Interview: André Vanyi-Robin, Co-founder & CEO, Param 24-7XS Technologies
André Vanyi-Robin is Co-founder & CEO of Param 24-7XS Technologies, a Barcelona-based technology startup that has developed a cloud-based visit automation platform addressing a growing need for flexible and secure, 24-7 mobile access control in the residential and commercial real estate and related markets.
Prior to Param 24-7, André co-founded and served as CEO of Barcelona-based, on-demand TV services provider Bestv and previously as CEO of Spanish virtual operator Servidores. He began his entrepreneurial career after earning an MBA from the University of Miami (Florida), where he founded and was CEO of Latin America digital consultancy firm Visualcom, also serving as President of the Miami Internet Alliance.
André sat down recently with BCN Tech Talk to discuss Barcelona’s evolution and future as a European hub for tech and innovation.
You arrived to BCN in what year? How has the city changed in that time frame, in terms of its growth as a technology and innovation hub?
I arrived in Barcelona in 2001 after leaving Miami where I had lived for 8 years. The City has changed in a sense where it is much surer of itself and its role in the European economy and has fully embraced entrepreneurship. There are many institutional initiatives today that were born around 2000 that have a fundamental role in promoting start ups and supporting them until they become true businesses. The City has bucked the trend in Spain.
In your opinion, what’s the key element in the ongoing transformation?
The key element in the ongoing transformation is the actual economic recession and macro economic crisis which is breaking down resistance to change in that the only way to create jobs is entrepreneurship.
What’s lacking? What’s the missing link (or links) in the tech value chain here?
The most obvious element lacking is funding. There are just too few venture capital and business angels. More money is needed to back the supply of ideas and entrepreneurs.
You read the headlines globally and it’s all doom and gloom for Spain … other than the fact that you live here, why would someone want to startup a new company in Barcelona?
Barcelona is a fabulous place to live and to work as well as start a business. There are very good schools. The city has an abundant cultural offering. There are many entertainment venues. There is virtually no pollution. Public transportation is ubiquitous and reliable. You are two hours away from the mountains and you are next to the sea. The city is cosmopolitan and safe.
The students that come out of the universities are well trained and have a very good work ethic. The Catalan culture is work oriented and entrepreneurial. Salaries are affordable from an entrepreneurs point of view.
The City of Barcelona has made great strides in providing infrastructure for telecommunications and IT. All of the previous positive aspects pale by comparison with respect to the efforts the city has made and continues to make to support and accompany start ups.
You’re a veteran of the dot-com era … What’s different about the Web 2.0 era? From what you’ve seen here in BCN, have the dot-com lessons really been learned? In what sense?
The Dot-com lessons have pretty much been learned: expectations have aligned with reality in terms of valuations, salaries and value drivers.
Barcelona is a major events location for all industries, including technology … How much do you think tech events – MWC and others — are helping to drive growth of Barcelona as a tech hub? Or, are they totally unrelated to the year-round tech reality here?
Tech events are very important drivers of business in Barcelona, because they bring world class companies and opportunities to the city which allow local companies to reach out to the world cost effectively and open new business opportunities.
A lot here see the U.S. and specifically Silicon Valley as the“promised land” for startups. But, how much attention should Barcelona be paying to Asia in terms of strategic partnerships, developer resources, investment backing?
Barcelona is a beacon of Public/Private partnership in fomenting entrepreneurism. In that light, Barcelona has a lot to teach the world just as Silicon Valley is the “promised land” for start ups. I have seen and known many delegations from around the globe who have come to Barcelona to learn about the 22@ District and I have seen and know many delegations from Barcelona that have gone to Silicon Valley to learn. The value chain of global entrepreneurship has many links, Barcelona is surely one of them.
There are other vibrant tech hubs in Europe – London, Cambridge, Berlin, Amsterdam –how much of a chance does Barcelona have to compete with them for talent, startup culture and venture capital?
I think that Barcelona, for all of the reasons I mentioned earlier, has an enormous opportunity to take the gold medal in becoming the startup capital of Europe!