They say “preparation is the key to success,” and in the case of the Canary Islands startup ecosystem and public sector developers, this has proven to be of paramount importance. While similar tourism-strengthened ecosystems around the world would have been content and stayed reliant on tourist cash inflow, the Canary Islands have been committed to building a competitive IT and startup hub, way before the pandemic brought flights and traveling to a halt. As the ties between the local ecosystems are continuously nourished and strengthened, the Canary Islands are redefining their role within the global startup ecosystem; they offer a distinct atmosphere of fun, low cost of living, fast fiber connection, and a business innovation mindset that has earned them a permanent spot on the map.
StartupBlink spent over a month working with our ecosystem partner PROEXCA on the development and growth strategies of the Canary Islands ecosystem. The passion, commitment, and collaboration witnessed between the major players on the island is exemplary; it will undoubtedly lead to huge developments in the near future.
This article will provide an overview of the Canary Islands startup ecosystem, explore insights from our recent StartupBlink Ecosystem Global Report, and provide an analysis of notable players and startups in the region.
Click here for Canary Islands rankings in the StartupBlink Global map.
Are you interested in startup innovation and entrepreneurship? You can access more reports on global and regional economic development as well as our new Coronavirus Innovation Map that shows the best countries fighting the pandemic and facilitating new developments in the pandemic era.
Overview of the Canary Islands Startup Ecosystem
The Canary Islands are an archipelago, located off the coast of Spain. Major islands in the archipelago include Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Fuerteventura. Additionally, there is Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, La Graciosa, and El Hierro, which altogether make up the 8 main islands. When you think of the Canary Islands, it is the natural landscape and mesmerizing beauty of its beaches that first comes to mind. Famous attractions like the Teide National Park, the location of one of the tallest volcanoes in the world, are also found here.
Naturally, this is a prime tourist destination, with a whopping 12 million visitors per year. However, it is also a preferred relocation destination for retirees, digital nomads, and location-independent entrepreneurs, looking to combine a dreamy lifestyle with a culture of innovation and growth that supports new ventures, business developments, and new ideas.
Two islands doing exceptionally well are Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. According to SEOintheSUN, a Tenerife-based digital marketing training center, this is thanks to several events that have launched, such as “Tenerife Invierte” (now known as “TF Gold Edition”), as well as new meeting spaces such as the “Mentor Day of Dyrecto Consultores.”
Here we take a detailed look at this budding startup ecosystem:
Insights From Data in the Canary Islands
Two main startup ecosystems in the Canary Islands have registered massive jumps in their rankings, with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria leaping 124 spots to sit at a global rank of 229th, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife sprinting to 237th with an increase of 147 positions. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has achieved a Top 5 spot nationally, with Santa Cruz de Tenerife following close behind in the 6th overall position from a total of 23 ecosystems in Spain.
The strongest verticals in the ecosystem are in the software and tourism and travel industries, but huge gains have also been registered in areas of game and animation, sustainability, and renewable energies. For Las Palmas specifically, overperforming verticals recorded this year are for the e-commerce and retail, health, and social & leisure industries. This pushed the ecosystem to 4th place nationally on the aforementioned verticals, with the most notable gains in the health industry landing the ecosystem the 139th spot globally.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife had an equally impressive year, with a 3rd national position in the verticals of education and foodtech. The latter is notable for the major 170 position increase that brings Tenerife in the global Top 100, with a 67th rank; not far behind Madrid (45th globally). Barcelona has the top national position in foodtech with a global 6th ranking. Worth noting also are the impressive gains seen in the hardware and IoT vertical, which are pushing for a Top 100 position, at 116th globally, and the marketing and sales vertical that currently sit at 124th rank globally.
To access information on verticals and filter ecosystems by population and regions, have a look at our ProMap services here.
Notable Startups in the Canary Islands
Wooptix – With offices in Tenerife and Madrid, Wooptix is an imaging technology solutions provider and the only Spanish startup that receives investment from Intel Capital.
AdQuiver – Based in Las Palmas, AdQuiver provides data-driven marketing and intelligence services using advertising technology to generate direct sales and reduce dependency on third-parties for hotels and businesses in the tourism and travel industry.
Welovroi – A tool for digital marketers who need to track performance indicators, monitor, report and calculate the ROI of their online services.
Voiver – The voice-over marketplace that allows you to hire voice-over artists or list your services and get clients easily, online.
VideoLean – A simplified and accessible video platform, for marketing agencies, bloggers and managers to be able to create powerful video presentations. The app is used by more than 240,000 users.
