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Postcard from Barcelona: 4YFN, MWC and Swedish Beers!

When one door closes, another opens; ticket holders at 4YFN, Barcelona’s mobile start-up conference are flooding through the doors of big brother MWC 2016 today to join the nearly 100,000 fellow attendees to have walked the halls and floors of this gigantic, genre-defining conference, sniffing out opportunities, making contacts and signing contracts that will secure the future of their businesses for another year at least.

Some will be bleary eyed and walking a little unsteadily, punch drunk after enjoying the mobile app development party at Hotel W on Tuesday, and an old school get together, Swedish beers, in the Barre Gotico last night, where celebrity founders, big name industry analysts and superstar PRs mixed with each other – and mixed their drinks.

Final day highlights at 4YFN included Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s VP of EMEA, being interviewed by Robin Wouters of Her boss Mark Zuckerberg undoubtedly stole the show at MWC on Monday night, entering the venue where he was due to give his keynote unnoticed as the entire audience had donned Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headsets. Surreal.

Mendelsohn’s chat was more Fireside than Fireworks – with the focus back on messenger for business and “Facebook at work”. Is it really possible to run a business with just a mobile and a Facebook page – Mendelsohn says she personally has friends doing it and generating multi-million pound revenues.

BANGKOK THAILAND – DECEMBER 19: Wax figure of the famous Mark Zuckerberg from Madame Tussauds on December 19 2015 in Bangkok Thailand.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was on stage to talk about his new project The People’s Operator, an ethical mobile network which funnels 10% of its revenues into charitable causes, and does away with pricey ad campaigns and flashy offices. Despite launching internationally last year, the service has been active in the UK since 2012 – another sign of Britain’s pre-eminence when it comes to the early adoption of mobile.

The day wrapped up with the final of the 4YFN Digital Media awards and a rollicking closing party, with revellers partying late into the night, Cannes style.

What did we learn – at 4YFN we learned that start-up culture is everywhere – in France (French Tech were out in force, sponsoring an all night hackathon); in Valencia, in Seoul, China – the Middle East – even in Greenland – the “force” is stronger than ever.

At MWC we learned that VR is (almost?) here. Zuckerberg thinks we’re not quite there, but many start-ups beg to differ Why wait for 5G? Is the cry.

As these vast Catalan arenas slide the hangar doors shut for the final time this year, Barcelona may start to feel a little “after the Lord Mayor’s show. But for conference fans and mobile lovers, MWC Shanghai is just around the corner! GSMA, the company behind these breathless behemoth events – keep on churning them out. Can you keep up?


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