Meet Lisbon And Its Vibrant Startup Community

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Wondering about setting your startup in Portugal? Then most certainly its capital will be the best place to develop your ideas! Find out why in this guide.

Check out the infographic on how to start your startup in Lisbon!

Ranked as one of the European innovation hotspots and startup hubs to watch, and often referenced as Europe’s San Francisco, the ‘city of the seven hills’ has a lot to offer to the startup community. Lisbon’s recognition as a startup hub is very recent, compared to other European cities but its ecosystem is very dynamic and its growing to maturity. In the past years, there were a lot of governmental initiatives to help boost the startup scene in the city and a number of incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces and investors appeared. Also, Portugal has unique conditions to attract foreign investment and top talent.
Although the Portuguese startup trendiness is strongly focused on tech and digital, there has been also space for other types of businesses to seed and grow.

Well, Lisbon has it all! The city is a mix between quality of life and a cool business center. With a thriving cultural center and full of green spaces, not only it is one of Portugal’s biggest tourist attractions but is the wealthiest city in Portugal and produces approximately half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Also, it hosts most of the country’s universities (including top ranked business schools) and organizations – startups, multinationals, small and medium-size companies, NGOs, and others.

One can say that Lisbon is the ‘city of the seven gifts’ to any entrepreneur: it has an international environment and competitive talent (managers, engineers, designers), a great climate (sunny most of the year), beautiful landscapes (its unique architecture, beaches and gardens), good food (Mediterranean), it is entertaining (bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and art and culture spaces are open until late), safe and inexpensive. Don’t you want to boost your business in Europe’s west coast tech hub?

At The Edge Of The Atlantic Ocean

Advantages Of Starting A Startup In Lisbon:

  • Low cost of living;
  • Efficient bureaucracy and low costs to setup a business (legal and infrastructure);
  • Big international and startup community, with regular events and meetups;
  • English is widely spoken;
  • Free National Health System (NHS) and affordable high quality private insurance;
  • Extensive and reliable transportation system (you can get to the main spots of the city by subway, like the airport);
  • Competitive talent from top management, technical and design universities;
  • Direct flight connections to other European hubs (mainly through low-cost airlines) and to other business hubs like São Paulo and New York;
  • The city and its startup ecosystem are small comparing to other European capitals, so it is very easy to get around and to fit in the community;
  • Main location for top EU research institutes as well as multinationals and small and medium-size companies’ headquarters – which may come as great opportunity to startups with B2B products/services;
  • Tax benefits and financial help from the Government for startups and individual entrepreneurs;
  • Good Wi-Fi connection with 4G available everywhere.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • Portugal’s recent economic crisis, although there is potential for economic growth and stability, also due to the increase of the startup ecosystem;
  • Still there are no direct flights to San Francisco;
  • The startup ecosystem is very recent and companies’ success rate is still low;
  • Portuguese population is quite ‘tech-savvy’, but in general there aren’t many early adopters to new and innovative technologies;
  • It is harder to recruit foreigners due to Portugal’s low average wages, comparing to other countries;
  • Although most of the people speak English, Portuguese is the country’s first and most prominent language, which isn’t that easy to learn – this is something to consider if you want your product or service to go viral cross-country.

Lisbon is a great city for startups to seed and grow. Although the ecosystem is still developing, opening your startup here means doing business with high quality of life and work-life balance in one of the trendiest and fastest growing European startup hubs nowadays.

Lisbon’s Local Startup Community

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Lisbon was considered the first European Capital of Entrepreneurship for 2015. It is a vibrating ecosystem of people who have decided to push the limits. Just a small search in meetups.com is enough to discover many different events every week. Being formal or informal, the goal of all of them is to become the glue between entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiasts. In an age where information changes so fast, it makes no sense to keep it hidden, it’s worth a lot more to be spread. And this is exactly what happens. There are so many wonderful things happening in Lisbon every week that an opportunity to meet and share the news is always welcomed. Sometimes we start our weeks with a Monday breakfast for entrepreneurs; sometimes we decide to finish the week with a couple of beers while inspiring entrepreneurs discuss their points of view. Come and join us and find out what it means to be an entrepreneur in Lisbon.

