Guest post: Why I was disappointed in La Red Innova in Madrid

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This is a guest post by Guillermo Vigil, of Socialance

For the last couple of days I’ve had the pleasure of attending “La Red Innova” for the first time. This is a web conference held in Madrid, Spain that aims to bring together high-profile speakers and leaders from different companies worldwide with emphasis on Spanish-speaking and Latin-American countries.

Celebrated right in the centre of Madrid in the great Teatro Circo Price, the venue and setup were excellent, if not a little too small for the close to 1,000 attendees there. For those more interested in up-and-coming startups from the Hispanic market parallel sessions oddly named “workshops” occurred in rather small, unsuitable rooms with generally bad acoustics and no WiFi connection. 

However, I did find some of the talks inspiring, such as Luke Williams’ (@LukeGWilliams), Richard Gerver’s, Pau Garcia-Milà’s (@Pau) or Chema Alonso’s (@ChemaAlonso), which covered competition, education, entrepreneurship and security topics with upbeat and lively discussions. Unfortunately, many of the others (and I’m not going to point any fingers) either felt more like blunt marketing attempts directed at an audience that may have preferred to learn more about the European startup ecosystem and startup experiences in Spanish speaking markets. Or they were simply not very well prepared, proofread and rehearsed.

As it is to be expected from any large conference the program suffered quite a few last-minute modifications and notable delays, which prevented me from attending two of the talks I was looking forward to the most, the one by Bernardo Hernández (@BernieHernie) and the one by Martín Varsavsky (@Martinvars), which no doubt I will be watching as soon as their recordings are made available.

On an up note, this time around La Red Innova included a startup competition called “Open Talent” where 20 businesses presented their products or services and competed for €100,000 (~$140,000) prize money from BBVA (one of the main sponsors of the event). The main problem with these presentations were that they were too long, the slides generally bloated, the rooms tiny, there was no jury to challenge the ideas and the attendees had no say on the outcome.

It was clear that the participants had been selected in conjunction with if not exclusively by BBVA, whose interests may very well be biased; as a result it was nothing like TechCrunch Disrupt and the startups that presented were given the small, packed rooms with bad acoustics (not exactly the place to be). 

Having attended a few web conferences and events I have to say I had higher expectations for La Red Innova, namely being the “Le Web” of the Hispanic world, and needless to say those expectations -if a bit unrealistic- were not met.

Unlike in conferences like GeeknRolla, here we started off with no ice-breaker that would have encouraged us to meet other like-minded people. There was a dedicated networking area, but you couldn’t talk to anyone without having a cloud of cigarette smoke blown on your face.

The truth is, organisation-wise, the event left a lot to be desired; long queues, frequent changes in schedule, considerable delays and to top it all most of the interesting speakers, high-profile employees or founders came for their talk and swiftly disappeared through the “VIP doors”, killing your chances to have any real and meaningful discussion with them or get a chance to pitch your business.

For a conference that celebrated entrepreneurship, I expected a more open attitude, more speeches like Pau Garcia-Milà’s, the founder of eyeOS, more real networking and less smoke.

Let’s hope they address these topics for next year’s edition.