If you’re anything like the typical native English speaker who’s come to Madrid by choice, not assignment, you’ve probably found yourself in the sometimes-seedy world of English language teaching. Now, some of us are natural-born teachers and are passionate about the work, but many aren’t and just want out. Regardless of which camp you fall in, everybody dreams of getting a better job or even starting their own business. But as a foreigner in Madrid, just how do you do that?
If you’re looking for work, nothing beats having the right connections in Madrid. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll need all the support you can get from like-minded people who can not only help you formulate and refine your business idea, but also hook you up with a gestor, potential partners, or even sales leads. It’s all about the enchufe here in Madrid, and if you don’t plug in, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Here are four English-language networking groups in Madrid that can help you meet the right people and get your new professional life off the ground.
Created back in 2008 and with nearly six thousand members in their LinkedIn group, Guiri Business is the largest and most established English-language professional networking group in Spain.
Guiri Business attracts people who are actively looking to develop business or find a job. This isn’t a social club — it’s for Spain-based, foreign professionals who are interested in serious business networking. That’s why the founders chose LinkedIn to host the group: “LinkedIn is a platform for professionals and we wanted to keep it strictly business-only,” says Brian Heinen, the group’s co-founder and manager of the online community.
Many members use the monthly networking drinks to seek out particular people or to put a personality to the CV and headshot on LinkedIn. There’s no pressure to introduce yourself or present your credentials. After all, your professional resumé is already online on LinkedIn. “If a member wants to come and talk to specific people, they can — or if they just want to be there and hear what others are talking about — they can, without feeling they have to actively participate,” he adds.
Its free-form style, too, is deliberate, as people tend to naturally group themselves into threes during the monthly networking drinks events — the perfect balance to discuss business in a social atmosphere, says Brian. “It allows members to look into other members’ eyes and discover which leads they feel comfortable pursuing as customers without the pressure of scheduled meetings.”
The Madrid subgroup counts over one thousand members and recently got a reboot with a change of leaders. Its monthly networking event is a smaller, more intimate gathering compared to previous years when participation numbers used to swell to two hundred members at a single event. Lilian Hermans, the incoming leader of Guiri Business in Madrid, expects that the numbers will grow but is pleased with the turnout at the first networking drinks since the reboot. “It was great,” she says. “After the event, an English entrepreneur sent me an e-mail thanking me for organizing the event and said he made a lot of interesting contacts from it. So you see that it’s very easy to network. It’s really a valuable thing.”
Bottom line: If you are serious about finding business opportunities or a job in a laid-back environment, Guiri Business might be the right group for you.
Guiripreneur is a community of international people who are interested in starting a business in Madrid.
Pierre Alban-Waters formed Guiripreneur just a few years ago but it already has over one thousand people signed up on their Meetup and Facebook groups. Understanding that entrepreneurs and freelancers are different from corporate types, Pierre says that Facebook suits the community’s style better as “they are very transparent people in most cases, not afraid of being the same person when professional or outside of work.”
The group is big on action rather than long guru-led talks and members are expected to actively contribute knowledge and participate in any way they can. Giving and receiving is the spirit here.
At their monthly networking event called First Thursday, members engage with each other freely before a speed-networking session. A short talk with practical tips and ideas for the improvement of entrepreneurial life followed by a Q&A and a short activity applying the lessons learned complete the monthly program.
“We always start with an informal mingling, so people feel at ease. The organizers and more-active members introduce themselves, or even connect two members to each other. After a first informal part, we switch to forming a circle so everyone can present themselves and then effectively choose with whom they want to network. After this, we have a short, interactive and action-focused talk concluded with a Q&A. Finally, we usually keep on going with drinks and food as we always have it organized at utopic_us in one of the two mmm_us bars,” Pierre elaborates.
Many people who join the group already come with a business idea in mind. However, a few curious would-be entrepreneurs without a clear concept do come in as well, just to get a spark of inspiration from the energetic Guiripreneur community.
Bottom line: If you have an itch to start your own venture in Madrid and enjoy actively engaging with other entrepreneurs or freelancers, then you’d feel right at home in the Guiripreneur community.
Started about a year ago, the InterNations Madrid Business and Networking group has already grown to about 560 members representing over sixty different nationalities. Carlos Umaña created it to facilitate business and collaboration between fellow members of InterNations, a large expat community.
A typical IMBN event kicks off with short presentations from three to five members and then transitions into free-form mingling among the sixty to ninety attendees. “I encourage people to present their projects (in English or Spanish) and also to send me a private message if they are looking for a specific outcome of the meeting or wanting to meet a specific profile matching their needs. I always offer my assistance introducing people during the arrival and networking session, asking what profile they are looking to meet, and mingling through the different subgroups, moving people that might benefit from knowing others,” says Carlos of his hands-on approach.
Following up and matchmaking is a feature of IMBN, as Carlos keeps a small database of contacts, actively pairing specific searches and offers when the opportunity arises and then putting the two parties in touch. “I’m also reactive when people reach me asking for help. As an example, two days ago, the head of an Iberoamerican association sent me a message asking for a person that could take care of a presentation since she remembered someone presenting on the subject back in May. Now they are in touch and hopefully a successful partnership will come out of that.”
The atmosphere at an IMBN event is kinetic; presenters are always passionate about their ideas. Carlos explains that in person, conversation and card exchanges are always in motion.
Bottom line: If you want active help developing business contacts, IMBN is a good fit.
PINC was started by Lisette Miranda to help young, ambitious women living in Madrid take their professional skills to the next level.
It’s a relatively new group with just fifteen women, but Lisette says members are super active and very supportive both in person and online. “PINC was designed to have our time to talk about projects, ventures, ideas, and the emotions, trials, and tribulations that women specifically encounter and overcome. It’s a ‘safe zone’ where we can speak candidly without judgment,” she says about her decision to exclude men.
Meetings start with a casual round of introductions and move into a fifteen-minute presentation by one of the members on a topic that she is comfortable with — an activity designed to build confidence. “Many of the members who have presented have gone on to use the presentations that they developed for PINC to pitch to clients or present at seminars,” she says proudly. After the presentation, the group poses questions and discusses further.
Lucinda Howells, a public relations manager in Madrid, says: “Presenting at PINC was hugely rewarding. The first step was to realize that some of the basics that I took to be general knowledge through my career experience (media communications) could actually prove to be very useful to this group of entrepreneurial women, many of whom have come from different career backgrounds. Sharing this with them, and then seeing their engaged response, banished any nerves and reinforced the premise this group is founded on — a way of connecting and sharing professionally in a relaxed and supportive manner.”
Bottom line: If you’re a woman looking for a cozier group that helps nurture your professional ambition, PINC is the network for you.
I've been living in Madrid since 2007, married to a madrileño since 2008, and mom to our son since 2011. Tech is my thing. I love salmorejo, matrimonios and cazón adobado. I don't watch football.