Upcoming Events, Meetups And Other Occasions:

  • Meetup: is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.
  • Eventful: is a leading digital media company connecting consumers with entertainment, movies and mostly local events. Over 22 million people rely on Eventful to find out what’s happening and decide what to do; from networking, workshops, movies, concerts and sports to family fun and nightlife. With millions of local events to choose from, Eventful provides the world’s most comprehensive selection of local entertainment content and serves its users across multiple platforms including online, mobile and email, delivering highly personalized content and recommendations to each of Eventful’s 22 million registered users.
  • LisbonNetworking: is a community that organizes lunches and networking events in Lisbon. Feel free to bring your business cards. It is always a good moment to develop your network when you are having a lunch in a friendly environment.
  • Fábrica de Startups: Fábrica de Startups’ mission is to help people to be successful entrepreneurs through acceleration programs, startup incubation and by creating events and sharing knowledge with entrepreneurs. Check for their events here.
  • Event Brite Portugal: Eventbrite is the world’s largest self-service ticketing platform. It enables people all over the world to plan, promote and sell tickets for any event. In one day you could be doing yoga in Cascais and the other day you could be attending several conferences in Lisbon. Some entrepreneurs only upload their events there, so make sure you take a look.

Regular Events And Meetups:

  • GRID: is an opportunity to get together with Fábrica de Startups and other entrepreneurs in a cool and informal way. No conference rooms, round tables or name badges! At GRID, you can find a friendly environment while you get a chance to better know Lisbon’s budding ecosystem. Oh yeah…. and to have a Sagres (or two) on the house! 1st Thursday of each month.
  • ENTREPRENEUR’S BREAKFAST: Start your week at Fábrica de Startups with the most important meal of the day… #BREAKFAST! Mondays can be tough. Stop by Startup Campus to begin your week on the right track with wholesome (free) food, hot coffee and likeminded (morning) people. 3rd Monday of each month.
  • FabStart Demo Night: it isn’t about pitching for funds, it’s an opportunity to show the community what you’re working on, get some feedback, and see what others are up to. 4th Wednesday of each month.
  • BREAK (Hotel Florida): Break is an event that takes place after work, starting at 19 pm at the Florida Hotel, in downtown Lisbon. Open to the entire community, it is an ideal time for sharing experiences and ideas, exchange contacts and friendship while drinking a glass of wine overlooking the turnaround of Marquês de Pombal . Every penultimate Thursday of each month.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • WebSummit: is a technology conference held annually since 2010, centered on internet technology and attendees range from Fortune 500 companies to the world’s most exciting tech companies. This contains a mix of CEOs and founders of tech start ups together with a range of people from across the global technology industry, as well as related industries. For the first 6 years the event was held in Dublin, Ireland. In September 2015 Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit co-founder, announced that Web Summit would be held in Lisbon in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
  • Lisbon Investment Summit (LIS): An event organized by Beta-i, where start-ups can showcase their businesses to the investors of Google, Facebook, twitter, Skype, SoundCloud, Spotify, Siri and many, many others. Make sure you buy your tickets early; it has been sold out for three years in a row.

Volunteering Possibilities:

  • WebSummit: Want to volunteer in Lisbon in 2016? Attend Web Summit for FREE.

Find An Inspiring Space In Lisbon

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South Europeans are known for many good qualities. Being friendly, welcoming and ready to help is one of those. Lisbon’s city is full of places to work together, share opinions and news, co-create and improve. You will be able to find a lot of co-working spaces but be aware, more are being created with a frequency you wouldn’t believe (Second home between others is already on its way). We are looking forward to meet you!

Co-working Spaces In Lisbon:

