Portugal, and Lisbon in particular, has quickly become the place to be for budding entrepreneurs and investors alike. Boasting several unicorns under its belt - Outsystems, Talkdesk, Farfetch, Feedzai, Remote, Sword Health and Anchorage Digital – the space is maturing and attracting tech heavyweights to come and set up innovation hubs. The cumulative value of these unicorns are believed to account for almost 15% of the country’s GDP. It comes as no surprise as a result, then, that the government is doing all it can to make it as friendly an environment as possible for startups.
We spoke with the Mayor of Lisbon about what initiatives are in place to promote Lisbon’s startup ecosystem to inform our network of global investors why they should consider the space for their capital. Likewise, read on to hear from investors on the ground what advice they have for entering the scene.
In one word: talent. Lisbon has a great talent pool – people full of ideas with the knowledge and skills to pursue them. A lot of our startups are brilliant – all in all, it creates a great opportunity for international investors as our ecosystem is not as known and as scrutinized as other European cities – so the possibility of finding the next gem is real. At the same time, Lisbon is quite international in the way of doing business, meaning amenities and support services are very competitive.
Lisbon’s ecosystem is quite balanced. We have a strong tech community, as well as fintech (including blockchain and web3), impact, blue economy, healthcare and smart mobility – all these verticals are very strong.
We are working in different paths that complement themselves. Through Made of Lisboa, our community gathering project, we foster our ecosystem, developing networking opportunities for our startups, but at the same time are working on starting a scaleup support program, a unicorn factory, where different startups in all the stages can find what they need to scale. Where an early stage can meet an investor and grow a bootcamp tailored to it needs, or a solid startup can meet the perfect mentor to help them grow into to next phase. We are also aware of the need to keep Lisbon in the good ratings and among the main international networks, partnering with main world events and developing a trustful city brand.
We also have Lisboa Empreende +, a Support program from the municipality to help SME’s entrepreneurs to start their business in Lisbon, helping them develop their business plan and first few steps. It also as a branch with dedicated support for SMEs that need expertise in areas like digital marketing or business strategy.
Made of Lisboa is key to the success of Lisbon as a startup city. It aims to help the whole community grow, which in practical terms means supporting a lot of community based events and organising meetups and Apply for Lisboa sessions. Made of Lisboa is a place to get updated about Lisbon's innovation scene and the one and only door to the official community of Lisbon-based innovators.
The Fábrica de Unicórnios project, at Hub Criativo do Beato, is under construction. Hub Criativo do Beato is one of the key success factors for our strategy for the next few years. Soon it will have over 3,000 people from around the world who want to produce innovation. We expect it to be completed in time for Web Summit this November.
Web Summit was essential to put Lisbon on the entrepreneurship and innovative world map. With the first few editions, it brought new people, investors and companies and it positioned Lisbon as a tech city, full of possibilities and talent. It was – and still is – very important to attract to Lisbon new businesses, new headquarters, new talent. As a result our ecosystem has grown a lot in the last few years. We could say we’ve grown with the web summit, our partnership made both the city and the event a win-win combination of unquestionable success.
The future is as bright as Lisbon – which is saying a lot in a city that has over 290 days of sun a year! We believe our effort to foster innovation and to help our ecosystem grow will continue to place Lisbon as a global, innovative, smart and sustainable capital.
We are interested in companies that provide disruptive technologies that respond to the current environmental context, helping the transition of the agri-food value chain towards sustainability and efficiency. Areas like Bio-Manufacturing, Digital commerce, Precision Farming will have a growing relevance in the near future and part of our focus.
We focus on Agrifood Tech companies with unique market positions, science or technology based with strong Intellectual Property. Regarding markets, Europe and Latam based are our priority.
The Portuguese startup ecosystem is consolidating, and we start to see interesting projects in the technology area, with very innovative companies that are beginning to attract the interest of local and international investors. Also, the Web Summit plays a key role in the development of innovative projects and, in the last editions, we’ve registered that there is a growing attention regarding the technologies applied to the Agrifood sector. We are convinced that there will be very soon more interest in this area with disruptive and innovative Portuguese startups.
On the other hand, Portugal is a very interesting and strategic market for the expansion of Spanish and European startups. An example from our portfolio is the Sevillian startup Le Room Service, a Spanish success case that is currently operating in Lisbon.
Portugal has strong assets in the emerging companies area, and we consider it an amazing territory to set up new ventures. The main caveat for Portugal based startup companies is access to market; and, besides classical tips, that’s where we would advise investors to pay a special attention.
During the past years Eatable Adventures have developed a strong global network of co-investors, from Venture Capital to Food business angels that complement our offer and contribute with other areas of knowledge and expertise.
For early stage co-investment we look for Business Angels willing to help beyond investment, providing industry insight, mentoring and networking to these startups. For later stage ventures we always look for co-investors that, beyond long term capital commitment, can provide increased support internationalizing the company and connecting it with the leading industrial players.
They can contact us through our corporate channels: Web, Linkedin or send directly an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Portugal is particularly strong in B2B SaaS so we expect that to continue, but we will also continue to explore web3 opportunities given the size and relevance of the community in Lisbon. We also have a fund dedicated to blue tech and blue economy companies and given Lisbon’s positioning itself as a blue hub connected to the ocean economy this will be a big focus as well.
