The Evolution of Public and Private Venture Capital in Spain

By Lucía Latorre & Barbara Mander Published on May. 25, 2020

What are the peculiarities of the Spanish startup ecosystem? How easy is it for startups to go beyond the country’s borders? And how is technology being leveraged to help businesses and fight COVID-19?

Spain venture capital investments keynote speakers

On May 14th, 2020, we held a Fireside Chat called “The Evolution of Investment in Public-Private Venture Capital”. We were privileged to count with five world-class guests: Saeed Amidi, CEO & Founder of Plug and Play; María Peña, CEO of ICEX, Spain Trade & Investment Agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism; Andrés Ubierna, Head of Investments at CDTI, the Center of Development and Technology from the Ministry of Industry; Mercedes Storch, Head of International Relations at ICO, the Spanish Development Bank from the Ministry of Economy; and Luis Martín Cabiedes, from private investment fund Cabiedes and Partners.

Check out below the full event:

Going Global: The Internationalization of Spanish Startups

Maria Peña, CEO of ICEX, underlined that the Spanish ecosystem has flourished notably in recent years, with Barcelona and Madrid competing as more mature hubs, like London, Berlin or Paris, and this is because of a strong combination of factors like top skills, competitiveness and an increasing amount of capital flowing in the ecosystem. She highlighted that, for example, in Q1 of 2020 the investment in Spanish startups grew by 22%, where 70% of the capital flow was provided by foreign investments. 

At ICEX, they help the Spanish entrepreneurship ecosystem through internationalization as a driving force for competitiveness and innovation through different programs, such as Rising Startups Spain, Meeting Investors or Desafia (operating in San Francisco and Tel Aviv). In a challenging moment, where COVID-19 is changing the rules, Maria Peña highlights that technology, innovation and cooperation are the tools for recovery.

In addition, Mercedes Storch described how they work at ICO, the Spanish Development Bank, identifying and selecting investors who are successful. Currently, they work with 12 international funds that invest in Spanish companies with great results, and they have a Business Angel program from the UE. On the other hand, Andrés Ubierna explained how CDTI advocates not only to help startups hit international markets, but to find partners abroad that allow them access to these international markets.

Saeed Amidi, CEO of Plug and Play, shared insights on the Israeli landscape, where startups are born global and entrepreneurship is deeply incentivized. 

The Particularities of the Spanish Venture Capital

As highlighted by Saeed Amidi, Spain has similarities with the Silicon Valley ecosystem, as there are great schools and great talent. He opened a debate: What would the Spanish ecosystem need to create the next Facebook or the next Google?

Ubierna believes that, in most cases, Spanish startups are acquired by big companies before growing as independently as they do in the US. It is very important to have international investors in your cap table if you want to think with a global mindset. 

To conclude, Luis Cabiedes highlighted that Spain should not replicate the Silicon Valley ecosystem, as each place is unique and different. Spain has the talent, but not the market, the clients to support the size of these companies. This results in startups leaving. From his point of view, Spain needs to develop the ability to identify talent and take it to these big markets, so they can become global players.

spanish private venture capital virtual event

Saeed Amidi, Merecedes Storch and Andrés Ubierna, answering audience questions in Simon Mauer’s Q&A section.

Saeed Amidi, as CEO of a global open innovation platform, pointed out how technology can help sectors, such as baking and insurance, to reduce 50% off the cost of operations, sales and services through digital transformation of the customer experience, claim management and back office. Plug and Play looks not only for startups that disrupt the industry but also for those that enhance it, by boosting digital transformation.

CDTI, as a public VC, focuses on R&D projects, but not only in innovative startups, but also technological solutions. Their goal is to foresee how to solve the market failures, identifying sectors that need money and don't get it because there are sectors that don’t have specialized investors (ie. energy). It is important to drag corporate investors. CDTI co-invests with Repsol and Iberdrola to boost the energy investing market 

According to Luis Cabiedes, after the 2009 crisis, we have learned how to manage them, and his recommendation is to look for a sector, look for a market, and then start working. He points out that funding will always be available, even in times of crisis, through public and private entities.  More specifically, as long as there’s a market, there will be an opportunity to find funding.

About the speakers

Luis Martín Cabiedes

He’s Partner at Cabiedes & Partners, a fund specialized in early-stage technology startups. As a business angel, Cabiedes backed Trovit in 2007, which was acquired by the Japanese company NEXT for $87M. In October, portfolio company Ducksboard was also acquired, this time by New Relic. Cabiedes also invested in Blablacar’s $110M investment round led by Isai, Lead Edge Capital, Accel Partners and Index Ventures. 


A public business entity that answers to the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness. It fosters the technological development and innovation of Spanish companies. CDTI has invested $400+ million and has facilitated $1,000+ million on R&D investments over the years to Spanish companies. 


A venture capital manager fully owned by the Official Credit Institute, Spanish Development Bank, which makes capital and quasi-capital instruments available to companies to finance their growth. Since its creation, Axis has invested more than $1.4 billion in the growth of around 200 companies and funds.


ICEX Spain Trade and Investment is a public corporation at the national level whose mission involves promoting the internationalization of Spanish companies to support their competitiveness and add value to the economy as a whole, as well as attracting foreign investment to Spain. ICEX Spain Trade and Investment renders its services through a network of 30 Provincial and Regional Divisions in Spain along with almost 100 Economic and Trade Offices around the world. It also boasts 30 Business Centres worldwide, offering Spanish companies temporary infrastructure and acting as incubators for internationalization.

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