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How Barcelona becomes Silicon Valley for a few days

MWC 2012 FiraIf you want see how to artificially create a ‘Silicon Valley’ like ecosystem, it’s worth taking a look at the factors that all come into play during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which just took place during the last week of February this year.  For four days every year, Barcelona brings together the whole supply chain in the global mobile industry, from the chip designers to the operators and app developers, from the researchers to the government departments and industry associations, and from the start-up to the investor.

One of the characteristics that I have always felt makes Silicon Valley what it is, is the access to people – whether they are partners, customers, investors, engineers or entrepreneurs; there are also many well-wishers who are just happy to impart knowledge, advice or contacts. In any corner of the valley, whether in a restaurant or coffee shop, or at social events, the ability to have conversations – even with total strangers – a and a) have something common to talk about, and b) potentially do business,  provides some of the motivation to push your business further.

And that’s what bringing tens of thousands of people together from a single industry for a few days also does. At Mobile World Congress, the concentration of many from the world’s mobile ecosystem creates a significant buzz during the four days of the congress.  To me, it creates a whole Silicon Valley-like ecosystem for the mobile industry, where everyone has access to everyone – whether you’re a start-up just starting out and looking for funding, or a CEO of the world’s largest operator. Just looking at the statistics illustrates how this all comes together to create value.

The conference and exhibition this year had more than 67,000 visitors attend from 205 countries, attracting executives from the world’s largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies and media and entertainment organisations, as well as government delegations from across the globe. The congress occupied some 70,500 net square metres of space.  According to the preliminary economic analysis, the 2012 Mobile World Congress contributed more than 300 million Euros to the local economy (an increase of more than 25 million Euros over the economic impact of the previous year’s conference).  The full press release from the GSMA is here.

MWC 2012 inside hall 8

Mobile communications is now a key platform upon which a lot of today’s innovation is built – whether it is in the home, in business and corporate environments, in healthcare and energy. As John Hoffman, the CEO of the organizers of the conference, the GSMA, said, with mobile being central to the lives of many people around the world, there was, “representation from not only the traditional mobile industry players, but companies from vertical sectors such as automotive, health and finance, among others.”  He added, “It’s exciting to see the powerful role mobile has in driving innovation in new markets.”

What’s always apparent at Mobile World Congress every year (and GSM World Congress prior to its current incarnation when it was in Cannes) is that it presents a real opportunity for companies looking for potential customers and applications for their technology, products or services.  It also presents opportunities to look at how others are innovating and ideas for further innovation and collaboration.

If governments and regions need an example of how they can create their own Silicon Valley, then California is not the only destination to look at. They should try looking at Barcelona in February.

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