The Portuguese city of Lisbon is one of Europe’s sunniest cities, the most Eastern in-land capital of the continent and, lately, a place that is on the radar for many international companies and entrepreneurs. Lisbon lives between an old and modern atmosphere, an open-minded approach and cultural diversity which gives the city a special charm that is complicated to describe in words but easy to perceive once you set foot on its soil.
The Atlantic Ocean meets a Mediterranean climate, granting Lisbon a year-round good climate, which is appreciated by many water sports lovers and also gives the chance to live the city to the fullest. The capital isn’t very big, which makes it easy to move around by foot or public transport. It has buzzing streets, amazing well-priced gastronomy and breathes a medium-paced way of life that offers a good work-life balance.
In the midst of the economic crisis (2007), Lisbon learnt to open to the world to create new opportunities and embrace entrepreneurship in order to get the capital, and the country, back on its feet. The startup scene is embryonic, but it is growing rapidly, fueled by energy and attention. Still nowhere near European giants like London, Paris or Berlin, but everything is in place for it to grow to be the startup capital of Southern Europe. Between the most recognised Lisbon-born and based startups we can find: Talkdesk, Landing.jobs and Unbabel, among many others.
The population of Portugal is a little over 10 million which can be seen as a challenge or an immense opportunity for professionals looking for a new opportunity, companies and entrepreneurs. Salaries are amongst the lowest in Europe, which although can be seen as a challenge for many, can make Lisbon a good place to test out a new career for young workers and entrepreneurs.
On the radar of big corporations who are looking to open an office abroad and entrepreneurs aiming to start a project, Lisbon, and the Portuguese government, offer a helping hand to settle, start or continue a project or company in its country. In 2018 the Portuguese government created a venture capital fund worth €200 million, intended to boost foreign investments in startups. Related to this, there are many advantages to starting a company in Lisbon, and Portugal, for non-EU residents, like getting a golden visa or a startup visa for tech entrepreneurs.
The Lisbon startup scene and entrepreneur community is growing each day. Since 2014 Lisbon based startups have raised more than €200 million. As of 2018, 7264 companies have been created in Lisbon, 743 of them in the high-tech sector, one of the most popular in the capital.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also shaken up Portugal, but not as much as its neighbour country Spain. The government acted fast and declared a state of emergency mid-March, closing down its frontiers and implementing lockdown for its residents across the country, and specially in the northern region. Remote work and work from home is nothing new in most startups, which has made it easier for workers to keep the performance as if they were at the office.
After the worldwide economic crisis of 2007, Lisbon, and Portugal, found a way to come out and start to build the economy up again. Even though now there are many bureaucratic processes and company expansions on hold, there’s no doubt that Lisbon will continue to grow and shift from a startup and digital nomads hub to a scaleup centre.
For those interested in the Portuguese capital’s startup scene and those looking to move or invest there, here are some basic insights on the community and investment opportunities.
Lisbon’s top startup hubs and communities
Startup Portugal is a public-private think tank that operates as a link between the government, entrepreneurs, incubators and accelerators. It helps to design and implement public policies and private initiatives to serve the ecosystem and attract new investors. It has different initiatives and programmess for early stage ideas and projects as well as events to help entrepreneurs.
Made of Lisboa is the entrepreneurial community of Lisbon-based innovators that makes startup business ideas and ambitions feel at home. Those who are part of the community get the chance to use collaborative workspaces, get in contact with other innovative entrepreneurs and startup companies. Made of Lisboa is the place to be if you’re in the early stages of creating your business idea, because it gives the opportunity to meet people that are in the same path, and others that have walked through it and can share valuable tips.
Startup Lisboa was born in 2012 as a private non-profit association that supports the creation of companies and their first years of activity. It provides entrepreneurs with office space as well as a support structure – mentoring, strategic partnerships, access to investment, networking activities and a community based on knowledge and sharing. Aside from the business help, they also have accommodation options of the newbies in the city. They are based in the heart of Lisbon, just 2 minutes away from the river side. They are taking part in the creation of Hub Criativo Boato, which is supposed to be ready at the end of the year and aims to become the centre of innovation of Lisbon.
Investment Opportunities in Lisbon
Invest Lisboa was set up in 2009 as the result of a strategic partnership between Lisbon’s City Council and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with the goal to attract investment, companies and talent. It’s a one-stop shop for companies, investors and entrepreneurs looking to set their business or invest in Lisbon. They offer confidential and personalised free support, advice, information and contacts. They also lend a hand in identifying possible business partners, premises and investment opportunities.
Indico is the leading independent Venture Capital firm in Portugal. The Portuguese ecosystem has a quite impressive backbone of engineering talent, especially in enterprise tech and digital companies. To continue to enhance the engineering talent, Indico mostly invests in local-going-global sustainable technology companies. They invest from €200k to €5 million in areas like blockchain, AI, big data, enterprises SaaS, fintech and marketplaces, amongst others.
Portugal Ventures was born in 2012 to assume a decisive role in financing and growing the national entrepreneurship ecosystem. Their main goal is to bring global success to Portuguese companies, helping them achieve competitive goals in all the stages of development. In their 8 years of life they have mentored more than 100 startups in over 20 different sectors.
Important Accelerators and Incubators
Bright Pixel was born in 2016 in Lisbon. It is a Bright Ventures-backed startup accelerator that invests in startups working on retail, media, telecommunications and cyber-security. The programme provides financial aid worth €5k. Some startups that feature in their portfolio are: Fyde, JScrambler and Probely.
Lisbon Challenge is a startup accelerator that was founded in 2013 by Beta-i that runs a 10-week long business acceleration programme. They mostly invest in AI, big data and fintech startups with a €10k pre-seed funding and take 1.5% equity in return. Lisbon-born startups like Uniplaces, Unbabel and Impraise feature in their portfolio.
WPP Booster is a startup accelerator born in 2018, that is part of the WPP group and works in collaboration with Startup Lisboa. They run a 6-month programme with an intake of 3-6 startups at a time. They offer mentoring, networking events and proof of concept. They mostly accept startups operating in the blockchain, big data loT and AI fields, like Wavemaker and Mindshare.
Lisbon’s startup scene is diverse and growing year by year. There’s quite a lot of opportunities for all kinds of companies, and specially tech ones. The atmosphere of the city, its ideal climate and warm people is one of the reasons why it attracts so much talent, especially the younger generation looking to start or boost their career.