4YFN: the main highlights of a jam-packed week of events

The 2016 edition of Mobile World Congress and 4YFN is over. In this article we look at some of the most interesting talks and panels that took place in sunny Barcelona throughout the week.

The biggest mobile conference in the world, Mobile World Congress, and its sister-and-startup-focused-event, 4YFN, are over. Three hectic days that got started with our very own Mobile Sunday and continued with a week full of news, interesting panels and talks from entrepreneurs, investors and corporates.

The whole tech.eu team was in Barcelona for 4YFN, and this is our summary of what happened at the event, as published on 4YFN's own website.

Day 1: Disrupted by mobile

The changes that mobile technology is causing across all industries was the key topic of 4YFN’s first day. The 2016 edition of the event opened its doors with a wide variety of talks, panels and workshops focused on mobile disruption.

The event was kicked off with a welcoming speech by MWC’s head Aleix Valls and Yossi Vardi, chairman of 4YFN.

4yfn 2016 Barcelona

After that, Google’s Rich Miner and Mike Butcher of TechCrunch took the stage to discuss the evolution of Android -the largest mobile operating system in the world- and Google’s approach as an investment firm, through their investment vehicle Google Ventures. What followed were more than 10 talks with companies of different nature, from traditional and large players such as Logitech or Nokia to up-and-coming startups such as Wallapop, Spotcap, Withings or Drivy, the French car sharing company that’s here in Barcelona representing La French Tech.

As previously mentioned, mobile technologies are disrupting not only the life of tech-savvy people, but also the general population both in developed and developing markets. These and other topics were discussed in sessions that touched on industries like financial technology services (which included the participation of 4YFN partner Banco Sabadell), telecommunications or the sharing economy.

Commenting on the topic of transportation and the sharing economy, Drivy’s CEO Paulin Dementhon said that “compared to the traditional rental experience, which involves a lot of paperwork and waiting, we have totally cut the red tape on the administrative part,“ and that’s largely thanks to innovations made possible through mobile technology, Dementhon said. “Forget what car rental used to be. Now it’s a truly seamless experience.”

4YFN participants also had the chance of attending 13 different workshops organised by industry leaders. Chartboost’s co-founder, Pepe Agell, talked about next-gen marketing tactics for companies to grow their mobile games, Indiegogo’s representatives commented on the evolution of alternative forms of financing, and French startup success story, Sigfox, encouraged partners and users to join their community to change the way IoT devices communicate with each other.

The ‘innovation market’ located at the entrance of Fira Montjuic was also one of the highlights of the day. More than 40 companies from all over Europe and with different backgrounds responded to questions from press members, investors and the general public.

The day finished with the 4YFN Awards Final for mobile companies. A group of experts featuring Ralph Riecke (hub:raum), Ran Ben-Yair (Ubimo), Roy Ramon (Intel), Ayelet Noff (Blonde 2.0) and our very own Jon Braford (f6s) chose mobile app ThingThing as the winner of the day.

Day 2: Internet of Things

4yfn 2016 Barcelona Winners

While 4YFN's opening day featured startups that are disrupting their respective industries thanks to mobile technology, on Tuesday the spotlight was on the Internet of Things (IoT) and its network of connected objects.

IoT has been for many years a key asset within the technology industry, thanks to lower hardware and software prices that make it possible for everyday objects to connect to the Internet and to share information between them. This evolution of the sector allows for a huge range of possibilities for startups, entrepreneurs and investors, but also for large companies such as Intel, Amazon and IBM, which have the capacity to provide the necessary foundation for new products and services to be developed.

There was a point emphasized by Amir Faintuch (Intel) and Kelley Hilborn (IBM) during their talks, that explained the advantages of their respective platforms for the development of the Internet of Things.

Another aspect agreed upon by nearly every speaker in the industry is the wide scope of IoT, admitting that although the attention of the public and the press has so far been focused on the area of smart home and wearables, there are sectors such as agriculture, medicine and construction that could be major beneficiaries of the growing trend towards “total connectivity”.

New forms of financing

While the technology slowly invades the lives of users, the need also arises to find new sources of funding for these disruptive projects.

This was precisely one of the recurring themes of the day, with several panel discussions focused on addressing alternative financing mechanisms that are beginning to take off and that will only grow with time. Financing alternatives for innovative startups brought together Bhav Singh of Sandbox Partners, Guy Horowitz of DT CP, Marc Goldber of Maslow CP, and Carlos Silva of Seedrs, all of whom spoke about how the investment sector is changing.  How to raise €7 million from an Island (Menorca Millennials) and What makes a city a startup hub? were other sessions that addressed the same topic.

IoT 4YFN Final Award went to Slock.it

Throughout the day, startups resurfaced as the stars. Not only those that were present at the innovation market, but also those that formed parts of the various competitions and demo days.  

In the morning, Startupbootcamp IoT & Data presented the startups that have participated in the last batch of its Barcelona-based program. During the afternoon, Telefonica Open Future had its turn and, finally, the Internet of Things 4YFN Final Award went to Slock.it.

Day 3: Digital media

Nicola Mendelsohn and Robin Wauters at 4YFN 2016

After two days with mobile tech disruption and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the spotlight at 4YFN, new media and the impact of technology on the sector were the highlight on the last day of the 2016 edition.

Numerous talks and panels brought together members of media entities and tech companies with a strong media component, such as Facebook and Twitter.

In the case of Twitter, John Egan spoke to attendees about the benefits that the 140-character social network provides to media and advertisers. Facebook was represented by Nicola Mendelsohn, VP for EMEA, who shared a table with our very own Robin Wauters to discuss the company’s media-related initiatives. Other companies and media outlets like AOL and Mode Media were also present on 4YFN’s last day, as were advertising and adtech companies.

The sector is currently immersed in a hot debate regarding advertising, which is still at the core of many media outlet business models. In recent months, many users have shown interest in mobile apps that block ads (adblockers), putting a great deal of pressure on media outlets and companies in charge of managing those ads. This was a recurring theme during the various sessions related to the realm of journalism.

The Spanish startup ecosystem

Spanish startups raised more than 500 million euros from various investment funds in 2015, the highest figure in the history of Spain’s young entrepreneurial ecosystem. This was largely thanks to numerous Barcelona-based startups, such as Wallapop and Letgo.

Both companies, along with others like Privalia and CartoDB, took part in at least three different talks on the evolution of the Spanish startup ecosystem, the main challenges its faces and, above all, the opportunities available for entrepreneurs and investors.

In that respect, ‘The state of VC investing in Europe and beyond’ was one of the highlights of the day, as influential European investors from Notion capital, Accel Partners and Balderton Capital spoke about major trends within the European venture capital market and existing opportunities in Spain.

mVentures BCN announces its collaboration with Numa

Mobile World Capital, which organizes 4YFN and countless initiatives in the city of Barcelona and Catalonia throughout the year, also took advantage of the last day of 4YFN to make an important announcement.

mVentures BCN, the small public-private investment fund created by Mobile World Capital, announced an agreement with the French startup accelerator, Numa, to set up a new program in Barcelona with an important international component.

Digital media award winners

Like on the previous days of the conference, 4YFN organizers and associated experts chose the best startup in ‘digital media’. Pixoneye was the winner in this category.

All images courtesy of 4YFN and Dan Taylor.

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