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Tech Career Insights: Barcelona: City Guide for Software Developers
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Barcelona: City Guide for Software Developers

By Simone Markham

Often referred to as the Silicon Valley of southern Europe, Barcelona is a burgeoning tech hub, expat friendly and offers great quality of life. If you’re considering making the move over to one of the many tech startups in Barcelona, here’s everything you need to know.

Working living in Barcelona as a software developer

Living in Barcelona

Sandwiched between the Serra de Collserola mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona offers the best of the outdoors, coupled with the arts, history, and a vibrant startup culture.

Barcelona is celebrated for its beaches, Catalan Modernist architecture, and regionally distinct culture. It’s the capital of the autonomous Catalonia region and has two official languages: Catalan and Spanish. It also has a large expat community with close to 400,000 international workers in the city.

There are numerous pros to living and working in Barcelona. It has a lower cost of living than other European cities, mild winters and warm summers, and is rated the 11th safest city worldwide. It’s also known for its world-class cuisine, with renowned fish-based Catalonian dishes, such as Fideuà (a kind of paella, but with noodles and oodles of seafood and shellfish).

You’ll also have no trouble getting around. Barcelona has a metro system, reliable buses, affordable taxis and a public bike-sharing scheme, with 6,000 mechanical and 300 electric bikes available across the city.

Working in Barcelona

Barcelona has no shortage of opportunities in the tech sector. Within Europe at large, Spain ranks fourth overall for the total number of tech roles, and a significant portion of these are in Barcelona. As of 2018, 34% of Spain’s startups were located in this port city.

And all indicators point to further growth for Barcelona tech companies. Investment is pouring into the city, and Barcelona has several unicorn startups valued at over $1 billion, including Wallbox, Travelperk and letgo.

As is common throughout Spain, work typically kicks off at 10am. That’s because the workday is quite lengthy, with most people only clocking off at 7pm.

But despite the late finish, there’s an extended lunch break called siesta that can be up to three hours long. Contrary to many other cities, you’re unlikely to spot your colleagues skipping _siesta. _Workers will use this time to eat a meal, and possibly take a short nap. But it’s also a time for teams to spend time together, and to make connections and network – a vital part of doing business in Barcelona.

Top tip: For meetups in Barcelona, check out Startup Grind Barcelona, MWC Barcelona and Meetup.

While traditions are shifting, particularly in the startup space, Barcelona-based organisations are generally formal and hierarchically structured. Smart work attire is expected and management structures should always be respected.

Despite these traditional structures, remote work is increasingly prevalent in Barcelona. This helps workers in Barcelona to enjoy greater flexibility, work-life balance, and take advantage of the verdant parks, sprawling beaches and restaurants that Barcelona is famous for.

For remote workers looking to split their time between a home and office environment, there’s an established culture of co-working in Barcelona, particularly for tech workers and startups. Head to the 22@ area, in Poblenou. As the city’s technology and innovation district, it’s known as the Silicon Valley of Barcelona, with the added benefit of being adjacent to the beach.

Top tip: For co-working spaces in Barcelona, check out: OneCoWork, Itnig and Pier01.

Tech startups in Barcelona: key industries

Tech giants Meta, Microsoft, Nestlé and Bitpanda all have digital hubs in Barcelona, and the region is set to grow its digital presence.

Meta has a footprint in both Barcelona and Madrid and is investing in a new transatlantic half-petabit cable that connects to Spain. The infrastructure will allow Meta to develop a new data centre in the country, and the organisation plans to recruit an additional 2,000 workers in the region over the next five years.

In the tech startup world, Barcelona has a particularly strong presence in e-commerce, software, fintech, and logistics.

E-Commerce: Wallapop

There are 672 e-commerce companies in Barcelona. Wallapop is a prominent contender in this space, with 15 million active monthly users in Spain. After withdrawing from the US market, the platform is looking to expand its services to Italy.

