09 May Lisbon, the new Silicon Valley?
Lisbon has been the most liveable country thus far on my Remote Year journey. There are so many parallels to San Francisco, the city that I call home. I like to call Lisbon “The city by the river”, I was fortunate to live close to the water and had views of Lisbon’s own Golden Gate Bridge. The vibes are happy and relaxed like many other countries along the Iberian Peninsula, but there is also a bustling start-up scene.
During our welcome event we got to meet the General Director for Economy and Innovation for the Lisbon City Council who introduced us to Made of Lisboa, the official community of Lisbon-based innovators and a great place to stay up to date on Lisbon’s innovation scene. He called Lisbon the new Silicon Valley, the West Coast of Europe. The Lisbon city council is focusing on balancing tourism with economy and their 5-year vision is to not just compete with their European neighbours, but to compete on a global scale. Made of Lisboa was founded just two months before we arrived in Lisbon and is first focused on building out incubators, hubs, accelerators and co-working spaces, then they will build out their community of startups and entrepreneurs. The city currently boasts 16 incubators, 2 dozen accelerators, and 50 co-working spaces and creative hubs, all of which were founded within the last 4-5 years.
I was also introduced to Miguel Alves Ribeiro, the Head of European Growth at Zomato, an Asian based company that specialises in online food services. He spoke about their decision to enter the Portuguese market and the challenges they faced around adapting their product to a new culture. He explained that Portugal is a small country so if it works out it’s easy to expand to other parts of the EU and South America if something goes wrong no one cares because they are “the ass of the EU”. He believes launching in Portugal is much easier than other EU countries because most people speak English, lower cost of living and lower salaries, fairly cheap office spaces, great internet infrastructures, people are pretty app savvy and like new technology, and a great talent pool of people that can speak a lot of languages. Portugal is also an easy commute from other parts of the EU and South America and it’s a non-issue for Portuguese to get visas to go to other countries because they have no diplomatic issues.
Miguel said the biggest challenge entering the European market was the working culture. He went from India where people work 12 hour days to a culture where people typically finish work at 4:30PM and leave work at the office. To some that might be challenging if people need to connect with colleagues in other time zones or if you have employees elsewhere that put in a lot of hours, but to others this screams great work life balance! We both agreed that it is easy to fall in love with the people, food, weather, and opportunities in Portugal and are excited to see Portugal’s growth over the next 5 years in their expansion into tech!
Who are the established and up and coming tech companies in Lisbon?
Uniplaces – Online platform to find student accommodation and they now are in 39 European cities.
Codacy – Automated tool to review code.
TalkDesk – cloud-based call centre software.
Chic by Choice – Luxury fashion rental site.
Unbabel – online translator startup that uses machine learning and crowdsourcing.
CrowdProcess – FinTech startup using machine learning to make credit risk assessments.
Second Home – This is the co-working space I used during my time in Lisbon and it was great. They have a full cafe, variety of seating areas, and is decked out with plants giving it a very fresh vibe. It’s also located over Time-Out Market which is an amazing indoor space with a variety of great food vendors.
WorkUp – Located at the university stadium so not only do you have access to all the usual co-working facilities, but also things like the pool and golf court.
Coworklisboa – a flexible workspace targeting freelancers.
Ideia – Located close to the airport so perfect for jet-setters.
Village Underground – Creative co-working space with unique architectural structure made from shipping containers and double decker buses, recycled into office spaces, a café and conference room.
Beta-i – located in central Lisbon, they have worked with over 500+ startups and run various acceleration programs.
Lisboa Empreende – a City Council funding Lisbon program for startups and SMEs.
Invest Lisboa – one-stop shop for companies, investors and entrepreneurs looking to set up their business in Lisbon.
Startup Lisboa – a private non-profitable association that provides entrepreneurs and companies office space as well as a support structure. Mentoring, link to strategic partners, access to investment, help with business basics, networking activities, communication.
Made Of Lisboa