It was on a tech-less morning that I began to wonder about the true motivations behind finding entrepreneurs throughout Europe and “shipping” them to the US or UK. As if the characteristics of those markets would always replicate the ones from the market where the idea was initially conceived. Intelligent investors keep pushing for this as most of the money comes from family offices and funds which believe innovation and breakthroughs can only happen where the Ivy leagues and money are. We don’t want any more Silicon Valley stories.
Challenging this model.
Throughout the last decade or so many European cities have made serious and unquestionable bets in activating their innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. If it is true that cities such as Barcelona, Berlin and London have been raising the stakes, there is one city doing it beyond well.
Lisbon considered its natural geography and the economic scenario to launch an offer hardly beatable by any other European city. This truly cosmopolitan city is served by very good technical Universities, right next to the beach, with lower office space prices than most places and a red bridge over the river. All this with an international airport 10 minutes away from city centre.
Many might think that this is the new Silicon Valley (the resemblances are too big to ignore) but Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, are different and can become into so much more.
In a time when most focus on serving the 1 billion living in Europe and the US, Portugal is the perfect bridge from these markets into both Latin America and Africa, not forgetting about the vast Portuguese diaspora in Asia as well.
So, in a time in which all aim at being in Silicon Valley, Lisbon offers itself as a great launch base with obvious bridges to the UK and USA and strong diplomatic bridges into Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Strong universities and a growing investment scene gave birth to success stories already over 10 years ago with companies such as Ydreams and CriticalSoftware and incubators such Instituto Pedro Nunes setting the tone.
Nowadays Portugal has grown into an innovation led and entrepreneurship based economy. Success stories are easy to find “left and right” and range from TalkDesk , to Hole19 and many others as you can find here.
Such growth is the result of a joint effort from several institutions as well as the quality of the labour force. The Portuguese government streamlined bureaucracy for entrepreneurs, municipalities made space available for co-working spaces and incubators and the Portuguese ingenuity is doing the rest.
Supporting this growth, and playing an important part in it, we find the tech focused gatherings and events. I don’t just mean the WebSummit, which clearly and soundly helped increase Portugal’s exposure. It’s not all about size “they usually say”. The smaller events focusing on determined verticals had the capacity of gathering the strongest players in the market and give them a sense of direction and access to an important pool of talent. These smaller events are not about smoke and mirrors… these are the ones that actually serve the community on a very pragmatic way. This said, the WebSummit is helping put Portugal on the map, and for that alone I have to say: well done Paddy!
The innovation community in Portugal is now a solid force. It is not just making magazine covers as now it is seriously considered in policy development at a national level.
I dare to say that both Lisbon and Porto are some of the most welcoming cities for foreigners relocating in Europe.
Launching your venture in Portugal will open you the doors to many opportunities that cannot be found in most of other places. Portugal offers you:
- Abundancy of highly competent labour force
- Multilingualism is generalized
- Generalized low prices on house hold goods
- Weather, food and mood makes it easy to convince foreigners to move into the country
- Tax breaks for foreigners using Portugal as a second residency
- Low price office space
These advantages are not there exclusive of the entrepreneurial sector. The banking sector, pushed by other events as well, is looking for alternatives to their “go to” markets (ie; London and Frankfurt). BNP is on the process of moving 4000 people from France to Portugal (hired in Portugal an average of 3 people per day in 2015) and others as Lloyds’ Bank are already in the field in order to move away part of its operations away from London. Cisco Systems did it already and others are following.
Unlike many of Entrepreneurship focused cities riding the wave of marketing, Lisbon rode the wave and now is strongly anchored in initiatives and policy that supports business growth.
Moving to Portugal to launch your business should not be seen as a choice to make, it should be a natural step towards your successful future. Remember Silicon Valley in its beginning was all about good weather, cheap square meter and good waves. Portugal is so much more than just that.