Lisbon tech start-up scene is a hidden gem

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Last July, I was lucky to discover Portugal after completing an assignment. During my stay in Lisbon, I got a glimpse of the burgeoning start-up scene. I met with Ricardo Marvão, co-founder of Beta-i and Product Deputy at Lisbon Challenge. Having spent a lot of time in Berlin, I was intrigued by Lisbon’s tech scene. I had read a few things online  but wanted to discover it with my own eyes and draw my conclusions.

Ricardo and I met at the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, a refurbished market featuring an endless selection of gourmet cuisine and local chefs. I urge you to go check it out if you make it to Lisbon and venture around the Cais do Sodre neighborhood. Beta-i‘s offices are in Saldanha, the business center of Lisbon and ready to accommodate new applicants with its nine floors.

Ricardo answered my questions about the Lisbon start-up scene. He also introduced me to “The Lisbon Challenge“, a 3-month accelerator program which attracts startups from all around the world. This program has helped put Portugal on the start-up map. It has helped 130 startup alumni raise over 30 million euros after attending the program. Additionally three startups alumni were accepted into the Ycombinator, and seven at Seedcamp after completing The Lisbon Challenge. The team is proud of their accomplishment as the program’s success rate comes second to the UK. Naturally, it has attracted the attention of international VC’s and start-ups alike. During their Lisbon Investment Summit, The Lisbon Challenge drew in investors from Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Dropbox, Soundcloud, Google and more.

While Portugal is still an emerging tech market, it offers lots of opportunities for start-ups looking to expand internationally – whether through entering the European or Portuguese speaking market.

Lisbon can be a great gateway, for the reasons below:

  1. Beta-i is actively supporting entrepreneurship in Lisbon through it’s various programs, events, and accelerators. In just three years, they have done an incredible job linking investors with international start-ups. The founders are previous and current entrepreneurs ready to support fellow entrepreneurs.
  2. Many investors are setting new funds in Lisbon eager to grow Lisbon’s start-up community.
  3. Lisbon has a wealth of talent from developers to designers due to the multiple universities in the near vicinity. The hiring rates are extremely competitive due to Portugal’s low costs of living.
  4. Lisbon infrastructure is top notch with high-speed internet and reliable transportation. The cost of living in Portugal is low. Housing, food and transportation are cheaper than most other European cities. While all of the amenities of a cosmopolitan city are readily available.
  5. Portuguese’s culture, food, and beaches are incredible. You won’t be disappointed. I was personally amazed by the beauty of the beaches in Portugal. The Portuguese are extremely welcoming, and the weather is amazing all year round.

If you are looking for a change of scenery, I highly encourage you apply to the Lisbon Challenge. They are accepting applications until January 31st, 2015 – so hurry up and apply >> 
Otherwise, attend the Lisbon Investment Summit will be held on June 4th and June 5th, 2015.

Lisbon is a relatively new start-up scene full of potential. I will definitely keep a close eye on this hub as I am curious to see innovation that will come out of this amazing city.

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