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Mercadona president’s accelerator bets on La Palma’s metaverse

Latest NewsMercadona president's accelerator bets on La Palma's metaverse

La Palma is fighting to get rid of lava and its stagnant banana-heavy economy and is looking, albeit timidly, to the tech sector as a way out. The latest of the projects looking to develop on the beautiful island is Cocobay, an upcoming free-to-play video game created by Draco Blocks, an island-based development company that will base its operations on the metaverse. Based in Santa Cruz de la Palma, the startup project was developed for seven months at Lanzadera, a Valencian accelerator owned by Mercadona president Juan Roig.

Cocobay’s proposal is to make a video game based on the creation of a metaverse (that is, a virtual world where you can interact with other people or with the environment) available to everyone, as the Valencia promoter explained in a phone call. , mathematician from Palma (though born in Tenerife) Javier González Ferrer, 27 years old. “Our metaverse can be seen as a cross between Minecraft and a social network,” he says, “although our proposal is more about co-creation with user communities.” Not in vain for Ferrer, “the most important thing is the community,” given that with its help, “the project can be monetized before the product itself appears.”

The startup’s business model is fundamentally based on the sale of virtual objects within the created universe itself (clothes, avatars, for example), as well as the ability to run campaigns with the brands they want to advertise. “We intend to create a metaverse that will become a benchmark in the Canary Islands and allow us to capitalize on the amount of wasted talent,” he says. Ferrer claims to know the product well. “I’ve been playing since I was 12,” he explains. “I have spent hours and hours in the old school metaverses. With the development of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and now with the popularization of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), it has been proven that money can be made, which prompted me to launch and set up this project.”

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Cocobay, emphasizes Canary Islands Special Zone President Pablo Hernandez, is part of one of three projects approved this year to indicate a low-tax mechanism and a special tax regime for companies. Two other projects being developed on the island are from a German computer company that develops artificial intelligence for consumers (with clients such as the South Summit entrepreneurship event, ZEC points out) and a high-tech company. Together, the two companies generated 22 jobs and an investment of 3.2 million euros.

La Palma is a predominantly agricultural economy (more than 11% of its GDP is directly dependent on the cultivation and export of bananas, and indirect influence easily reaches 30%), with tourism as a second foothold. After the volcanic eruption, almost all political leaders at one time or another stated the need to diversify the island’s economy. “Recovery in La Palma can be achieved through technology sectors that are easy to implement and with high added value,” Hernandez bets. According to ISTAC (Statistical Institute of Canaria), Hernández notes, La Palma’s tech sector employed 169 people in 2019, up from 195 in 2020. 2021 ended with 209, with a logical slowdown caused by the volcanic eruption. . “But the conditions are there and La Palma could capture tech employment with remote workers.”

He thoroughly knows all sides of the coin.


A character from the video game Cocobay created by Draco Blocks.Draco Blocks

new industries

The public administrations of the Canaries last year focused on capturing and developing the video game industry, “a sector that complements the animation and special effects industry, in which the islands are becoming strong,” explains Hernandez. The archipelago, as stated in the white paper on video game development in Spain, is considered the third most supportive autonomous community for research, behind only Catalonia and the Community of Madrid, which account for just over 60% of all companies (the accounts of the Canary Islands). by 2.5% of the total in Spain, according to a document edited by Desarrollo de Videojuegos, Spanish employers in the sector). Hernández in this sense emphasizes that this industry “did not exist just two years ago” in the islands, and recalls that among its strengths is the fact that the Canary Islands are the only territory that offers a tax refund of 45% of what that was invested in the development of video games.

According to the ZEC, video games could be one of the main ways to reduce youth unemployment and create new jobs in high-paying sectors that do not require a long learning process or university courses. The same is happening with the animation sector, which is advancing with some advantage. This second industry did not exist in 2016 and currently employs over 1,000 people and has an annual growth rate of 99.8% since that year. The Canary Islands has been the filming location for titles such as League of Legends, a series that, at the end of 2020, succeeded The Squid Game as the most-watched series on Netflix for three weeks during which its chapters were distributed. Meanwhile, Tara Duncan became the first series entirely filmed in the Canary Islands to share space with The Beatles and Star Wars on the Disney+ platform.

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