Portugal is far from being only Lisbon. This week, I turn to Braga, up North, where I talk to Startup Braga Director Tiago Gomes Sequeira. Here are some thoughts on the incubator/accelerator’s activity.
How did the idea come about to create a startup incubator in Braga?
We didn’t specifically think of creating an incubator, our goal was always to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem that was evolving and we’re seeing several tech startups creating great products. It seemed obvious that we needed to help these companies grow. The city of Braga wanted to create something that puts Braga in the radar and with that we created Startup Braga that is more than an incubator, it also has pre-acceleration and acceleration programs to help the community be more focused and strong. Startup Braga is an innovation hub and has the mission to support the entrepreneurial community. Our 3rd acceleration program is now half way through and we couldn’t be more excited with what’s ahead. There’s lots of potential and amazing solutions for real problems that are going to be built in Braga and from here, to the world.
How important is it to have the support of big companies?
It’s very important. Big companies can play many roles here: they can provide technology to the Startups, they can be early adopters of the Startups products and can also provide technical and business mentorship. Additionally we want to create a community around Startup Braga that strongly supports innovation and big companies can provide us the resources for the events and programs that we want to build.
What are the main challenges of not being in Lisbon?
Portugal is too small to make any kind of differentiation so what’s really important for us is to highlight that we are just 3 hours away so it’s really easy to go there, be part of what’s happening and come back. In Braga we are specialized in some areas that complement knowledge that we can bring from anywhere and with that, we can take advantage of the quality of life we have in the city and the great infrastructures that Braga has, for startups and for the daily life. Braga has a strong and thriving ecosystem that is being built by and for the community.
Can Portugal become a startup hub soon?
We think that we already got there, in our scale, we are a startup hub to the eyes of many companies and international press. The decision of bringing the Web Summit to Lisbon is an obvious sign that we are doing something right!
How is the European startup scene when compared to the USA?
Europe is still not a digital single market as the US, language and culture are different and that has impact in everything that surround us. Europe has its own unique characteristics and will always be very different from the US! But, even being different, Europe has all the VC firms, best accelerators and corporation. Europe is different but has lot’s of potential and the big players know that. The important thing is to create a global market for startups maybe with the focus of start in Europe expand to the US – all depends on the product and where it makes more sense to launch and expand.
What are some of the success stories you’ve had?
Here at Startup Braga we have several startups that were part of our programs and that are now taking big steps towards new markets and new rounds of investment to support their growth. It’s very difficult to select specific names, but it’s possible to highlight the ones who are rapidly expanding to international hubs… Loqr was a hit at SXSW and is now with one foot in London and other in Austin. Seatwish is in the Bay Area since 2015 and is working hard and entering in new markets with thousands of users. Sword Health is in the US and China, PeekMed in Austin and Findster in SF. These are just some of the startups that are part of our community and are growing hugely, all with specific areas of expertise and singular products.
You have an impressive team of mentors. What role do they play with the startups you support?
They are the “been there, done that” persons, their support is extremely valuable to our startups, a part from being very well-connected people they are experienced people who guide the startups to success. This is something very important when you think that part of the startups are starting with just an idea and need some guidance that validates the idea and helps them improve from that. The mentors are crucial in that path and Startup Braga mentors are awesome providing that feedback and knowledge.
Portugal is getting more and more noticed in the startup scene, with growing international success cases. How do you see this evolving?
Portugal has highly qualified and ambitious people who are rapidly understanding the path to success in the startup scene and with that, we’ll have even more success cases in years to come. These success cases lead the way and serve as an inspiration to other founders. It’s amazing to see this happening and be part of the ecosystem in such a promising moment.
To find out more about Startup Braga visit http://www.startupbraga.com