Economy / Portugal

Entrepreneurial effervescence on the west coast of Europe

An economic miracle for some, Portugal is modernizing and alluring. From start-ups to surfing waves, the country evokes an almost Californian model on the west coast of Europe, and bets heavily on innovation to ensure its future.

Entrepreneurial effervescence on the west coast of Europe

Brought onto the radar of investors in 2010 during the difficult crisis, the country has surprised through its ability to reinvent itself. “The crisis has changed the country in the sense that it has pushed people to take charge. This revaluation of their self-esteem has made them more enterprising,” says Rita Marques, CEO of the Portugal Ventures investment fund. This state of mind allows the country to reconnect with a long tradition of innovation and openness to the world.

From the caravel to the electronic toll and the microphone windshield, Portugal has often been at the forefront of innovation, and it is a market of ideal size to test the success of a product. “When we release something new, we test it first in Portugal before launching it in the European market,” says Benjamin Gedeon, French co-founder of MatchPlace, a British startup specializing in fintech with an EU branch in Lisbon.

We are also now seeing the arrival of multinationals such as Google, which set up its European supplier service center last summer, and Mercedes-Benz, which opened its global center for digital research a few months ago.

The city was chosen to host the Web Summit, the Davos of geeks, for the next 10 years. “Since 2011, we wanted to position ourselves at an international level. The inhabitants thought of their city in a very local way. It has been necessary to change mentalities”, confirms Paulo Carvalho, director of the municipal agency of the economy and innovation of Lisbon.

Positive policies
There are countless incubators in Portugal helping young start-ups around the world launch their projects. In 2017, the federation that brings them together counted 3,270.

In the district of Beato the opening of a center for technology, innovation and the creative industry measuring 35,000 m2 is being planned. When it opens in late 2019, the venue will be one of the largest in Europe. National and municipal authorities largely support this movement.

An essential point, confirmed by Benjamin Gedeon and weighed in the balance with his associates, is the banks of the Tagus. “Startup Lisbon and Lisbon Invest immediately sent us to the competent authorities for all our requests. There is good will on the part of the authorities to move the files forward and the deadlines are short. For the Web Summit, when we explained our project, in 48 hours we were in the office of the financial regulator.”

Quality of life
In addition to businesses, the “digital nomads” have also stormed the hills of the city. LACS, Impact Hub, IDEIA, the list of co-working spaces, in which newcomers arrive every day are counted in dozens. In terms of universities, Lisbon attracts foreign students by posting four business schools among the top 50 in the Financial Times ranking. The proximity of beaches, the sweetness of life also explain this attractiveness. The Nova Business School has a new world-class campus, right across the beach, with stable wi-fi all the way to the edge of the waves.