What's Better Than a Startup Garage? Try a Butcher Shop

Photographer: PNC/Getty Images

San Sebastian, Spain, where World Wide Web Ibercom started its telecom-services company. Close

San Sebastian, Spain, where World Wide Web Ibercom started its telecom-services company.

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Photographer: PNC/Getty Images

San Sebastian, Spain, where World Wide Web Ibercom started its telecom-services company.

Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Google all famously started out in garages. The entrepreneurs behind World Wide Web Ibercom chose a former butcher shop near San Sebastian, Spain, as the place to start their telecom-services company.

Now it's looking to beef up its business overseas.

Founded in the late 1990s, Ibercom has expanded throughout Spain by offering data-center, telephone, Internet and mobile services to almost 16,000 small- and mid-sized companies. Jose Poza, Ibercom's 41-year-old CEO, said focusing only on the needs of businesses helps his company to cleaver bigger rivals, such as Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone. Ibercom aims to create customized tools suited to each corporate customer, he said.

"Instead of giving you a set menu, we let you choose a la carte," said Poza. "We only provide those specific services that each firm needs. So we're kind of a luxury telco."

Kind of like Burberry, if it had starting making its handbags in a slaughterhouse.

Growing hasn't been easy for Ibercom. The economic crisis in Spain forced many businesses to reduce their spending, Poza said. Ibercom, which went public last year, is seeking to raise 4.3 million euros ($5.9 million) from investors before the end of the year to help the company expand.

While Ibercom remains focused on Spain, the company is starting to look outside its home country for growth. Ibercom is in talks to team up with a company in Colombia to tackle that market, Poza said. Making profit in an emerging market is tough. But Poza is betting on businesses willing to pay a premium price for specialized services.

"Companies don't care as much about the lowest offering in the market as they do about which telecoms provider fits best in their strategy," Poza said. "Do you think that companies prefer to spend more on coffee than on the technology that keeps their business running?"

In Colombia, where they love their coffee? We'll have to wait and see.

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