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02 December 2014

Bullish On Entrepreneurship 

As Spain emerges from the banking crisis and economic slump that has afflicted it this decade, one of the tools in its armory is as simple as a warm welcome – to entrepreneurs from abroad looking to launch startup businesses in a country keen to create new jobs, especially for young people.

Last year, Spain’s parliament passed legislation designed to boost innovation and investment. It allows foreign entrepreneurs to obtain two-year, renewable visas as long as they have an approved business plan, health insurance and the means to support themselves while the business is getting off the ground.

One beneficiary is Stacia Carr, a Silicon Valley veteran who moved to Madrid earlier this year to establish an online video business allowing fitness instructors to teach classes remotely, in partnership with Iñigo Amoribieta, a former CEO of Groupon in Spain.

Carr says that compared with better-known startup hubs like London and Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona offer significantly lower costs, especially for technical expertise, but still possess an infrastructure of incubator facilities and the cluster effect of a start-up community.

Spain’s Ley de Emprendedores offers five categories of visa: for those buying at least €500,000 worth of real estate; entrepreneurs who plan to establish businesses; skilled professionals; researchers, scientists and teachers; and employees and trainees.

So far around 3,800 foreign investors, entrepreneurs or providers of desirable skills and their family members have taken advantage, pledging a total of €265 million for business projects.

Overturning preconceptions about the supposedly slow pace of Spanish bureaucracy, decisions on visas are promised within 10 working days, and residence permits within 20. Business groups say it sends an even more important message: that Spain is both liberalizing and internationalizing its economy.