Companies on Spain’s Costa del Sol ‘lack ambition or initiative’ and are ‘handicapped by poor English language skills’, claims CEO of investment fund 

MALAGA entrepreneurs unwilling or able to communicate effectively in the language of Shakespeare are reportedly missing a trick in the business world where ‘the money is in English.’

This is the conclusion of Cristobal Alonso, an investment fund CEO who challenged 25 entrepreneurs to pitch to international investors in English.

In the event, only seven start-up founders from Malaga took up the challenge at the symposium, which was called ‘Flare’.

“It is difficult to find entrepreneurs who communicate well in English or who dare to do so,” Alonso told Diario Sur. “We can say that only a third of them have a go and this is a real barrier.” 

He also blamed malagueños for their ‘lack of initiative’ and their preference for staying in their comfort zone.

Only seven start-up founders from Malaga took up the challenge of pitching to international investors at the ‘Flare’ symposium

“People lack ambition or initiative, or a combination of the two,” he added.

Alonso, CEO of Startup Wise Guys, argued that the language barrier not only limits local entrepreneurs’ ability to integrate into the global business scene.

But it also keeps the local startup scene disconnected from foreign investors and business people residing on the Costa del Sol. 

This linguistic divide accentuates the psychological distance between Malaga and Marbella, despite their close proximity and potential for collaboration, according to Alonso.

Although it is not the only barrier to business between Malaga and Marbella – the lack of a comfortable means of transportation – most notably the absence of a train line – also weighs heavily.

Both Alonso and other investors who participated at Flare called the divide between the two cities a ‘handicap and a clear disadvantage’ for Malaga compared to its international competitors when it should be a strength.

“There is a clear disconnection between Malaga and Marbella, despite how close they are and how complementary they are. 

Cristobal Alonso, the CEO of investment fund Startup Wise Guys

“The first barrier is language. In Marbella the profiles are international: a Dane, a Swede, a Finn, a German… who may or may not speak Spanish on a daily basis, but in business, their language is English. “If you tell them to come to a ‘pitch’ or an event in Spanish, they don’t even consider it,” the start-up CEO said.

The winner of the Flare pitch competition, Victor Gentile, the CEO of Malaga start-up Planet Dataset, said he had little choice but to develop English proficiency for the sake of his business.

“It is a matter of survival,” he explained afterwards. “The money is in English.”

But for Gentile, the inability to communicate in English isn’t just restricted to Malaga’s business sphere.

“It is not a lack of entrepreneurs, nor of Malaga, but of society in general,” he concluded.


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