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Class Of 2012: Young Spaniards Launch Startups

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Two members of Factoria 5 are friends of Class of 2012 participant Rafael Gonzalez del Castillo, who admires them for taking a big risk by sticking with Spain in tough times, instead of leaving to hawk their skills in booming economies elsewhere, amid a corrosive brain drain that threatens Spain's longterm future.

"We are young," said Gonzalez del Castillo, who expects to become a full-fledged architect soon with approval for his graduation project. "We are the best at creating new things because we are open-minded and that is what the world needs now: creation, change."

Spain has long been viewed as a laggard in startup entrepreneurship compared to other European countries. Startup proponents say there are encouraging signs that may be changing, though they acknowledge there are no hard numbers yet to provide strong evidence of a trend. In one positive sign, there was a big jump last year in Spanish startups seeking early stage capital funding, according to New York-based investment platform Gust LLC, which matches investors with entrepreneurs. And the number of self-employed Spaniards also rose, after successive years of declines.

"It's the mentality of the people," said Alex Barrera, a co-founder and former chief executive of the Tetuan Valley startup school in Madrid that gives 6-week crash courses to would-be young entrepreneurs. "I go to universities and this is an option students are now considering, whereas before they weren't even thinking about it. They were just thinking of working for a big company or for government. Now people realize you can build a company around a mobile app."

No one disputes that the Spanish economy is in the midst of a Darwinian phase of survival of the fittest â¿¿ and those willing and able to carve out something new in the crisis may be the ones best placed to come out on top once good times return.

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