1) Where did the original idea come from?
The original idea for Swapsee came through a combination of a number of things. I had spent quite a bit of my time in the crowd funding space, and realised that there are a number of big trends happening right now:
- Your Facebook friends are not your friends. After the noughties, where people spend more and more of their time online, in this decade people start to see online tools again as tools to support your offline (ie real) life
- Entrepreneurships and freelancing. Either forced or as a lifestyle choice, more and more people become freelancer or start new businesses.
- An increasing desire to help each other (and maybe make money out of that)
The combination of these trends meant that if we would be able to create a platform that really helps people work better together, we could ride these trends and develop a beautiful business in the process.
2) How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
We took our time. We spent probably about six months to prepare for fund raising. And then, once we had the initial funds, it took us another 12 to 15 months to get properly online and up and running.
3) What do you wish you’d known when you started?
We spent the first nine months after the business was online, to test business models, engagement models, etc. What I was we had known is how crucial it was to have loads of time “on the ground”, time spending with your clients. Much more than anticipated. Community development takes time and money!
4) How easy was it get the financing for your business?
We invested the first bit of money ourselves (that was relatively easy...... ). After that, my firm belief has always been that if the proposition is good, you will always be able to find money. Having said that, the second round has taken a lot longer than anticipated, but 2013 was hardly a year in which it was easy to raise large chunks of cash.
5) Did you find the paperwork difficult?
We incorporated the SL very smoothly (took us a couple of hours and then wait for a couple of days). Working with the notary in Sitges was very straightforward. For the ongoing paperwork, we have a very good accountant, who is absolutely fantastic. I would always recommend spending the money on a good accountant, it really means you can focus on the business.
6) Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe
The Chambers of Commerce were very good for general queries. However, we mainly used our accountant ant the notary in Sitges.
7) What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
I have set up, developed and exited a number of companies, including some fairly large ones. I have also been an investment banker for a small period of time, so before starting this venture I did know what it was to set up companies and raise money. But I had never worked in the internet space before.
8) What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
The market is big, but not necessarily easy to find. A lot of contacts are made through large efforts in networking, but once you have entered a certain network, a large number of new doors will open. The environment is not necessarily pro-entrepreneurs, but not half as bad as many people tell you.
From an investor point of view, the relatively low burn rate you can have while employing very high quality people is very interesting.
9) And the negative aspects?
The market is not booming, not at all. You really need to deliver good quality stuff (which is not negative, but a good prerequisite for any business) in order to be successful.
10) Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona? Please describe
Put your benchmarks high!
Hire great people, come up with good quality services, ask for criticism (if you don't ask for it, most people will not give it I have noticed – but that may just be me!).