Q: What efforts are being made to put Portugal on the map for IT investment, and to cultivate start-up development in the country?
A: This is a strategy that started in Lisbon and now we are fostering it all over the country. We have a new generation of highly qualified young people in Portugal and we’ve made big investments in technology and infrastructure in the past 10 years. This allows us to have the ambition to be part of the 21st-century economy – one of the leading countries.
We are attracting young entrepreneurs from all around the world to Lisbon and Portugal, not only because we have the human resources or fiscal attractiveness, but because we also have [a good] quality of life. We have a global mindset, we have cultural offerings, they like Lisbon and the opportunity to surf just 15 minutes away, and they like having low-cost flights to anywhere else in Europe. Being in the same timezone as London is fabulous, obviously, because London is still one of the main hubs to get investors and customers for these kinds of activities.
We have attracted, for example, a new incubator to Lisbon called Second Home, which is a very well-known incubator from London. We have Seedrs, the biggest equity crowdfunding platform in Europe; last year it invested more than £100m [$144.1m] in start-ups. Founder Carlos Silva is Portuguese and [the company’s design and development team] is based in Lisbon.
So it is possible, and it is happening. It’s not far-fetched, we have already proved that. And the cherry on top is Web Summit, the biggest tech entrepreneurship event in the world, which is being held in Lisbon for the next three years. This will bring more than 50,000 investors and entrepreneurs from all around the world.
Q: What is the venture capital scene like in Portugal?
A: It’s still small because the market is small, but we don’t mind that. We created a trend where we co-invest with foreign venture capitalists. So starting [as of now], any venture capitalists from anywhere else in the world, if he or she makes an investment in a Portugal-based company, we co-invest a public euro for each euro they invest. It’s a matching fund on tech sectors and science-based sectors, and we want to attract more foreign investors with more smart money, but we want to attract foreign companies too. So if you are a venture capitalist in London or Berlin and you tell a company to move to Lisbon, you receive double the money.
Q: Lisbon isn’t one of the immediate cities that come to mind when you think ‘tech capitals of Europe’ – how can you change that?
A: The traditional ICT mindset is not what we are fostering in Lisbon. Those old centres with thousands of guys programming – that’s not the kind of companies we want. We are on the path of start-ups, companies with 50, 100 or 200 people, but with hundreds of millions of valuation going global in two to three years. [As an example] we have the Hole 19 Golf mobile app for golfers – the company has 700,000 golfers from all around the world using it, and is [based] in downtown Lisbon. That is the kind of economy we are fostering and we want to put Portugal in the centre of those strategies.