Spain fails youth in innovative endeavours
Young Spaniards say bureaucracy is hindering efforts to start up in business
Alfonso Tordesillas and Gonzalo Queipo in their bookshop Tipos Infames in Madrid
At Tipos Infames bookshop in central Madrid, you can sip a glass of Rioja while leafing through the many offerings on the shelves. Or you might enjoy an espresso as you wander through the art exhibition area downstairs.
For many book-lovers, wine and coffee complete the perfect reading experience. For the Spanish authorities and banks, however, the business concept proved so incomprehensible and downright inconvenient that it took the shop’s three young owners six months to get a bank loan – and three years to secure the licences required to open.
“We didn’t fit the usual business model, so they didn’t know what to do with us,” says Gonzalo Queipo (33), one of the three.
Queipo and his colleagues are among many young Spaniards who say bureaucracy and inflexibility are hindering efforts to start up in business. This is absurd, they say, in a country with more than 26 per cent unemployment – and with some 57 per cent of 18- 24-year-olds out of work.
“The thinking here and the town hall’s approach are obsolete,” says Queipo. “They have a very fixed, narrow-minded way of doing things.”
Three licences were required to get Tipos Infames up and running: one for selling books, a second for the wine, and another for coffee. Queipo says that for many months they were bumped from one enterprise office to another, filling in forms and repeating the application process. And the banks were less than enthusiastic.
“You see all the bank adverts aimed at ‘young entrepreneurs’, saying, ‘Yes, we will help you start your business’. But it’s not true. In reality, all the banks want to know is, ‘Where’s your guarantor?’ Because if you don’t have one and you’re young, you don’t get the loan. They don’t base their decision on your business plan.”
The three pooled their savings and asked their families to stand as guarantors for the remainder of the €120,000 needed to start up.
While they waited for loan approval and the licences, they paid rent for a year on their still-empty premises. Eventually they opened in October 2010 having secured two out of three licences, although everyone – even the town hall – advised them to go ahead long before then, which is apparently the norm in Spain.
None of this comes as a surprise to social policy expert Myriam Perez Andrada, who has worked with international research body Ecorys and is now an independent consultant.
Perez Andrada is highly critical of the way in which the two main political parties – the incumbent conservative Partido Popular and the Socialists before them – have failed to harness the energy and entrepreneurship of Spain’s educated youth in an effort to pull the country off its knees.