Fabian Roschig parks on a narrow street in the hills of Palma, the capital of Mallorca. Up here, the pace of life is different from that of the resorts and beaches. You can find what 13 million tourists a year are trying to escape: normality. Only the deep blue sea in the distance is a reminder of why this residential area is located on one of the world’s most popular holiday islands.
A bungalow is home to the headquarters of the non-profit start-up cleanwave.org. Roschig has come here to meet Philipp Baier, one of its founders. Together with over 1,800 other young companies and founders, cleanwave.org has joined the platform mallorcastartups.com, co-founded by Fabian Roschig. The German moved here for work in 2008, providing consultancy for innovation projects and marketing strategy.
Fabian Roschig enjoys island life with the new B-Class.
Cleanwave.org: founder Philipp Baier (right) stands up for sustainability.
Some of his clients were major corporations – often in the tourism sector. Months turned into years and sooner or later, it became clear that Mallorca was his new home.
And why shouldn’t it be? Work and relaxation can be combined to perfection here. The scenery, the climate and the sea play just as much a role in this as the airport, which makes over 1,000 connections every day. Not to mention a digital infrastructure that is truly unique thanks to fibreglass cables and a comprehensive 4G network. “Mallorca is the best-connected island in the world,” explains Roschig. “Better than Singapore.” Major companies in the tourism industry are also headquartered in Palma, or at least have branch offices there. Which means that lots of jobs have been created in recent years in the tourism industry’s digital sector.
“One of the biggest hotel platforms now employs over 1,600 people in Palma,” Baier says on the bungalow’s patio. He knows this because he produces major corporate events for the industry as the owner of the travel agency LifeXperiences – some of which are attended by up to 1,000 guests. In doing so, he realised how serious the consumption of single-use plastic bottles was. “1.5 million of them are used and thrown away every day on the Balearic islands,” he says. Many of them end up in the Mediterranean. This fact inspired him and his wife, Line Hadsbjerg, to set up cleanwave.org.
The start-up aims to provide free filtered drinking water as an alternative to plastic bottles at refilling stations across Mallorca.
Baier started this enterprise by convincing hotels and restaurants on the island, and with great success: some of their business partners now include large travel operators and a Spanish hotel chain.
The goal here is not profit but to achieve sustainability. Any proceeds made by cleanwave.org from selling its reusable metal bottles are invested in projects such as the documentary Out of Plastic, which informs viewers about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. “‘Business with a purpose’ is one concept that inspires many founders who set up business on Mallorca,” Roschig explains. Baier nods in agreement.
Urbandrivestyle.com: the start-up’s e-bikes are practical and fast.
Sustainability was also a topic that motivated Ossian Vogel when he established the start-up Urban Drivestyle with his partner Thorsten Schoof about two years ago. The former helicopter pilot from Bavaria launched a bike-hire business for e-bikes on Mallorca. When more and more customers started to ask if the e-bikes were also for sale, he decided to build his own. He managed to raise almost 360,000 dollars on a crowdfunding platform for the development of the Uni Moke, Urban Drivestyle’s first product. This sensational hit was the start of a series of bikes that are characterised by trendy designs and exceptional usefulness.
“Mallorca is a melting pot. Our bikes are ridden by customers from all over the world – tourists and people who have made Mallorca their home. We can tailor our products to an international audience, right from the start,” Vogel explains. Urban Drivestyle has now set up a second office in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, home to many successful start-ups. Andi Kranki, one of Urban Drivestyle’s first customers, is responsible for the office. As a result of his experience in the digital industry, Vogel hired him on the spot as a managing director. Kranki says that he accepted because he was longing for a job that was related to tangible products and not just to websites.
Urban Drivestyle: The start-up’s showroom and bike-hire shop are worth a visit.
The modern world of work: cutting-edge architecture on the Parc Bit campus.
North of Palma, among the olive groves, almond trees, grazing sheep and ponies, is the Parc Bit campus. Start-ups have been able to hire space at the technology hub for over 15 years now. This is where we meet Alex Rios and Sergio Cancelo, two of the three founders of the start-up Happyforce. Both of them have just come from an appointment with their client Habitissimo, a platform that matches up tradespeople with jobs. It is the island’s most successful start-up, perhaps because it is a client of Happyforce. Happyforce has been measuring the satisfaction of various companies’ employees since 2015. The employees enter their state of mind anonymously online via a simple rating system.
Managing directors and divisional heads are then no longer able to sweep problems under the carpet. If the mood is negative, it’s there for everyone to see. Happyforce works for over 60 companies and its employees are located all around the globe. Only Daniel Castro Garcia primarily lives on Mallorca. Alex Rios in Barcelona, Sergio Cancelo in Madrid, seven other staff members in Denmark and the US. The ability to work from anywhere, which is what also gives Roschig the opportunity to live on Mallorca, is what turned the start-up into a global player right from the jump.
Myhappyforce.com: Alex Rios and Sergio Cancelo make employees happy.
Alaiar.com: networking in the courtyard of Finca Alaiar.
Come the evening, Roschig is in fine spirits. The list of participants for the meet-up of mallorcastartups.com is long and the recently renovated Finca Alaiar offers the best conditions for the ideal evening of networking. “You never know who you’re going to meet on Mallorca,” he says. “You can just bump into investors by chance on the beach. Entrepreneurs who have sold their businesses come to the island looking for a fresh start.”
One with more meaning. Similar to Roschig’s founding partners at the platform, Christian Bolz, and Gesine Haag who, with her husband Gerry, also runs an agency on the island that provides consultancy to companies on the topic of digital marketing.
Roschig warmly greets Gesine under the string of lights in the courtyard of the finca.
She opens the evening with a speech that summarises the approach to life shared by most of the founders in the audience: “What’s important for me is to know why I am doing something,” she says. “And whether I’m doing it because I really want to or not.” If you know the answers and allow your life to be guided by them, everything else just falls into place, she emphasises: first comes the happiness, and the success will follow.