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Class Of 2012: Young Spaniards Launch Startups

"There are a lot of young people and even those up to 40 or so years old who are doing new business experiments," said Jose Ramon Pin, a business management professor at the IESE Business School in Madrid. "And there's a natural selection of companies under way. Those that survive the crisis or start during it have the advantage: The market will be theirs when the economy bounces back."

When the architects of Factoria 5 started their company as Spain's economy lurched into a deep double-dip recession, some of their parents told them they were crazy. The would-be entrepreneurs, however, had all just finished their architecture degrees plus digital media masters degrees and sensed they could fill a niche by becoming high-tech content suppliers to Spanish architects who no longer had work at home but were increasingly designing projects for foreign clients. The only other option was seeking work abroad.

After 18 months of 70-hour work weeks, few weekends off and skimping on costs by walking or taking public transport to visit clients, the hard work has paid off: Factoria 5 has completed 65 projects and makes money â¿¿ if not always a profit.

During down months, they take home almost nothing but have always managed to pay their monthly costs of about â,7/82,000 for rent and other office expenses, plus national health care and social security. Right now they're working on videos to showcase an office building in El Salvador, corporate headquarters in Puerto Rico, furniture in Madrid and advertising space for fragrances in Barcelona; about 90 percent of their work is for projects abroad.

The architects consider the result a victory given the terrible state of Spain's economy. But the success is bittersweet: They don't think they'll ever build the real buildings they dreamed about during their studies: Museums, apartment buildings, and a government offices like those that country built with no end in sight until the construction boom crashed in 2008.

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