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Barca-Madrid, and by the way, Mobile World Congress

March 1, 2013



I just got back from Barcelona and Mobile World Congress.  I believe it was the biggest show yet, and felt quite different this year.  For one thing, it was freezing cold by Barca standards.  Between zero and 7 Celsius every day is NOT what you expect in that part of Catalunia, even in February.  MWC moved to a new location this year, which was bigger, and could accommodate the show more easily.  But, it was more like being at the convention center in Las Vegas than it was being in Barcelona, and for me it lost the magic of the old Fira.  My informal surveys got 100% agreement that people missed the old location.  Transport was more difficult—the trains were packed to the point that they were not letting people on for long periods of time, and in a city where every second car is a cab, there were times where none could be found, even if you were using the MyTaxi app.

I always get asked “What did you like best at MWC?” or “What was the theme of the show this year?”  I always have trouble answering because, for one thing, being on the ground, I don’t see all of the talks, and I don’t necessarily read the headlines.  I am there meeting people and I have my own agenda, which is not usually tied to the major themes.  That said, in my interactions, this year the theme seemed to be about “big.”  The major handset makers were there in force, aside from Apple of course.  Samsung, LG, HTC, ZTE, Qualcomm, Nokia—Halls 2 & 3 were basically owned by a few big guys.  And of course, there was Huawei with seemingly their own city, as always.  One of my friends joked, “Huawei offered to buy the whole Congress with all the little companies inside.”

There was a lot of NFC this year, and that had been more absent in recent years.  The App Planet hall lost a little magic in my eyes this year.  Fewer small players and startups, although they could be found in other places.  Country booths were good this year, with some very strong global representation, and that was where I saw the best new startups.

This year for me was special.  I was invited to an event at the Barca-Madrid football match, which is unlike any other game on the planet, and it happened to be on my birthday.  Spain takes its football more seriously than just about anything, including possibly its economy, and the day of the match, it was the #1 topic on everyone’s tongues.  Barca recently lost to AC Milan, and there was a question of whether they would recover against their bitter rivals.

The air was alive ahead of the game, and not just with the freezing breath of the 100,000 people present.  Have I said that it is a marvel to me how efficiently 100,000 people can get into and out of a stadium in Barcelona when we get hours of traffic jams in the US?  Digression.  I love the singing at soccer matches; 100,000 flags waving in time to song.  This time I got another new and fairly unique experience, sitting near the visitor section.  This is not the same as the US, even compared to Raiders Stadium.  The visitor section is tiny, and has netting all around it, and bars so that people can’t get in and out.  Didn’t prevent the endless banter in language I won’t repeat here, the attempts to throw things both directions, and even one firework that was lighted, and thrown into the visitor section (successfully), then returned (also successfully).

The game itself was a disappointment for the home team.  Barca was outplayed by Madrid, and even if the penalty shot given the Ronaldo should not have been called, Madrid still stifled the Barca offense, had strong counters, and would have won.  It was the one disappointment .  The palpable energy in the city after a win is something special—I saw it last time I was in Barcelona.  After this match, the city was still alive, but the energy was not quite the same. 

Maybe not all bad because the meetings the next day start at the same time regardless of how late the parties go.

From → Raising Capital

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