Phase: Anticipation
  • Advice
  • Fostering innovation
  • Matching/Networking
  • Start-up support
  • Support of companies' growth
  • Support of internationalisation
  • Support of SMEs
  • Training
Last modified: 26 September, 2020
Projekto pavadinimas::

Desafía San Francisco

Angliškas pavadinimas:

San Francisco Challenges


Any Spanish company interested in participating in Desafía San Francisco activities has to fulfil the following requirements:

  • To be a Spanish ICT-based SME, either based in Spain or founded by a Spanish citizen. 
  • To have an own technology-based innovative product or service, that is a product or service that can be regarded as new to the market.
  • To be compliant with the legal obligations required for Spanish companies, particularly regarding tax and social security contributions.
  • Participants have to cover only travel, accomodation and living expenses while in Madrid and San Francisco.
  • The employee designated for participation in the Desafía San Francisco must have an English level equal or above C1 (i.e. proficient).

Main characteristics

Desafía San Francisco is a public, non-profit initiative (it used to be a public-private initiative until December 2016) launched by ICEX (Spanish Trade and Investments Public Office) and Red.es (Spanish Digital Agenda Public Office). The instrument supports the internationalisation activities of Spanish ICT-based small and medium-sized companies in the Silicon Valley and in the United States (key market for these ICT-focused SMEs). There are two main measures implemented by the programme: the Immersion programme and the Validation programme.

The Immersion programme is organised around calls, twice per year (one in spring and the other one in autumn). Selected applicants participate in a two-days workshop in Madrid to prepare their two-weeks immersion experience in Silicon Valley. The two-days workshop in Madrid includes specific information on how to better present the company to a US audience, assistance to better prepare and present a business plan as well as specific information related to the US (living costs, requested entry documents, accommodation). The two-weeks experience includes:

  • Pitch training with world-class experts (mainly practitioners and consultants) from Europe and Silicon Valley.
  • Different workshops (approximately 35) with investors, business experts and legal advisors on different US-related issues such as go-to-market strategies, fundraising and venture capital mechanisms.
  • Tips and advice from successful Spanish entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley.
  • Networking, one-on-one meetings and mentoring sessions with local experts, executives, entrepreneurs and interested investors.
  • Networking activities with other Spanish entrepreneurs located in RocketSpace in order to share experiences and get useful recommendations.
  • Visits to key companies and universities located in Silicon Valley.

Participants in the Immersion programme have to cover only accommodation and living expenses while in Madrid and San Francisco, whereas for the remaining activities the programme is completely free of charge for participating companies.

The Validation programm is available for Spanish technological companies with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) but not necessarily interested in validating their company with Silicon Valley experts. This programme provides a direct channel to Silicon Valley to help firms to get a first contact with its mindset and receive feedback on the product with improvement recommendations.


  • National funds

Involved actors

National government
ICEX Spain Trade and Investment - Ministry of Economy; Red.es - Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda


Desafía San Francisco involved over 700 entrepreneurs and 500 companies since its introduction in 2011 (Red.es 2018).

The companies supported by this initiative raised more than $150 million (€132.24 million) and created more than 3,000 jobs until 2019. 

Crunchbase, the platform for finding business information, ranks Desafía San Francisco as the first non-equity accelerator in San Francisco and among the top 3 worldwide. 75% of participating companies in the Immersion programme acquired US customers until 2019 (Desafía San Francisco 2020). Being involved in the Immersion programme significantly increases the chances of success for an ICT Spanish company when expanding in the US.


Desafía San Francisco can be labelled as a very relevant and useful policy measure, a key-instrument for expanding the international activities of the Spanish ICT-based SMEs in the market of Silicon Valley and the US. Desafía San Francisco provides participating companies with significant information and services that facilitate their access to this highly competitive market (Fornalska-Skurczyńska 2018). Partner organisations and the administrators also make use of their own dissemination tools to promote the measure.


The programme lasts two weeks and introduces companies to the business culture of Silicon Valley, but lacks a longer period of support.


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