We are very happy to announce that BigML will be establishing its European Headquarters in Valencia, Spain. BigML had a strong European connection since its early days thanks to the founding team members’ origins in the continent (e.g., our co-founder and CEO Francisco J. Martin grew up in Valencia and got his 5-year degree in Computer Science from Universitat Politècnica de València and half of our team has been working from Valencia or Barcelona). As such, some of the most respected minds in Artificial Intelligence from Spain have been playing a big part in growing the business and making BigML a leader in today’s fast-growing Machine Learning landscape. In furthering our cause we intend to hire up to 15 engineers in the remainder of this year and to strength the ties between Valencia and Corvallis, Oregon.
Part of the decision to select Valencia was indeed driven by the fact that BigML already had several team members there who graduated from both Universitat de València and Universitat Politècnica de València. However, our interest in Valencia goes beyond mere convenience as we also have organic ties with other Spanish cities.
Spain has a large (#13 in the world) and diverse economy yet it has traditionally been underrated from a technology startup ecosystem perspective despite some success stories of its own, especially in the e-commerce space. Nevertheless, much of this high-tech activity has been concentrated in Barcelona and Madrid, which also attract technical talent from outside Spain to fuel their growth.
In contrast, as a focal point on the beautiful “Costa de Azahar”, Valencia has a metro area population exceeding 1.5M that is responsible for a very respectable GDP of $52.7 billion. Always a city thriving on trade with the biggest port on the western Mediterranean coast, Valencia is known as the leading automotive industry hub for Spain. Ford’s recently announced injection of 2.3 billion Euros in investment capital into expanding its Valencia operations is a testament to the long-term economic prospects of the city in this critical sector of the economy. Valencia’s strong economic growth over the last decade spurred by tourism and the construction industry with concurrent development and expansion of telecommunications and transport has been accompanied by a transition to a more service-oriented economy, where currently 84% of the working population is employed in the service sector. Consistent with this ongoing transformation, Valencia is looking to take the initiative to shift the economic mix towards higher-value added goods and services in turn make waves in high-tech by attracting more tech-businesses and tech jobs.
Major ICT companies have realized this and invested in branch offices in Valencia (e.g. HP, IBM). There are also regional SME technological companies specialized in different technological areas such as video game development, 3D, electronics, nanophotonics etc. According to Foundum, Spain’s equivalent of AngelList, Valencia ranks a solid 3rd behind Barcelona and Madrid in terms of startup ecosystem membership. Given its economic standing in the country, its young and well-educated technical talent and ongoing infrastructure investments one can argue Valencia has a lot more upside left in the tank.
Recent years have seen more startup scene momentum with precedents like that of Silicon Valley’s Plug-and-Play Center entering Valencia in 2012 as well as local co-working spaces like Workether. Similarly, VIT Emprende initiated by the City Council’s Foundation InnDEA brings together innovative entrepreneurs of Valencia. Its members exchange knowledge, collaborate on R & D, engage in technology transfer, and establish synergies through networking and maintaining contact with prominent in-the-field of entrepreneurs around Valencia. Furthermore, Iker Marcaide (a member of BigML’s Board of Directors) has founded the international education payments outfit peerTransfer in Valencia. The company remains one of the hottest startups in Europe with its engineering team located in Valencia.
Valencia has 2 public and 2 private universities and more than 100,000 university students, including 15,000 ICT related grade and post-grade students. So these developments are welcome news for the likes of Universitat Politècnica de València (36,000 students and 3,000 professors) looking to supply new technical talent into the ecosystem.
In terms of tech events Valencia is the starting point of Campus Party, which went on to become one of the largest global technology networking events of the world. In addition, there are regular video game development related events and a notable upcoming Health Informatics event.
Following these good examples, one of our first calls in Valencia will be to reach out to the developer and data scientist communities and inform them about what BigML has to offer. We have recently created a free Meetup group for this purpose and will be hosting a special demo and technical recruitment event on July 9, 2015. Please RSVP asap and reserve your spot. Prior experience with Machine Learning is helpful but not required for membership so long as you have the curiosity to learn and develop your data science skills. With your help, we are looking forward to add some AI and Machine Learning flavor as a key ingredient in Valencia’s 21st century economic development paella. Hope you can join in the fun.
Ens veiem a València!