In 1929, The Spanish National Telephone Company built one of Europe’s first skyscrapers on Madrid’s Gran Vía: the Telefónica building. Switchboards and offices filled the floors of Spain’s first telecommunications operator. Nearly 90 years on, the wires are long gone and the foundations of the future are going up on the eighth floor.
This is the showcase, but the secret lies in global cooperation”
Luis Solana, head of the OpenFuture project
This is the heart of a €647 million project by Telefónica to help young entrepreneurs launch and develop their businesses.
OpenFuture opens the doors of this landmark building to people such as Lucía Iborra, founder and CEO of Visual, a kind of Google Maps of the agricultural world that manages farming information and enables informed decision-making.
Iborra has been working at the Telefónica building for several months as part of an innovation funding program called Wayra. Two months ago, she received €1 million to develop her business and became an official Telefónica partner. She has just hired a young worker who began as an intern.
“When I walked into the office of [Telefónica chairman] César Alierta I drew him a ladder,” says Luis Solana, who was chairman of the telecoms company between 1982 and 1989, and is now in charge of the OpenFuture project. “The idea was to offer an entire process for young entrepreneurs that would connect all the initiatives. We want to be by their side all the way to the New York Stock Exchange.”
Once everything is up and running, up to 40 companies will share space on this floor – big ones, small ones, start-ups and fully developed ones, covering all fields of expertise.
“These days, everything is linked to telecommunications,” says Solana.
The Madrid headquarters will also keep tabs on projects underway in other parts of Spain, made possible with support from public initiatives in the regions of Extremadura and Andalusia. There will also be international partnerships.
“This is the showcase, but the secret lies in global cooperation,” says Solana. The Chinese company Tsinghua Holdings, a Telefónica partner, was scheduled to visit the Madrid facilities on Monday.
But the real showcase for the project is the OpenFuture website, where innovators will share projects and information.
One of these innovators is Fernando Calvo, who has been at the Telefónica building for the last 15 days with a cloud workplace messaging business called Imbox. “This opens the door to clients and future investors, and provides us with training in different situations,” he says.