Numerous international publications are electing Lisbon as one of Europe’s best destinations. The weather, the food, the people, and the history are among the reasons for tourists to come and visit. But Lisbon is also becoming known as a growing startup hub. Many students are graduating from college and choosing to start their own business. Numerous ventures are founded every year, and some are getting international attention.
But where does it all start? A good place is Startup Lisboa, an incubator providing support to entrepreneurs in the Lisbon area. In a recent interview with João Vasconcelos, their Executive Director, he told me about the importance given to the startup culture by Lisbon’s City Hall: “Lisbon was the first [Portuguese] City Hall realizing that local government has the power to enhance the economical tissue of the cities by creating the conditions for the development of new businesses that improve the life of the citizens, promotes the creation of jobs and the economic growth of the country. Since we started, two years ago, we’ve been receiving requests from other municipalities all over the country to help and share our vision and incubation model with them”.
Startup Lisboa hosts over 80 companies, and is soon expanding to a new building in downtown Lisbon.
Startup Pirates is a one-week program that enables aspiring entrepreneurs to get inside the startup world and learn how to develop a business idea. They are already present in 17 cities, in 9 countries, and are working with teams in 16 countries, mainly in Europe and South America, to soon have programs there.
Inês Santos Silva, co-founder of the program, had this to say about the Portuguese landscape: “When I look at the Portuguese startup scene it’s unbelievable how much it evolved and matured over the past couple of years. The big accelerators are looking at Portugal as a very interesting pipeline, we see more and more startups getting investment, and the only thing missing is a success story. As soon as we have that, Portugal officially becomes a tech hub”.
From the many startups Lisbon has recently produced, I will highlight three that are making a mark internationally.
Golf is a very popular sport, both in Portugal and all over the world. Hole 19 delivered an app to help with your game. It provides complete data and statistics to guide you in over 29 thousand courses. Their CEO, Anthony Douglas, told me about starting a business in Europe: “Europe has taken leaps in terms of becoming more startup-friendly in the last few years, particularly Portugal[…]. The outlook is promising though, with a new generation of entrepreneurs starting to make noise both around Europe and in the US”.
One of the most critical steps for a student is finding a place to stay when they have to move away from home. UniPlaces is a booking platform that promises to make this easier. For now, they are present in Lisbon, London, and Madrid, but plan to expand. Here’s Maria Almeida, Head of Content and Brand Communications of UniPlaces, on the Portuguese startup landscape: “It’s very promising and it keeps improving. A few years ago you would never think of Portugal as a startup hub. But now you do. Thanks to innovative projects and to hubs such as Startup Lisboa, Portugal is an incredible place to start your own company”.
Beach towels are an item people usually don’t pay much attention to. Almost all look similar. At least they did, until Vertty came along. They introduced a new concept and design, based on triangular shapes, and it is making quite a splash. I asked the team where they saw themselves in a couple of years: “We see Vertty as a globally recognizable brand and also as an example for other small companies to be detailed oriented and to have quality communication, both visual and written”. And I believe they will do it.
Portugal, and Lisbon in particular, are slowly but surely making a mark in the international startup scene. As more ventures gain international traction, I am sure you will hear more and more about this country and what it has to offer. And, while you’re here in business or pleasure, don’t forget to try our custard pies. One won’t be enough.