  • CoworkLisboa: A creative space in Lisbon where you can find from designers, programmers and architects to scientists, photographers and marketers.
  • Liberdade 229: Liberdade 229 is a cosy and international space to cowork in the heart of Lisbon, 1 minute from two subway lines.
  • LINNK: is the Lisbon collaborative ecosystem for innovation where Entrepreneurs, Developers, Creatives and Makers cooperate in the formulation of projects and innovative businesses predominantly focused on Design, IT and Hardware development.
  • Work in Marquês: Their main purpose is to provide flexible working spaces: easy to use and ready as soon as possible.
  • StartUpNow: Offices with over 160 square meters with everything you need for your business at Av. Guerra Junqueiro two steps from the subway, in downtown Lisbon.
  • Mainhub: is a Premium Cowork and Business Incubation Space that has excellent work conditions, where Startups & Freelancers have the opportunity to interact and support their ideas and projects.
  • Cowork Central: Cowork Central is a hub for creative, independent minds situated bang in the heart of Lisbon.
  • Village Underground: is a cultural center that serves as office space for the creative industry and as an event space. It is a unique architectural structure that uses shipping containers transformed into offices and two buses converted into cafeteria and meeting room. A new creative community in Lisbon.
  • Avila Business Center: An Avila Business Centers trademark and a Coworking innovative concept, oriented towards the 21st Century professional, who values a corporate image and searches flexible solutions with a balanced cost-benefit ratio. This service is based on the renting of workstations with a complete service, such as professional secretarian, meeting and work rooms.
  • MU Workspace: It is the only workspace in Lisbon with a tattoo studio. MU WORKSPACE is a space and a concept of COWORK inspiration, common workspace and informal union of a group of people who understand the current world changes, without losing the independence and identity of the people.
  • LiberOffice: LiberOffice Chiado is a business boutique -hotel located in Chiado, Lisbon. In LiberOffice, all physical and human structure is oriented to facilitate the success of your business: fully equipped, highly qualified professionals in a context strictly business, that ensure high performance with complete confidentiality and cost control.
  • IDEIAhub: With a breath-taking view, you can work on individual Coworking spaces, private offices, meeting rooms and virtual rooms.
  • Unidade 55: is a shared work space in Queluz. Responsible for creating a collaborative environment for freelancers and small businesses at the same time that they maintain and support the uniqueness of each project.
  • LX Workhub: They give space to young creative entrepreneurs and a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of neo-industrial decor, where they intend to foster sharing and innovation through their network of contacts and networking events.
  • TODOS: An area of 1600 m2 was refurbished, combining in the same space various businesses and professionals from complementary fields and pre-established markets and clients.
  • The Surf Office: A spacious house in Cais do Sodré, a happening neighbourhood jam packed with activities. A relaxed environment perfect for the ”work and play” lifestyle.
  • Work+United: The Work United is an impact cooperative that brings together professionals and organizations that aim to create a better world. For this to happen it is important to have resources, knowledge, inspiration and above all contacts with others. The Work United provides the necessary resources in order for these objectives to be transformed into social impact.

Secure Your Financing In Lisbon

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“When you want advice ask for money, when you want money, ask for advice.” Or at least that’s what some people say. But you are not this kind of person, are you? No, you ask straight what you want. And this section is going to help you find out who you should ask. Incubators and accelerators are listed here. But maybe you are still in the beginning. Well, search no more; we have some cool pre-accelerators to get you started. And when you are on your way to the top, don’t forget to ask our friends with a “little” bit of extra cash ready to be invested. Unfortunately for this guide, but fortunately for all you lucky people coming to Lisbon, we have too many investors, coworking places, incubators etc. to list all of them. We will go through some of them, but feel free to check also some extra links provided where you can find a lot more information.

Incubators:

  • STARTUP LISBOA TECH: The mission of StartUp Lisbon through this incubator is to facilitate the creation and development of entrepreneurship through a combination of infrastructure and specialist support services. This business incubator, which aims to support innovative projects with potential for internationalization, is anchored in a private non-profit organization. To this date the investment in the incubated companies has reached 2674 M€.
  • STARTUP LISBOA COMMERCE, is a business incubator also from Startup Lisbon, specialized in projects in the sector of trade. Based on a strategy of maximizing synergies, this business incubator offers to all its incubated projects for about 6 months, support on developing the business model, on sustaining growth and finally securing investment and funding.
  • LISPOLIS is located at Lumiar, one of the 53 civil parishes of Lisbon. Its main goal is to welcome innovative start-ups as well as companies that develop / want to develop technology-based projects with universities. Companies benefit from general services, such as access control, reception, housekeeping and communications support, specialized services, promotion and networking activities.
  • TEC LABS has as mission “to generate economic value out of scientific knowledge through collaboration between university and companies in R&D for innovative technologies, as well as technology-based business incubation”.
  • INOVISA Technology and Business Campus, has as main objective to promote innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in agriculture, food, forestry, biotechnology and environmental landscape, including strengthening the relationship between the university and businesses and support the development of technology-based companies and qualified services. The INOVISA presents itself as a platform-enhancing synergies between the Scientific Entities and Technological System and firms in developing R&D projects in partnership processes involving transfer of knowledge and technology.
  • The LABS LISBOA (website only in Portuguese) is an ecosystem, collaborative and innovative, designed for creation and business growth. It offers flexible and integrated services, including: assignment of spaces and shared services, training and mentoring and even expert advice. With an area of 2020 m2, the LABS Lisboa strengthens the network of incubators in the Portuguese capital and puts it on the map of European innovation and entrepreneurship. Its location next to the city’s largest university campus reinforces this positioning.
  • PLAY: This Creative and Technological Incubator presents itself as a platform for proximity to support the development of business plans and business creation, oriented to the whole community of Lusófona Group and also for external and public community. Its mission is to identify, incubate, accelerate and grow creative ideas transforming them into innovative designs and structured to lead the market of creative and technological industries.