  1. Founded: 2013
  2. €185 million raised
  3. €805 million evaluation
  4. 201–500 employees

SaaS: Typeform

The Barcelona software industry spans 751 organisations. Expected to reach unicorn status in 2022, Typeform is a leading SaaS organisation with its headquarters in Barcelona. Typeform is a no-code platform that provides tools for developing dynamic online forms, quizzes and job applications for business and personal use.

  1. Founded: 2012
  2. €179 million raised
  3. €896 million evaluation
  4. 201–500 employees

Fintech: Belvo

This open finance API platform raised over €41 million in Series A funding in 2021 and is part of a burgeoning sector of Barcelona tech companies in fintech. It’s backed by, amongst others, Future Positive – the fund by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

Belvo’s finance services cater to “unbanked” populations in Latin America (less than 50% of individuals in the region have a traditional bank account). Instead, Belvo pulls financial data from a range of other applications and e-wallets.

  1. Founded: 2019
  2. €53 million raised
  3. 51–200 employees

Logistics: Stuart

Before this last-mile delivery startup had even launched, it had raised €22 million. At that time, the company was valued at €45 million, and was acquired just a few years later by GeoPost for an undisclosed amount. The organisation now operates in 125 cities in six different countries, and is recruiting for 17 software engineers in Spain.

  1. Founded: 2014
  2. €23.5 million raised
  3. 201–500 employees

Securing a work visa for Spain

Unless you’re an EU or EEA citizen, you’ll need a visa to work for one of these Barcelona tech companies. Depending on your qualification, experience, and salary range, you’d need an EU Blue card, or highly qualified word permit.

Either way, your employer will need to apply on your behalf. As a foreign national, there are checks and balances in place to ensure your role can’t be filled locally, and organisations below a certain size need to demonstrate that employing you will grow Spain’s economy or contribute to an area of strategic development.

For a highly qualified work permit, you can expect to wait 6–8 months. If you qualify for an EU Blue card, your wait time will be just 1–2 months.

Working hours, benefits and leave

As a full-time worker in tech startups in Barcelona, your work week is capped at 40 hours. Any overtime you take on has to be entirely voluntary, and can be compensated with additional pay or annual leave. Overtime is also capped, and can’t exceed 80 hours for the year.

You’ll be entitled to a minimum of 22 working days of paid annual leave each year, not including national public holidays. And if you’re expecting a child, you’ll have 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave.

Other mandatory benefits include a work-from-home allowance for remote workers and a 13th and 14th cheque. Organisations often provide relocation assistance, private health insurance, and other varying benefits.

Tax considerations in Barcelona

Full-time Spanish workers pay two different kinds of tax: income tax, and a contribution to their social security tax.

Your employer is responsible for the bulk of your social security tax. The average social security premium is 28.3% of your salary, and you can expect to pay 4.7% of that amount. After you’ve enrolled in the General Social Security Fund (Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social or TGSS) you’ll have access to a number of benefits. This includes medical insurance that covers illness, injury, and work-related accidents, as well as cover for unemployment and parental leave.

Income tax can be managed one of two ways. You can calculate and submit this yourself, or have your employer deduct this directly from your salary slip. This second option is mandatory if you’d like to take advantage of a special, set tax rate for highly skilled individuals who relocate to the area for work.

Under this tax law, which is nicknamed the Beckam Law, you’ll pay a flat 24% for your first six years of residence, provided you’re not self-employed, haven’t been a Spanish resident for the previous 10 years, and do not have Spanish residency.

This means you could be paying significantly less tax than workers paying residents tax, which ranges from 21.5% (at the lowest tax bracket) and 49% (at the highest).

Finding the best Barcelona tech companies to work for

It’s clear that the tech and startup scene in Barcelona is skyrocketing, and the sector needs skilled workers. With so much demand, skilled software developers have the pick of the bunch.

If you’re ready to take the leap and find a role that matches your skillset, career and salary goals, OfferZen is ready to work with you.

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