The fact that Lisbon offers people of all nationalities an opportunity to integrate easily into the Portuguese society adds to its charm as a desired startup destination, says the director of Startup Portugal.

“I don’t think there’s one thing that makes Lisbon so attractive. I think there’s a huge number of things,” João Mendes Borga told Via News in an exclusive interview when asked why more entrepreneurs are choosing Lisbon for business.

He says one of the distinctive features of Portugal is its welcoming nature, which helps non-nationals adapt successfully to their new environment.

“I heard a couple of days ago from someone who is building a team here that this is the only place in the world where they can have an Israeli and an Iranian working in the same team, on the same floor, and in the same room and when they leave work, none of them feel segregated in society and both of them feel welcome.”

The director of Startup Portugal—a think tank that helps design and implement entrepreneurial-related public policies and private initiatives—said Lisbon’s weather also plays a significant role in attracting foreign talent.

“We have 300 days of sun here throughout the year,” he noted, adding that the importance of this factor is recognized by various rankings that put the Portuguese capital among the best startup hubs in the world.

Web Summit's promotional item in Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo credit: Rick Morais
Web Summit’s promotional item in Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo credit: Rick Morais)

João says the government’s open-arm policy of welcoming foreign professionals and its favorable climate contributes greatly to developing the country’s pool of talent because founders who have a positive experience here usually bring in employees from abroad after settling down.

According to him, the lively entrepreneurial atmosphere in Portugal is another decisive factor in this regard.

“There’s a sense that things are happening in Portugal so you see amazing technologies being developed by scaleups… You see people working on AI [Artificial Intelligence], machine learning, or IoT [the Internet of things].”

One of the distinctive features of Portugal is its welcoming nature, which helps non-nationals adapt successfully to their new environment.

João Mendes Borga, director of Startup Portugal

João said many events are happening here where you can meet CEOs and founders and this collaboration and “collision of different ideas” lead to the development of better technology and products.

“I’m not saying there is no issue in our community. Of course, there are issues and there is always scope for work,” he noted, adding that Startup Portugal is making every effort to address the existing challenges.

Lessons for Startups

João, who holds an MBA from the University of Manchester and has had the experience of building an incubator/accelerator in a small town in the interior of Portugal, says entrepreneurs should think big and aim high.  

“You will be probably working on the problem locally in the beginning but design it to be scalable at the global level,” he told aspirant startup founders.

João Mendes Borga, director of Startup Portugal, says it should not take entrepreneurs a very long time to launch. (Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash)

Startup Portugal’s director, who is passionate about innovation, technology, and startups, also said entrepreneurs should equip themselves with all the necessary skills to create a business plan, ranging from HR to marketing to social media management. “So it’s about the journey. It’s not about the output that you deliver.”

Those who want to have a successful business should take the time to talk with people who are solving similar problems, listen to them, learn from them, and share their idea with them, he added.

“Set yourself timelines to build your idea and your project because if you don’t, you will experience certain stages where you aren’t as confident as you should be. This will drain your time and you will find yourself out of money without having launched,” João said.

Another issue that entrepreneurs need to take into consideration is that it should not take them a very long time to launch, he commented.

“Quickly build an MVP [Minimum Viable Product], put it out here, validate if the market needs that solution. If not, kill it and move to another idea,” added Startup Portugal’s director and former project manager at Startup Lisboa.

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