Five hundred years ago, Portuguese set sail in search of new worlds. In such search, they found new cultures, concepts, and solutions to problems they had sailed away from. By then, the first centers of trade and business were already attracting the best from the region into this single place where all would meet. Geography was capital, but so was the amount of money available in the region. Already then, ideas/products would flock to where the money was.
Until very recently that was the case for tech-oriented SME’s and startups. Geographically speaking, many European founders had to relentlessly take the decision to leave their geography to move into one of the world’s tech capitals; Silicon Valley at the helm.
Ideas have thus been following the money, and unfortunately, most of the times, at the expense of their own survival. More often than not, this decision was made as well as a consequence of a feebly supported local business community.
Such scenarios are nowadays the ones we can find in a multitude of secondary cities which are on their way to being part of a very large group of communities spread around Europe. London, from the beacon of tech in EU, is nowadays just one of many hubs from which cities as Lisbon, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Vienna (just to name a few) are solidly part of.
It is time for money, the big money, to take action and start looking for the solutions they have been surviving from, where most of them have been coming from. European people reaction to the financial crisis has been one of rebirth through blood, sweat, and tears and solidly supported by innovation. One city, in particular, is starting to harvest the well-sowed seeds of education, backed by recent governmental initiatives ranging from fiscal policy to heavy support to local industry and innovation. Lisbon was riding the wave over the last years but it is now becoming a wave of itself allowing other Portuguese ecosystems to sprout. Universities in Braga, Porto, Coimbra, Aveiro, (just to name a few) have very strong R&D departments and will surely be the base for local innovation businesses to be given birth to.
The Portuguese government was, rightly so, the first one betting heavily on the innovation scene through an innovation fund (ie; Portugal Ventures). Then, the financial private sector stepped in (eg; Caixa Capital by CGD) followed by local Business Angels, Family Offices, and Venture Capital. Lately though, as well due to recent fiscal policy, FDI has been increasing at a faster pace and with great returns already. Some might argue that these first gains are mostly coming from the Real Estate sector but the truth is that those with the vision to invest in the first good tech ventures ended up striking very fast success stories. Portugal is now a full country looking at innovation. The crisis was the spark igniting this unstoppable engine. Five centuries later, Portugal has set sail to be a global leader… again.