TuriTop – Based in Tenerife, TuriTop is a booking software system that enables businesses of all sizes to manage and run their business without creating their own platform from scratch. Great for tours, events and activities providers.
Advantages of Relocating to the Canary Islands
Every startup ecosystem has advantages and strengths that, once utilized, can lead to huge benefits. The Canary Islands ecosystem offers a unique blend of government funding, great climate, supportive community, affordable cost of living, and access to cheap labor.
Let us take a more detailed look at each one of these:
Tax incentives: This one’s no secret. The tax benefits of starting up in the Canary Islands are its biggest advantage. Canary Islands enjoys a different tax regime, operated by the Economic and Tax Regime of the Canary Islands (REF). Under this regime, companies are subject to a reduced tax rate of 4%, exemptions in the Canary Islands General Indirect Tax (IGIC) and Property Transfer Tax and Stamp Duty. Now compare this to the European average tax rate which rises to 23%, and you see what we’re talking about!
Low cost of living: As compared to the rest of Europe, the cost of living in the Canary Islands is much lower. Low cost of living also translates to lower salaries, which are critical for a startup in the initial stages.
Culture and leisure: This is perhaps not your first consideration when choosing a place to launch your startup, but the scenic beauty and rich culture of the Islands make it worth a mention. Many of the islands have a good mix of nationalities, so you may not necessarily feel like an outsider. And what better way to combat stress at work than an afternoon of surfboarding and cycling?
Disadvantages of the Canary Islands Startup Ecosystem
As previously mentioned, the startup scene in the Canary Islands is still in its early developing stages, and entrepreneurs and ecosystem developers are still facing challenges when it comes to relocating and starting businesses in the region.
Here are some of the disadvantages currently present:
You can also browse our relevant article for “Common Problems in Underperforming Startup Ecosystems”
Access to private funding: While the government offers funding to startups and researchers, globally-positioned startups require larger investments than what is currently available on the islands, in order to scale. This often forces startups to move elsewhere, with many startups relocating to mainland Spain as a result.
Events and platforms: Networking and collaboration are both essential for a startup ecosystem to grow, and the platforms that are currently available for entrepreneurs to connect with each other and exchange ideas are still in the infant stage. The initiatives and events mentioned previously and in the following sections are still evolving and need to establish themselves further in order to lead to substantial momentum.
Focus on global markets: Google Translate is a much-needed friend when browsing information on startups in the Canary Islands. This is because a lot of the websites of companies and programs are in Spanish. While the Canary Islands attract a multicultural and diverse group of people, with foreigners made to feel very welcome and included, it does indicate a certain focus on the local markets. The internet is where most of the world lives, buys, and spends, thus making most of the websites accessible in major languages in the world would certainly improve visibility and outreach.
Important Players in the Canary Islands Startup Ecosystem
Archipelago Next – an accelerator program and VC fund that offers access between 30,000€ to 100,000€ convertible loans, equity, partners, and an investors network
Residence Programme allows investors, entrepreneurs, and qualified non-EU national workers to access fast-track visas.
Sodecan (SODECAN) – A public investment corporation established by the Government of the Canary Islands that provides loans for tech-based startups. Up to 200,000€ for early-stage and up to 500,000€ for growth-stage startups.
WhyTenerife – aims to become the best source of information, support and services relating to the promotion and development of the regional startup ecosystem and to help businesses grow and improve.
PROEXCA – a public company operating under the support of the Ministry of Economy, Knowledge and Employment of the Canary Islands. It has launched and operates a variety of innovative projects aimed at promoting investment companies and highlighting opportunities that attract foreign business developers.
ProtoAtlantic – Led in collaboration with the Canarian Association of Startups, tech-based companies and the Business Angels (EMERGE) network, this acceleration program is focused on the promotion and development of the maritime sector in the Canary Islands.
Events in the Canary Islands
Mentor Day – Present in more than 45 countries and with a network of more than 14,000 mentors, this non-profit association, aims to provide entrepreneurs with the resources, contacts and visibility needed to succeed through monthly events.
NomadCity – led by Nacho Rodríguez, this event highlights the importance of digital and remote workers and showcases the power of bringing together individuals and companies to discuss the future of the workplace.
Startup Weekend Tenerife – a 3-day startup event that brings together people from all over the Canary Islands that are looking to develop an idea into a business reality.
StartupBlink runs monthly pitching events focusing on one startup ecosystem at a time that is looking for foreign investors. – Connect with other entrepreneurs and local ecosystem thought leaders. Join us here.