After the excitement of the first days, in which the inauguration, some conferences, such as that of the magnate Elon Musk, or a Bon Jovi concert animated the congress, yesterday the impact of the pandemic was more noticeable on the third day of Mobile World Congress. Waiting for the attendance data, which will be known today, remains the image of empty corridors and business positions closed because they have not participated in the congress due to the pandemic. Despite everything, Mobile has resisted, and it has done so thanks to the concurrence of young people and entrepreneurs, who have filled the space occupied by the 4YFN startup room and have given dynamism to an edition marked by restrictions and measures of safety.
On both sides of the central corridor of hall 2 of the Fira de Barcelona venue, where the Mobile World Congress has been held since last Monday, two parallel realities are experienced. On one side, large telephone operators or important companies in the sector have their positions, but attendance is low and there are almost more personnel from the organization than members of Congress. Some companies, which declined to participate and who are not reimbursed for having hired spaces, have the stand but closed. Despite the efforts of the GSMA, the employers’ association that organizes the congress, to make a hybrid congress modality with face-to-face and virtual participation, the impact of the pandemic is noticeable in a transition year in which it has passed the 109,000 attendees of 2019 to approximately 35,000. On the other side of the corridor and a few meters away, however, the dynamism is vibrant and the influx of people, almost indistinguishable from that of previous years: there is the 4YFN room, dedicated to startups, which has become the protagonist indisputable of this Mobile.
For years he has been the younger brother of the great congress. Young entrepreneurs, many of them local, had a smaller space and far removed from large corporations. The Mobile was held at the Fira site in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, and the 4YFN was held at the Plaza Espanya site. Entrepreneurs wanted to play in the big league and present their projects, but the size of Mobile did not allow it. This year is different. With the outbreak of the pandemic and the fall of the participants, the 4YFN has pulled the bandwagon. The show presents some 400 startups, in general, entrepreneurs who are beginning to move their first projects.
“It is a year of transition, we have seen the need to connect startups with Mobile for a long time, and this year marks a before and after. I am convinced that in the coming years the 4YFN room will be part of the congress ”, says Oscar Sala, director of the startup accelerator The Collider, of the Mobile World Capital. Barcelona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem “is already mature and increasingly specialized.” One of the startups he has led, PVR, in collaboration with Hospital Clínic, uses virtual reality for the diagnosis and treatment of neurocognitive disorders. “It is a unique opportunity to show what we do,” says one of the founders, Jacinto Castillo.
There are also foreign emerging companies, such as MYX Solutions, founded in Bulgaria, which have designed a system to analyze the state of infrastructures, such as communication towers, using photos taken by drones. “We have come because our proposal fits a lot in Mobile. And it is being really very useful, we have made a lot of contacts, ”explains Mihail Georgiev, a worker at the company.
Coinciding with the pandemic, there are many health technology proposals. In one of them, Onalabs, dedicated to the measurement of health parameters through sweat to avoid chronic patients having to go to the doctor so often, the worker Joan Vieyra highly values the experience of being in the Mobile. “In the congress in general there is a difference with other years, but in the 4YFN it seems like always. We have made very interesting contacts, and we are doing well, because now we are looking for partners and investment ”, he explains. Across the aisle, dynamism is conspicuous by its absence.
“Your partner can be at the stand next to you”
The positions where startups are located are just over a meter away. Dialogue between them is inevitable. FimoApp, a startup that has just started supported by Barcelona Activa, has designed an application for the rental of audiovisual material between individuals. Founded by, among others, two graduates from ESCAC, it arises from a need to rent good but inexpensive cameras or sound equipment. “The material will be insured, we are in talks with the Zurich company to do it, and being between individuals we get it to be 30% cheaper than a material rental company. Because the objective of FilmoApp does not have the objective of making the most of the material, ”explains co-founder Pol Amoedo. From talking to the stand next door, they have come up with the idea of also monetizing unused production company spaces in the app. “We were looking for new ideas and partners, and it turns out that you can have it next door,” says Amoedo.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.