It will continue to mature. We saw over 2500 investment opportunities over the last 3 and a half years so we are quite bullish on the engineering and sciences capacity of the entrepreneurs.
The model that has worked and is behind the Portuguese unicorns, many of which we backed, is to use the great engineering capacity in the country and address from day one tue global market. We tend to invest pre-seed to seed and after that global investors come into following rounds.
Capacity to add value strategically, capital for follow ons and insights and intros into clients and new markets.
Our website is very comprehensive in terms of contacts but just email email@example.com :) We always co-invest and our 29 companies have raised over 1.5bn euros from global investors in addition to our 35M investment since 2019.
We invest in the next generation of purpose-driven founders who build technology solutions to the climate and ecological breakdown. It is estimated that about 65% of technologies to mitigate the climate crisis already exist, while 35% are yet to be invented. Thus, we need to both scale existing proven technologies as well as work on breakthroughs across all sectors to decarbonize, from transportation (e.g. electric vehicles, sustainable aviation fuel) to energy (e.g. battery technology, hydrogen...), food (e.g. alternative proteins, reducing food waste...), agriculture (e.g. regenerative agriculture, precision farming…), the built environment (energy efficient buildings, low-carbon concrete, etc.), circular models (reduced new items produced, less plastics…), carbon removal (nature-based, engineered & hybrid solutions…)
I expect an acceleration of the prominence of Lisbon as one of the most attractive upcoming hotspots on the continent, thanks to its great lifestyle, sunny weather all year round, favourable tax environment, good English speaking population, skilled workforce on lower cost base than most other European cities, and the advent of remote work.
Given the relatively limited size of the local market, Portugal-based startup tend to have a global ambition from day-1. I would advise international investors to consider Portugal as a good breeding ground for ambitious entrepreneurs, but ideally to do so with local co-investors who are familiar with the local ecosystem, help on due diligence and portfolio support post-investment.
Depending on sectors, stage and geography, we have a very wide network of potential co-investors across the world. We primarily look for co-investors who share our business philosophy, long-term thinking, integrity, and and who are willing to truly support companies beyond capital, to foster a real alignment of interests for value creation and impact at scale.
I’m easily reachable on LinkedIn, Twitter, email and on our website, Satgana.com
Demium invests across all industries from any innovative sector as long as the project has a scalable digital component. Our goal is to empower the growth and success of quality startups - whatever their sector is.
Portugal is a small country (10 million people), but with a tremendous capacity to attract talent from outside - its tax policies for foreigners and visa conditions for digital nomads are very favorable, among the best in Europe. Lisbon is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing startup capitals in Europe and has very good universities, with great attractiveness. What happens is that, due to the small size of the national market, Portuguese startups have to internationalize very quickly. Growing to Spain is very natural and simple for them, just like aiming for Brazil. Entrepreneurs have to go out and finance themselves with international VCs (UK, Europe, USA) for series B and onwards.
The most important thing investors should consider when they’re planning to invest in the country is that the Portuguese market is very small, so they ought to look for co-founders with a very international mindset and with a very good English level to rapidly expand to other countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain or Brazil. It’s very important that they have a presence in Portugal but with a clear objective of an early internationalization.
We invest in the earliest stages of a startup -pre-seed and seed stages. We work with entrepreneurs throughout their professional careers, from the moment they set up their startup, and the investment is done when the co-founding team has already validated their business plan. We invest in talent from any innovative sector, we are specialized in technology and innovation, investing in an average of 75 companies per year. We look for investors who share our values and are interested in taking part in the talent investing.
Through our website: https://demium.com/investors/
We will focus on high-growth technology sectors allowing us to build a rich and diversified portfolio of Iberia-related companies. These sectors include Digital / IT (Deep tech & AI, Cybersecurity, Fintech, and Insurtech), Consumer Goods & Services (DTC Brands, Foodtech, and Agtech), Sustainability Tech (Digital Health, Climate Tech), and Blockchain (DeFi, NFTs and Infrastructure).
We expect the Portuguese startup ecosystem to keep evolving positively and becoming one of the major tech European hubs. We have unrivalled ingredients such as a unique strategic location, local high-quality tech talent at a competitive price, fluency at foreign languages, an exceptional quality of life that enable to attract and retain top international talent and public tech initiatives fostering the ecosystem. The Venture Capital investment in Portugal has been increasing steadily in the past years, as well as the startup's success cases with an increasing number of exits and companies raising larger rounds from international funds.
Investing in Portugal represents a great opportunity for international investors for all the reasons explained above and because the market is still underinvested, especially at later stages. Having their boots on the ground, meaning a very active local presence, is the only way to achieve a top of mind presence in the local ecosystem. This can be achieved by having a local team or a Venture Partner / Scout operating in the market. International investors should begin by connecting with the local players that can feed them the best investment opportunities, such as Venture Capital firms, Business Angels, Incubators / Accelerators and Institutes / Universities. Once an investor starts investing actively in the ecosystem, it will generate brand awareness, and founders will look up for them proactively.
Across our portfolio we are co-investors with 135+ reference Venture Capital firms and many more Business Angels. We truly believe having a multifaceted cap table can add value to a startup. When we co-invest, we look for partners that are eager to contribute to any form for the invested company's success, have a long-term vision in their investment thesis, and, most importantly, that share our values, including a non-negotiable integrity.
Please find us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by reaching out directly on LinkedIn. Happy to connect and share our thoughts on the Portuguese landscape :)
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