Francisco Polo, in Barcelona.Carles Ribas
Francisco Polo (41 years old) has been in the Government for five years at the forefront of entrepreneurship policies, and has recently carried out his flagship project, the start-ups law. He knows the industry well, having been very successful with his company called Actuable. His time in the Administration has given him realism and he advocates listening to all voices in an area in which he is used to prevailing a certain triumphalism.
Question. This month the start-up law came into effect. What changes can already be perceived in the sector?
Reply. The law is a revolution. For the talent, because now we will have the best stock options scheme [retribución variable basada en opciones sobre acciones] from Europe, because we have reformed and extended visas for founders, investors and employees from one to three years, and, above all, we have reformed the expatriate regime, reducing the requirement of having been abroad from 10 to 5 years. There is also a revolution for investment, with greater legal certainty and a better tax regime for business angels. And we remove barriers: from now on, creating a start-up in Spain can be done for just one euro and in just six hours, combining the start-up law with the create and grow law.
Q. In Spain, 9 out of 10 projects fail. How can the law affect that?
A. Well, with these tools, especially because of the challenge we have to retain and attract talent, such as the new visa for digital nomads, which is going to make Spain a paradise for talent. And new advantages for investment can also play a role. The law will make it easier for Spanish funds to grow in our country and for international funds to settle in Spain. This will make more financing capacity available.
Q. What does failure in entrepreneurship mean?
R. There will be those who say that failure is something to avoid at all costs, and there will be those who comment that what you have to do is fail, that it is a way of learning. My position tries to be closer to reality. And indeed, in Spain there are people who can afford to fail with almost no consequences. But there is a huge part of our society for whom failure means something very different and who should not be cheerily encouraged to fail. Our perspective is to create strategies and put funds and regulations to reduce those chances of failure. For example, introducing a bonus to Social Security contributions for those people who decide to start a business but do not give up their job. Because there is a narrative, I think wrong, that you have to get out of your comfort zone and take risks. That is false. If someone can stay in their comfort zone, which is keeping their job and at the same time we can encourage them to start a business, but without assuming the risk of bankruptcy and being left without a source of income, we have to do it.
Q. Now there are two clear poles of new companies, Barcelona and Madrid, and one of the lines of action of the High Commissioner is to address the territorial gap. How will do?
R. Innovative entrepreneurship is no longer just an end in itself, but is a tool at the service of society, which can help close a series of social gaps: gender, territorial, socioeconomic and generational. In our territory there are great differences in income issues and thanks to innovative entrepreneurship we can generate quality of life in all corners. This idea that innovative entrepreneurship is a thing of big cities, although it may be true in other countries, is beginning to crack here: not only are Barcelona and Madrid, but also Malaga, Valencia, Bilbao, the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands.
Q. How can the rights of workers in start-ups be protected, being a sector with so little union penetration, and with experiences such as the fines from the Labor Inspectorate to Glovo?
R. Labor rights, in start-ups as in any other company, are guaranteed. I also think that start-ups now understand that they are in a partnership and have to be responsible. There will be those who do not believe so, and pay the consequences. The innovative entrepreneurship sector has to contribute, and it already does, because 60% of the jobs it generates are permanent, and because the average salary in the sector, of 55,000 euros per year, more than doubles the average salary in Spain.
Q. With 80% of male entrepreneurs, according to the South Summit Entrepreneurship Map, the gender gap remains deep.
R. One of the things that any investment fund or any entrepreneur will tell you is that they need the best talent. So, what cannot be done is not count on half. Not only for a matter of principle, but for a purely economic issue. The data we handle is that teams led by women or that are equal, obtain better performance.
Q. Will the visas for digital nomads further stress the housing markets of Barcelona or Madrid?
R. 10 years ago there was already talk of tensions in the housing market, and there was no talk of digital nomads, but of phenomena such as gentrification. Digital nomads are a fantastic opportunity for our country. Because we have a tremendously attractive environment to come to work. And we have to get the most out of this phenomenon. A separate issue is the social challenges we have as a country. In many other places, such as San Francisco, where it is indeed difficult to access housing, healthcare or education, these social challenges have not been addressed while growing economically. But precisely these are things that the Government is addressing specifically and face to face.
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