Pre-Accelerators:

  • Startup next is a pre-acceleration program for a small group of high quality, early stage startups. By pairing startup founders with mentors, the program provides valuable connections to get teams prepared to join a top accelerator, raise a seed round or just continue their entrepreneurial journey.
  • Beta-start is a pre-acceleration program for entrepreneurs who want to create and develop their startups. Designed and produced by Beta-i, Beta-start adopted internationally proven processes and methodologies for analysis, validation and implementation of business models in a short time.
  • Startup Pirates Lisbon is an 8-day pre-accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs. The eight – intensive – days have a clear focus: immerse the pirates in a challenging environment, perfect for failing fast and evolving quickly. By joining the Startup Pirates community, participants have also access to a network of more than 40 global technology companies eager to support their development.

Accelerators:

  • Protechting: is a corporate accelerator from Fidelidade / Fosun and supported by Beta-i. By investing on the startup way of doing things, Fidelidade’s mission is to inspire and contribute to establish a more engaged and entrepreneurial society and to foster the creation of innovative solutions within the insurance sector, focused in 4 main areas: protection/prevention, service, health and savings.
  • LisbonChallenge is divided into 2 editions per year and based in Lisbon. It’s designed to improve tech startups’ product-market fit and render their business investment-ready. Selected startups go through an exclusive 3-month long program, where 200 renowned mentors and investors provide over 1000 workshops and mentoring sessions. At the end, there is an International Investors Roadshow across 4 of these cities: Lisbon, London, Boston, San Francisco, São Paulo and/or Tel Aviv. The 5 best startups will move forward to Phase 2, where they get an investment of 40.000€ each and the chance to receive a further 200.000€ for the best in class.
  • MIT Lisbon is looking for aspiring Entrepreneurs, Startups & Spin-outs under 5 years old, working on any of the 4 market-application verticals: Medical devices & Health IT, Smart Cities & Industrial Tech, Enterprise IT & Smart Data, Ocean Economy. If you are in these areas definitely check them out.
  • KIC InnoEnergy: the largest renewable energy accelerator in Europe has also an office in Lisbon. If your solution is related to the renewable energy sector or has a strong environmental impact then you should definitely get in contact with them.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Portugal 2020, under a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission through 5 European Funds support projects that contribute to economic, and social development. Till 2020 Portugal will receive 25 billion €.
  • Jessica holding fund Portugal is operationalizing the JESSICA initiative in Portugal. JESSICA – Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas, is an initiative of the European Commission developed in co-operation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB). It supports sustainable urban development and regeneration through financial engineering mechanisms.
  • HORIZON 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract and of course is applicable for initiatives in Lisbon.
  • FINICIA is a program that facilitates the access to financing solutions and provides assistance for different entrepreneurial projects which are close to the market or with a high growth potential. They provide their services in the creation phase of the company, in companies with fewer than 4 years of activity and in projects with local interest.
  • Turismo de Portugal, through subsidiary companies, implements venture capital operations by taking shareholdings in companies operating within the tourism sector with the prospect of valorization over the medium-term. Also, administers, manages and represents closed real estate investment funds whose intervention has enabled modernization and rescaling of the hotel offer, demonstrating that the tourism sector is a strategic area for the country.

Seed Capital/Angel Investors:

  • Seed Capital is a Smart Capital company with the motto: “Old enough to know the value of money, young enough to know the value of technology, experienced enough to make a difference”. They provide capital and start-up experience and focus on the Portuguese climate and life-style.
  • Brains2Market is an organization composed by a group of business partners with a large experience in investments and projects’ mentoring. It is focused on supporting the creation and development of innovative companies with high growth potential, nationally and internationally.
  • Busy Angels – Venture Capital Investors look for impressive teams who are building innovative high growth businesses, using technology to change or create markets. They seek for pre-seed and seed investments with the ability to show a proof of concept or a market need.
  • Rising Ventures is a Business Angel company that aims to create value for itself, its partners and stakeholders, through funding and mentoring of new companies, from their inception until a successful exit.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Portugal ventures: is a Venture Capital Firm, focusing its investments in innovative, scientific and technology-based companies as well as in companies from the more traditional Portuguese Tourism and Industrial sectors, with significant competitive advantages and export oriented to global markets. Portugal Ventures works alongside entrepreneurs, enabling high-growth Portuguese companies to achieve global status. Current assets under management: 450 M€.
  • BES Ventures is a Venture Capital funds manager, part of group Novo Banco, with more than €250M of assets under management, and investments in innovative companies all around the world. They support entrepreneurs and invest very selectively in early-stage innovative technologies and business models that best address the pressing global challenges of this century: environmental, demographic and global development.
  • Caixa Capital’s activities aim to support the global expansion of Portugal-related teams and companies. Through the various funds it manages Caixa Capital participates as a capital investor, directly or through third-party funds, in the creation and development of consumer, enterprise, life sciences, cleantech, energy, industrial, infrastructure, and service-based businesses. Caixa Capital is a pioneering operator in the Portuguese market, with about 500 million euros under management and a total potential capital of 700 million euros for its managed funds.
  • In EDP Ventures they are looking for new technologies and business models for the energy industry and invest in cleantech startups.
  • LC Ventures manages the LC Investment Vehicle: the first global hands-on, accelerator investment vehicle in Portugal. The LC Investment Vehicle invests in innovative tech startups from Europe, North and Latin America.
  • Ganexa Capital is a business angel investment vehicle, led by entrepreneurs with many years of corporate and international success. They invest in exciting, high potential business opportunities and motivated entrepreneurs focused in projects with global reach.
  • Forbion Capital Partners invest in Life Sciences and Biomedical Technology companies developing world-class drugs and technologies, with a clear focus on product development.
  • Sonae Ventures was launched in 2013, aiming to be the natural partner for entrepreneurs who want to develop their e-commerce business. The investment focus is on early stage companies, where ambitious entrepreneurs with innovative business models want to be successful in the international arena and need help to achieve their goals.With typical investments up to € 500k (Equity), they look for investments where the entrepreneur keeps the majority of his business and leads the company, leveraging on Sonae’s core competences and strategic assets.
  • GesVenture offer support services to the entrepreneurs on the industries of the information sector and channel the coming investment funds and private investors capital for the most interesting projects.
  • Ask, through its Venture Capital area which was founded by the end of 2006, has as mission to manage a group of funds and their respective portfolio companies, providing the necessary support to their sustained growth. The area’s main focus is to invest in projects with a high technology and/or innovation component. As of today, ASK has more than 25,5M€ under management.

As you can see, there are plenty of things going around and this is one of the reasons everybody talks about Lisbon’s vibrating ecosystem. In case you would like to look for more spaces and opportunities, take a look at this map to have a good overview of how the city center looks like when we map incubators, accelerators, co-work spaces and investors on top of Lisbon’s beautiful scenery. And a word of advice: keep coming back to this guide, Lisbon’s entrepreneurial scene is as active as never before, many wonderful actors keep appearing.

Don’t Forget To Look For More Help In Lisbon

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Let’s start with the good news! Portuguese people are always willing to help you get more info. So do not hesitate to contact any of the pre-mentioned entities for questions. Moreover, please, contact me (Dimitris) and I will do my best to connect you with the right person if I cannot give you the answer myself.
And now the better news; how long do you think it takes you to build a new company in Lisbon? 6 months? 1 month? A week? One day? One hour? Well, we are even cooler than that. On average you will need 37 minutes. Yeap, that’s how we roll :-p For more info, take a look here.

Keep in mind that Lisbon’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem is going  through a huge change at this moment. Exactly as Lisbon is famous for its biggest wave ever surfed, in the same way it is now starting to ride a huge entrepreneurial wave. Do not forget, WEBSummit 2016 is coming to Lisbon. Do you believe in coincidences? We do, but this is not one of them. More than that, the food, the Castle, the amazing earthquake that shaped the history of Lisbon, the Fado, the river, the culture of the south are all here waiting for you. Come and join us, we have a lot to share!

Last but not least, for the entrepreneurs of Lisbon, if you find any inconsistencies, if you believe the info about your organization is not correct or that it should be mentioned in the guide and it is not, please contact me (Dimitris) to make sure we have always an up to date guide.

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Last updated: August 4th, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they constantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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