As a persistent promoter of Portugal I had great joy in reading that my beloved country, rich with a history of discovery, had discovered a new spirit of entrepreneurial adventure.
A recent report in Forbes magazine simply confirmed what we in Portugal have known for years.
“Nowhere has transformation been more impressive than in Portugal, a country famous for its maritime explorers, rich in history and culture, and now inspirational in its embrace of enterprise.
Like their counterparts in other European countries where unemployment remains sky high, Portugal’s novo entrepreneurs have simply spotted gaps in the market, and applied their creative ingenuity to fill them. In the process they have helped transition their native economy from its traditional manufacturing roots to one based on innovation.”
And all this after several years in recession and sky high unemployment. One can never be sure what triggers such a change in a national psyche but pride and tenacity must be two of the main factors here, but a little incentive from government quarters also helps.
It launched an investment agency aptly called Portugal Ventures, a €450 million fund, to focus on investments in innovative tech companies as well as startups in more traditional sectors.
A number of business ‘incubators’ have also been established to help fledgling firms with office space and business support.
Forbes also point out that “accelerator activity in Portugal is also speeding up. The most famous, Lisbon Challenge, has been acknowledged as one of the top five most active programs in Europe.
A number of startups have emerged and gone on to join the likes of TechStars, Y Combinator and Seedcamp, while 40 percent of those coming out of Lisbon Challenge have secured VC investment, increasingly from the US.”
Whilst all this helps the country to come out of the malaise of recession there has to be an underlying desire in people to take the challenge and risk of taking an idea and making it real.
Five years ago such an enterprising resurgence would have been unimaginable as Portugal was one of the hardest hit in Europe during the last financial crisis.
But Portugal is full of surprises and has a rich history of technological success. You are probably unaware what NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) do to avoid critical situations arising in their computer systems? And what London Underground or the railway networks of The Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Denmark do when they need rail management software? They go to Portuguese companies like Critical Software and SISCOG.
Did you know that it was Portugal that invented pre-payment cards for mobile communications? And that in Portugal you can buy a cinema ticket and choose where you sit – by mobile phone?
Did you know that Number Five has captured 75 percent of the world market for self-identification? And have you heard of Altitude (leading supplier of technology for call centres and CRM), and what about Chipidea (world leader in the design of analog solutions that provide the interface between digital technology and the real world)?
WeDo Technologies, and most of these Portuguese tech firms, have battled through those lean years by continuously investing in local people and at the same time concentrating on growth in other emerging and growing markets.
We would like to think that our efforts may have played a small part in giving confidence to the new entrepreneurs now emerging, some have even come from our own ranks.
More importantly, if you want to do business with the leading companies in their field, want to establish a base in Europe or even start a new company you will find Portugal’s doors open. Come to Portugal and discover the ‘new world’ of opportunity with us.