Forgive the grammatical errors and typos in this post, but I just made it back from two days in Barcelona (I live in California, so it’s a non-trivial trip!).
Why Barcelona in November? Well, I work for Teambox, a start-up that has its roots in the beautiful Spanish city, and it was time to get the team together for an all-hands meeting. Teambox builds awesome software that facilitates collaboration and communication — but even for us, you sometimes have to get on a plane and meet people face-to-face.
I had been to Barcelona once before while on holiday with friends from university, but the memories are distant, and dominated by the fact that the coach I was on crushed the side of a car while navigating through the busy streets.
This trip had me arriving late last Tuesday night, and I unexpectedly got to try out the HotelTonight app, which has been garnering rave reviews. After taking a cab to the address I had been given for our rented apartment, I realized I didn’t have a clue which specific apartment we were staying in. My iPhone was refusing to connect to any cell network, so I resorted to ringing every buzzer on the building, saying with some embarrassment to the few that answered “Err, is Dan or Robert there?” (knowing full well they would not be from the moment I heard the older Spanish ladies answer).
Next plan was to jump on wi-fi…but it’s not Silicon Valley so finding a freely available wi-fi signal wasn’t easy. I resorted to huddling in the door of an ice-cream shop, checking in on Facebook in exchange for 45 mins of wi-fi access, so that I could email my colleagues to see where they were. A few minutes went by with no response, so I decided to download HotelTonight — why not? Still no email responses from my colleagues (who were out enjoying some of the great food you can find in the city) so I began to search for a hotel.
Not 50ft from me was a great place at $110 for the night. My finger hovered for a moment, above the elegant icon over which you must trace your finger to confirm a booking. Seeing no email from said colleagues pop into my inbox, I made the plunge, booked the hotel, and strolled over (avoiding one or two homeless people growling at me, and eyeing my suitcase enviably — Barcelona has its share of crazies).
Thankfully the drama was over there — I got some sleep, and met up with the team in the morning. We headed over to the new office that we have recently leased in the city and, though I haven’t seen the “bootstrapped” version of our current office, it was fun to see all the employees arrive in what will soon be their truly professional home.
Two days of vibrant presentations and discussions followed, and I was particularly grateful for the engagement during my presentation (everyone has a view on marketing!).
Most impressive was the level of English in the office. It left me feeling rather embarrassed given my less-than-schoolboy level of Spanish (I studied French and German in school). Truth be told, the team was very impressive in many regards, not just their mastery of the English language. For more on this topic, check out Teambox Founder Pablo Villalba’s blog post “Running an English speaking company“.
We wrapped up our meetings with some Tapas cooking lessons, and then a few of our team decided that rather than going to bed, we would simply wander round the city and explore Barcelona until the early hours, and then go directly to the airport without heads hitting pillows. While cold, it was definitely an enjoyable expedition, though I was glad our account exec, rather than me, was the one groped by the pseudo-hookers that populate La Rambla.
By 5am I was at the airport, and feeling pretty tired. This was compounded when I saw the “B” on my boarding passes (plural) indicating that I had a middle seat for flights from Barcelona to London, AND from London to San Francisco! I must admit, I took this news harder than perhaps a grown adult should. However, I pulled myself together over a great cup of coffee and a pastry, and resolved to change my seat as soon as I arrived in London. Thankfully the flight to San Francisco wasn’t full, so this was an easy task. Mini tantrum over.
In conclusion, it was a privilege to visit Barcelona and see the roots of the company for which I now work. Living in the Valley we tend to think everything starts in Los Altos or Palo Alto. Not so! Let’s continue to embrace entrepreneurship around the world — and be thankful for those that learn English, thus enabling me and others to be part of these stories.