of Inditex and Ikea, respectively, I thought the most enjoyable speech was by Javier Santiso from the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics.

Santiso spoke of how Europe and Spain have fallen behind in the global innovation race. The evidence? That China and Israel have 3 times as many tech firms listed in the NASDAQ exchange as the entire EU; that 4 of the world’s top 10 internet/software companies are from emerging markets; and that telecoms companies like Huawei (China), Telcel (Mexico), and MTN (South Africa) are becoming global giants. Foreign direct investment, which used to proceed exclusively from developed markets to emerging ones, now flows increasingly in the opposite direction – or between emerging markets.

Santiso’s speech, which he said hoped would inspire the audience to start new businesses, was a kick in the pants for complacent Europeans. It illustrated that European competitivity is a structural issue, going beyond the recent sovereign debt crisis and property bubbles.  

At the same time, there is cause for hope for Spain. Of course, it’s easy to take comfort in Inditex, which is the global leader in its sector. But perhaps more importantly, Santiso said, of the 12 startups in Europe that are poised to reach €1bn in sales, 3 of them are Spanish. This week I had the pleasure of meeting two local entrepreneurs from Esade: Luke Miller, who runs an environmental impact consultancy and Javier Castillo, who founded a social network. They prove that innovation is alive in Europe and that Barcelona continues to be a hotbed.

The MBA program has its own program related to startups next month, Esade Quest for Talent. More on that to come in this blog. For videos and photos from the alumni event visit the official Esade Alumni page.

-Andrew Pollen, First-Year MBA Student

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