Licensed to dream

The iFest presents the most innovative ideas in the country to young people to encourage them to go into business

"On January 14 2008 I was laid off. I decided that I would never again work for anyone but myself." With this statement Carlota Pi, cofounder of HolaLuz, caused silence to fall among the hundreds of young people between 16 and 24 who this morning attended the talks in the the first edition of iFest. This congress, organised by the Generalitat through Catalunya Emprèn, attempts to bring innovation, technology and entrepreneurship to the new generations through the example of the best ideas that have come out of our country in the past few years.

Throughout the day, they not only heard about the experience of entrepreneurs, but also got the chance to peruse the different stands, to touch the innovations with their own hands and even take part in a disruptive innovation workshop led by Xavier Verdaguer.

More than a subject
"Do you know what an accelerator is? And an incubator?" asked the CEO of PopPlaces, Karen Prats. Once again, silence in the room. "We have little idea of what entrepreneurship is, when they talk about accelerators and incubators it is double Dutch to us," says Rares, a student doing a degree in Development of Multiplatform Applications in the Institut Caparrella in Lleida.

3,000 students from 90 education centres, whether undergraduates, trainees or pre-school leavers, took part in a conference in which everyone sees entrepreneurship as a professional option. "We work on projects in school, now we are coming up with new itineraries for tourists," says Paula and Ariadna, two trainees at the Escola d'Hoteleria i Turisme in Cambrils, who do not rule out starting a business when they finish their studies. At the same time, there are those who opt for intrapreneurship: "I would not be an entrepreneur because I don't have the attitude, what I do want to do is innovate from within, to contribute innovation," says the student from Lleida.

"It took us by surprise how young the entrepreneurs are, people in their twenties who have more than 50 employees under their charge. The way they explain it, more than employees they come over as a team, it is fantastic to hear them explain it themselves," says Lluís Rodríguez, teacher of entrepreneurship at the Institut Montsià in Amposta. The teacher recognises that "most of the students will end up working for a company but there will be a percentage of self-employed; the important thing is that when they get an idea that they act on it and not let it get away from them."

The value of trying
This is one of the concepts that was heard the most: you have to try things out. "It is not about curriculums, but about enthusiasm," insisted Karen Prats. "If you get an idea, then try it out. Everything you do will help you for the rest of your life," added Xavier Safont, a young engineer who explained how he was part of creating an electric engine with MotoSpirit in the UPC. "Today everything we can think of we can create. We now all have superpowers, and we have to find out what they are during our lives," went on Cecilia Tham, introducing the concept of the Makers of Barcelona.

The CEO of PopPlaces, Karen Prats, was one of the protagonists of iFest | LC

Time to change the world
If there wasn't enough with the inspiration from the more "veteran" entrepreneurs, the attendees of iFest were also treated to the enthusiasm of the three founders of Sharge, which still sees its 20th anniversary as some way off. "We wanted to show the world that we young people have the power to change things," insisted one of them, Àlex Sicart. "It is not just about doing business, it is also about doing things that will change how things are set up," he added before reminiscing about how he fulfilled his dream of talking to one of the best friends of Steve Jobs in Silicon Valley.

Despite the mystery that often surrounds entrepreneurship, at iFest, the festival of technology, science and innovation, there are no lack of messages to keep one grounded. "I did not begin in a garage because I don't have one. We did it in an office without any natural light," jokes Alfons Nonell-Canals, founder of Mind the Byte. Now that they are in a scientific park and have all the light they need, he pointed out to the youngsters that it was achieved "with patience, devoting time to it and letting ourselves go. We have to lose the fear of moving ahead."

Someone who has also fulfilled a dream is Xavier Silva, cofounder of Hemav. "We wanted to be the Apple of drones!" he said to general stupefaction. After five years, there are already 55 employees in his charge in what has become "a data company," interpreting and facilitating clients with all the information they gather through these flying objects.

HolaLuz has also made progress. Carlota Pi pointed out that when they moved to their new offices in the Palau de Mar they put aside 20 of the 480 square metres for a creche. "At that time we only had one baby, but after a year and a half there were three more. And after another year, another two," she said by way of example before encouraging the young people to: "Get out there and, if you do not like what you see, then change it!"

From theory to practice
Generating disruptive ideas, designing a business model, creating a communication strategy and, in short, making projects reality. This is the the objective of the Imagine programme, created by Xavier Verdaguer in 2011 and who on Tuesday took part in iFest to argue for entrepreneurial culture. "You are here to generate disruptive ideas, crazy and innovative ideas, so that you do not have to wait for the future," said Verdaguer.

Xavier Verdaguer led the disruptive innovation workshop | LC

800 students divided into teams of eight people competed to find solutions to challenges like sustainable mobility through the Lombard method, "a tool for generating ideas and turning them into business in only four steps," said Verdaguer. How to integrate the different means of transport in a city or how to increase the charge stations for electric vehicles were two of the challenges that the participants worked on for 100 minutes.

After presenting the ideas in a minute and convincing all of the undergraduates, trainees and pre-school leavers in the dome of the Centre Comercial Arenas in Barcelona, the winners of the challenge will take the Imagine Express train in February to become dreamers of the edition of Imagine Silicon Valley 2017.
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