While Lisbon’s emergence as a startup hub is fairly recent, there’s no doubt that the City of Seven Hills is fast becoming Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley. According to the 2018 EU Startup Monitor report, the Portuguese capital now ranks fifth – after London, Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen – as Europe’s biggest startup hub. So what is it about this city that makes it so attractive to startups?
For starters, it’s Portugal’s largest city, with a population of over 500,000 producing half the country’s GDP. Plus, to quote Ben Lambert, Deimum’s Lisbon MD, it is simply:
“More humble than San Fran.
More accessible than Tel Aviv.
Warmer than Berlin.
Cheaper than London.”
And he’s not wrong. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, Lisbon is sunny practically every day of the year, so you can easily take advantage of the many great beaches and green spaces. It’s also convenient (and therefore affordable) to get about on foot, by bike or public transport and you can take in the historic Pombaline architecture that Portugal is renowned for while you’re en route.
There’s a wealth of things to do when you get some down time, such as visiting the sleek new MAAT: Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, or indulging in the city’s specialties: fresh seafood, pastéis de nata (those irresistible custard tarts) and port. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention that Traveler magazine voted Lisbon fourth safest city in the world.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Just like the rest of the world, Lisbon suffered during the economic crisis in 2008, but the Portuguese government has been working hard to bounce back and it’s paid off. They’ve been promoting entrepreneurship and improving opportunities for locals and businesses alike, with benefits including tax exemptions, low set-up costs for new companies, and financial help from the government for startups and individual entrepreneurs.
Now, talent and venture capital are quickly pouring into Lisbon, with many Portuguese natives returning to take advantage, as well as foreigners choosing to make their home there. And with a number of top universities that focus on high tech skills, producing a large number of engineers per capita, many graduates are choosing to stay in Portugal, rather than heading abroad to other tech or startup hubs. In 2018 Portuguese startups raised over €485 million, as reported by Re-Think, with the volume of venture capital transactions 4.4 times bigger than they were in 2017.
Lisbon’s emergence as a tech and digital centre was consolidated with the move of the Web Summit from Dublin to Portugal’s capital in 2016. Considered the world’s biggest tech event, it attracts over 70,000 people annually, from Fortune 500 companies to venture capitalists and startups. Lisbon was initially only contracted to host for three years, but that has now been extended to 10, and revenue generated from the conference over the period is projected to be $3.5 billion.
Now if that’s not enough to convince you, perhaps the fact that the international market is readily accessible will. The Lisbon Investment Summit, which takes place every year in June, provides homegrown startups with the opportunity to pitch to international venture firms, which are essential to growing any business. Add to that a population of which 90% speak English, making it easier to raise investment funds in the earliest phase of development, and various corporate giants are branching out here (Google and Daimler among them) and you’ve got one very prosperous startup ecosystem.
So far in 2019, our Lisbon incubator has invited over 50 aspiring entrepreneurs into our startup programme, and over 20 startup projects are being developed. If you are interested in finding out more about our next intake, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, or simply submit your application via our website.