How do you say “startup” in Spanish? Luckily, it’s simple: Startup.
But that’s about the only easy thing that Spanish entrepreneurs have going for them as they attempt to launch new companies in their home country. Spain’s economy is faltering, and over 52 percent of citizens under 25 are currently unemployed. But when those young people attempt to launch companies on their own, they’re slapped with national policies that are notoriously anti-entrepreneurship, including a new “Exit Tax” implemented on the first of this year, which will tax a company’s potential earnings if they have received venture funds and attempt to relocate elsewhere.
A local startup, Dat Venture, is offering a lifeline of sorts. In February, they will be bringing 15 Spanish companies to Boston for a three-month-long immersion program. The companies, which pay $10,000 per employee to enroll, are promised everything they need to successfully integrate into Boston’s startup scene.
Dat will buy their plane tickets and set them up with housing at Krash and office space in WeWork’s South Station location. The companies will take business classes at Harvard Extension School and seminars developed by Dat which will teach them the basics, like pitching American venture firms or sales and marketing techniques, says Matt Hurley, one of Dat Venture’s five co-founders.
“Spaniards are very long-winded,” Hurley said, “and Americans do not take well to 20-minute startup pitches.”
Dat Venture, which launched this past summer, has already held one pilot session, but this 15-startup group is the real test, says Hurley. “The businesses want to be immersed in the ecosystem in Boston,” he said. “It’s about validating your idea with American partners, banks, and big brands.”
Among the startups in the Dat cohort are UpToDown, a online software catalogue that is one of the world’s most popular destinations for downloading Android apps, with over 62 million downloads a month, and FreePik, one of the world’s largest databases for Internet graphics. Both companies have over $1 million in revenues, says Hurley, and the combined revenues of all 15 companies total more than $10 million.
Dat Venture is working in partnership with the Efron Group, a multinational consulting company with an office in Boston and a strong presence in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. “We were very impressed by the possibilities of Massachusetts, and given our profile as a technology and innovation driven company we decided to launch a singular initiative in the market,”Alejandro de Mora, Efron’s CEO of US operations, said of the partnership via e-mail. “Dat Venture wants to be the bridge…between the exceptional ecosystem of Boston and the entrepreneurs outside.”
Hurley said that the entrepreneurs will be visiting the United States on tourist visas, and that Dat Venture and Efron will work to find opportunities for them to secure work visas so they can stay. Much of that is still being sorted out, he admitted. But he said providing access to the US startup scene in a way that doesn’t involve funding, or equity for that matter, is an option that many businesses are open to and excited about: One company decided to bring its entire eight-person team to Boston through the program, and they will be renting a house together in Porter Square.
The Spaniards arrive in Boston on Feb. 1, and will be immediately introduced to one aspect of American culture they might otherwise be unfamiliar with: The Super Bowl. “Hopefully they won’t be too jetlagged to watch football,” Hurley said.