Entrepreneurship in Spain

Story by Pavit Arora | arora.pa@husky.neu.edu

My passion for traveling brought me to the vibrant city of Madrid; however it was my passion for business that brought me to Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. This past summer, as part of a freshman study abroad program, I studied international business and entrepreneurship in Spain’s capital. Learning about business in Europe, and Spain in particular, was fascinating for us young business students, on the search for potential co-ops or post-graduation jobs.

It was during our first entrepreneurship class that the purpose for our time in Madrid became apparent. Our teacher prompted us to find a problem local students in Madrid face, and through entrepreneurship models, determine a solution. Teams choose a variety of issues, such as health, finances, and more.

After speaking with students attending the university, my group and I were pleased to see that many of the Spanish students had aspirations to start a company, leading us to our project topic: entrepreneurial spirit.  Many of the students at our university had complex ideas, in hopes of developing them into businesses, however they often neglected these aspirations due to a lack of entrepreneurial support.  By speaking with these students, we came to learn that Spanish students do have an entrepreneurial spirit, it was support they lacked.  

However entrepreneurial these students were, we found that they were studying to be accountants, lawyers, or doctors, due to a lack of institutional support. Although we found it odd that students with such aspirations weren’t pursuing them, we realized that due to the social stigma in Spain against entrepreneurs, these students were on paths leading towards a more stable profession- perhaps as they were taught to do.  

Coming from Northeastern, we are fortunate enough to have a prevalent sense of entrepreneurship, which is consistently encouraged by members of the community. However, in Madrid, entrepreneurship is often looked down upon and considered an unstable profession.  At first, we assumed that the lack of entrepreneurial spirit was primarily within the university, however, we soon realized, it stemmed much deeper than that- it is a national issue.

Entrepreneurs in Spain pay a considerable business tax, and are further discouraged by significant international trade taxes. For example, entrepreneurs who decide to change their residency to a different country and the value of stake in their country exceeds 4 million euros, or they own more than 25% of the company would have to pay an exit tax.  These government regulations make it nearly impossible for Spanish entrepreneurs to establish themselves as a global brand.  Without international recognition, startup companies are unable to acquire sufficient capital, as both local and foreign investors are discouraged by the constrained market.  In order to protect its legacy businesses, in hopes of insuring consistent national capital, Spain is holding back aspiring entrepreneurs- leading to a lack of entrepreneurial spirit.    

With this in mind, our team started a program for college and high school students to help develop an entrepreneurial spirit, similar to what we have at Northeastern.  Our program teaches the students basic business skills, such as: networking, interviewing, resume building, and ideation development.  This experience showed us that not only is Spain suffering from a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, it made us further recognize how lucky we are to be at a school that celebrates, supports and encourages entrepreneurs.  Through this program, we were able to share the value of entrepreneurship with the students of Madrid.