The Portuguese Startup Scene

By Guest Author | Lissabon Portugal | June 7, 2016

By Inês Silva

Today, when you look at the Portuguese Startup Scene you wouldn’t guess that just a few years ago, there was nothing there. The growth was meteoric. From almost nothing in 2010, today the Portuguese Startup Scene is a hotbed for tech startups and Lisbon is one of the hottest startup hubs in Europe. And the cherry on top: The WebSummit is coming to Lisbon in just a few months.

How did this happen? I was fortunate to see the Portuguese startup scene take off, back in 2010. Around this time, we started seeing the first conferences about technology and entrepreneurship, like the SWITCH Conference; TEDx events started being organised everywhere; the first Startup Weekend happened in Lisbon; and Beta-i, the leading startup organisation in Portugal, was born.

Everything was still very new and, honestly, also very immature. That’s why in 2011, together with 4 friends, we launched Startup Pirates, a one-week pre-acceleration program. Our goal with Startup Pirates was very clear: we wanted to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the business tools and expert network they needed to kick-start their ideas. Quickly, Startup Pirates became the most international startup organisation in Portugal and one of the most international in Europe, with programs in more than 20 countries and 40 cities around the world.

Moreover, in 2011 Startup Lisboa, the incubator from Lisbon, was launched and then things caught fire. Suddenly entrepreneurship became sexy and more and more players started to join the ecosystem. Among them is Startup Braga, an incubator and accelerator with a focus on medtech and nanotech startups, which was launched in 2014 by Carlos Oliveira, the former Secretary of State for Entrepreneurship, Competitiveness and Innovation who played a very active role in the development of the Portuguese Startup Scene while in government.

More recently, Porto launched ScaleUpPorto, a pioneer initiative to support the development of scaleups. Instead of only focusing on the startup phase, Porto believes that cities can have a unique role facilitating companies’ growth by enabling access to talent and funding, as well as looking at the city as a living lab for scalable solutions.

Finally, the latest development of the Portuguese Startup ecosystem is Startup Portugal, an initiative launched by João Vasconcelos, the Secretary of State for Industry, aimed at promoting and accelerating Portuguese startups but also attracting international ones. Among other things, Startup Portugal wants to create a Free Tech Zone for cutting edge industries, launch a 400 million fund to co-invest with national and international VC’s and leverage the Portuguese Startup Scene presence at the WebSummit.

Today the Portuguese Startup Scene is in a very different position to where it was a few years ago. After the initial craziness, startups, entrepreneurs and the different players became more mature. Now, startups like Uniplaces, Feedzai, Unbabel, Talkdesk, Veniam and Seedrs are leading the way. Entrepreneurs like Miguel Amaro, Cristina Fonseca, Nuno Sebastião, João Barros, Vasco Pedro and Carlos Silva are showing how it’s done and are inspiring a new breed of entrepreneurs to build companies with an international mindset. And today, international VC firms, like Index Ventures, Balderton or Accel Partners are looking at Portugal as a place where great startups can be found.

Make sure you keep an eye on the following 5 startups, which are among the most promising ones:

Attentive.us – Connects to your CRM to give you timely alerts about your prospects, so that you’ll know when they’re ready to buy!

doDOC – Streamline Pharma Documentation. Make your documents secure, collaborative and audit-ready.

Loqr – Simple to use Authentication Solution, using state-of-the-art cryptographic technology and supported in smartphones.

Infraspeak – Efficient software to excel at the overall process of facility and asset management.

Prodsmart – Factory real-time information system.

Inês Silva is currently leading the growth team at TOPDOX, a Portugal-based mobile startup. She previously cofounded Startup Pirates, a one-week pre-acceleration program for aspiring entrepreneurs, with a presence in more than 20 countries around the world.