Portugal and the vibrant venture capital ecosystem
When Paddy Cosgrave brought the Websummit to Portugal in 2016, the Europe’s largest tech event, there were already Portuguese startups on the international scene, like Farfetch, Seedrs and Codacity.
The event has grown to a larger scale over the years, putting Portugal in the spotlight when it comes to startups and venture capital but also as a wonderful place to work and live. The 40,6% growth of expats in 2021 compared to 2011 also supports this perception.
Portugal has more unicorn companies than Spain, Greece and Italy combined, according to the Executive Director of Startup Portugal. If you compare the size of Portugal with those countries combined in terms of population and GDP in 2021 is less than 9% and around 1%, respectively.
The country also have high quality of engineering talent, at a competitive cost, combined with an extremely high level of English language proficiency (compared to Spain, France, Italy). Portuguese founders are highly qualified, with the majority of them holding at least a master’s degree. This is one of the reasons for this unlikely success of recent years.
The 50 startups in Portugal that have grown faster on the last 2 years have raised 1,2 billion Euros, have an aggregate valuation of 6 billion Euros and employ 3.500 people according to Rows. These are companies with global businesses that have chosen headquarters or offices in Portugal.
In 2021, the United States continues to be the leading contributor of funding to Portuguese startups, especially growth stage financing, followed by United Kingdom.
Public financing is also one of the most important drivers of the Venture Capital ecosystem in Europe. The European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund have supported different solutions as a direct investment fund and a fund of funds. The European Commission is also economically and financially committed to support the growth of European entrepreneurs.
Portuguese startups are from a wide range of sectors as a competitor of Excel and Google Sheets to remote work platform to proptech, food support application to digital currencies custody and a cryptobank authorized by US authorities.
Cryptocurrencies is an area where Portugal has been in the news with digital nomads moving to Portugal to create its first digital nomad village, with the support of Madeira Island government. But it’s not the only initiative. The bitcoin family, a Dutch well-known family that gained a fortune with Bitcoin, chose Portugal to live after spending the last 5 years in 40 different countries. Portugal is a tax efficient country for cryptocurrencies and living is easy in Portugal, according to other expats that moved to Portugal.
Madeira is creating incubators and a crypto village to develop innovation and attract digital nomads. But this is happening in many other cities, as Lisbon. Lisbon’s new mayor, Carlos Moedas, launched the idea of creating an unicorn factory project and it’s already under construction and is expected to be completed before the next edition of the Web Summit, in November this year.
Portuguese Venture capital funds play an important role of leveraging the local knowledge and supporting entrepreneurs with its international footprint, giving support to create scale and to promote networking. This was an incipient market just a couple of years ago but is booming and with much to offer.
Diogo Saraiva de Ponte
Head of Investment at STAG Fund Management