Sónar+D: Putting global startup ecosystems center stage

4 min read
05 Aug 2019

fter another successful year of Sónar+D, Barcelona’s international creativity, technology and business congress, we sat down with curator Antonia Folguera to discuss the impact Sónar+D is having on startup ecosystems worldwide.

For young companies starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, making the right connections and growing an international client base can be a difficult task.

At Sónar+D, startups can meet with artists, technologists and an array of creative professionals to uncover new ideas and network with like-minded people.

Taking place alongside Sónar international music festival, Sónar+D – which is now in its seventh year – explores how creativity can transform the present and shape the future. 

With a program packed with talks, panel discussions and workshops led by industry pioneers, Sónar+D aims to equip startups with the right know-how to launch their businesses. 

Photo: Sónar+D ©Mariano Herrera

Facilitating connections and increasing access

Since cross-industry collaboration is at the heart of Sónar+D, the congress is fertile ground for startups to broaden their networks. 

“At Sónar+D, we believe that merging disciplines, technologies and different points of view can foster innovation,” Antonia told Startup Guide.

“Since the very beginning, the congress has been a meeting point for creative professionals and companies from different industries across the globe. Just like any startup ecosystem in Europe, Sónar+D is a place where you can make important connections.”

Sónar+D’s focus on network building gives startups the opportunity to find investors, partners and advisors – and fast. 

“For many companies, reaching the right people in an organic way can take up to three or four months,” Antonia continues. “At Sónar+D, it can happen in three days.” 

At Sónar+D, we believe that merging disciplines, technologies and different points of view can foster innovation.

Having teamed up this year with the organizers of startup event 4FYN (4 Years from Now), Sónar+D rolled out their Startup Hub program, which is designed to help fledgling companies boost their local and international profile. 

Selected companies are given the opportunity to meet with investors, participate in personalized mentoring sessions and link up with strategic contacts in different global ecosystems. These companies are also offered a space in the Sónar+D exhibition area to showcase their projects to an international audience of over 61,000 creative professionals and enthusiasts.

Photo: Sónar+D

Broadening horizons

Sónar+D has been instrumental in helping startups put down roots and increase their global visibility. Virtual reality startup BroomX Technologies from Barcelona is just one example, having met at the congress in 2015. 

After winning Sónar+D’s startup competition last year, the company grabbed the attention of Universal Music Group. BroomX has since joined the Universal Music Group incubator, dubbed Abbey Road Red, to develop its immersive sound technology, and the company has been returning to Sónar+D every year. 

Over in the UK, audio hosting platform Audiu made their debut at SLUSH tech conference based in Helsinki after being awarded the ‘Best Music Startup’ award at Sónar+D in 2017. Following on from this success, the company announced a reel of new partnerships with companies including music production specialists Native Instruments and online music distributor, TuneCore.

Ultimately, startups need customers. For companies that work in the creative industries, Sónar+D is a great place to find your end user.

Photo: Sónar+D

Berlin-based startup Mod Devices has also achieved breakneck growth since winning the Sónar+D startup competition in 2015 and has been a regular at the congress ever since.

“One day they were a participating startup at Sónar, and the next they were a fully fledged music technology company,” Antonia says. “There have been many instances like this where startups have come along to Sónar+D and have found investment, cofounders, or even a new idea, and have been able to exhibit their project years later at the congress.”

With over 4,600 professionals from nearly 2,000 organizations attending the conference this year alone, Antonia thinks that Sónar+D is the perfect setting for companies to showcase their projects to a wider, international audience. 

“Ultimately, startups need customers. For companies that work in the creative industries, Sónar+D is a great place to find your end user.”

One of the most valuable assets of Sónar+D is the diversity of its attendees. According to Antonia, startups really do come from far and wide, and even those based in Barcelona have international team members. 

“The festival itself further amplifies this internationality,” she says. “When you walk from Sónar+D into the main arena, there is a whole festival of people just talking and dancing. The whole event offers people a chance to meet and get together, as the BroomX guys did five years ago.”

Photo: Sónar+D Conference

Community and collaboration

Sónar+D is making its own moves to expand its international borders and collaborate with other innovation hubs worldwide.

Earlier this year, Sónar+D teamed up with creative incubator Factory Berlin to support the launch of the Creative Code. This joint initiative aims to create new opportunities for collaboration at the intersection of technology and art by bringing together corporates, tech experts, artists and thought leaders in a new multi-purpose space dubbed the Creators Lab.

No innovation hub would be complete, however, without a community of creatives to shake things up. In partnership with Sónar+D, Factory is having an open call for artists to take up residency in the Creators Lab and participate in a program of project support and mentorship. 

As a member of the creative jury board, Antonia will be part of a team of experts who will select the best and brightest candidates to join Factory’s creative ecosystem.

“It’s important for us to have contact with other startup hubs in Europe, and Berlin is a very important one for the creative industries,” says Antonia. “For example, most of the music technology companies that are relevant to the Sónar ecosystem are based in Berlin.” 

In addition to carrying on the conversation about the creative potential of multidisciplinary collaboration (referred to by Sónar+D as ‘anti-disciplinary’), Factory Berlin has also helped raise the international profile of Sónar+D. 

“Factory has been instrumental in helping us disseminate our call for startups every year and have helped to spread the word about Sónar+D worldwide,” Antonia says. 

Sónar+D’s founding ethos of the power of creativity and collaboration has defined the congress since its humble beginnings in 2013. Antonia says that as Sónar+D continues to help startups facilitate connections and grow their enterprises, there will be “more interesting outcomes and things to talk about in the months to come.”

Photo: Antonia Folguera ©Jonas Hellmann


Sónar+D will return for its eighth installment in 2020.