The Vikings are back: why Book’n’Bloom chose Madrid to scale its business

- October 21, 2014


Guest post: Claus Rosenberg Gotthard is a Danish serial­ entrepreneur with over 20 years of startup experience. His latest project, Book’n’Bloom, helps small local businesses adapt to the new business environment by allowing them to operate straight from a Facebook page and offering also a mobile app for their clients.

The first recorded attack by the Vikings in Spain goes back to 844 A.D. under Alfonso III ‘Emperor of Spain’ and in 854 A.D., when they ransomed García Íñiguez of Pamplona for 60.000 golden pieces. Back then the model was basically ‘rape and plunder’. Now they are back ­-well at least one of them ­but with a different ‘business model’-, as this time we are here to build companies, grow, and prosper in one of Europe’s best cities:  Madrid.

I am what you call a serial­-entrepreneur’. I have been building businesses since I was a teenager and have been the boss of myself for more than 20 years. This has taken me around the world as I have built companies in Denmark, Russia, Spain, Greece & Cyprus.

For the past 3 years I have been working on my latest venture (Book’n’Bloom), starting with a team placed in London, Thessaloniki and Limassol. As the building of our MVP was coming to an end we had to start selling our product and get important early feedback. It was clear to us that being in Thessaloniki was great for development (since it would facilitate access to talent and would imply a low burn­rate) but it was not the place to be when launching our product and we had to look for a city to start selling.

Being a technology company, the first thing that pops to your head is the US. And surely we want to go to the US, but we are also realistic and choosing the US as the first place to go would be suicidal. We had to learn to walk before we could run. So we looked towards Europe and the 2 obvious candidates were London and Berlin, with their well established ecosystems and huge base of investors and media. I love both cities and have been going there for over 20 years but for what we needed they were both expensive and crowded.

As our product is aimed at small local businesses who offer services and work with appointments ­-be that a nail salon, a hair dresser, physiotherapist or teeth whitening clinic-­ we needed to be in a place where ‘beauty spending’ was a large part of consumer spending. We already knew that Latin America is a huge and interesting market for us, so when we combined these facts we reached the conclusion that Spain, and in particular Madrid, would be the place for our first expansion and roll­out.

We arrived in Madrid in Q1 of 2014, established a small office in C/ Almirante and started to look for talent in order to become part of the ecosystem, while also meeting everyone who was part of it. Needless to say, the IE Business school played a key role as they are doing a great job in building and promoting the startup ecosystem.

We’ve been in Madrid for 6 months I must say that our decision was the right one since the city combines the best characteristics. To be more specific, Madrid (and Spain) offers a great work ­life balance with its ‘extended day’: I start working at 9:00 and when it’s 19:00 I can stop working, go to the gym and still enjoy the evening with my wife or meet our friends for dinner, go to bed around midnight and still get a full night’s sleep. If you are looking for money, there is a large number of early stage angels and VCs in Spain and over the past few months we have seen more and more funds from abroad come to market. I am certain that there is no lack of funds for an early/growth stage startup in Madrid.

Setting up a shop in Madrid has taught us how to ‘walk’ and this experience will be useful when we expand to Latin America where we should learn how to ‘run’. And once we master that, we will go to the US to ‘fly’. And I’m sure it won’t be the first time that Vikings will come ashore in the US and leave a lasting mark.