Mona Hanselka, from Lisbon-based start-up tb.lx, which develops sustainable transportation solutions for Daimler trucks and buses, writes a 3-part series on the definition of a corporate start-up, why Lisbon is the place to build it, and how to be the employer of choice in a competitive tech ecosystem.
A 3-part series about the definition of a corporate startup, why Lisbon is the place to build it, and how be the employer of choice in a competitive tech ecosystem.
Over the past years, Lisbon became one of the most attractive places in Europe for startups and tech-savvy young professionals. Many articles and studies highlight the city’s potential and showcase the growing number of startups and accelerator programs. But why is Lisbon also the perfect place for corporate startups? Let’s explore this topic from the point of view of such a corporate startup based in Lisbon.
Why corporate startups should come to Lisbon, Portugal?
When the Web Summit decided to move the event from Dublin to Lisbon in 2016, many entrepreneurs and investors had the capital of Portugal on their radar for the first time. And over the past 4 years, Lisbon became one of the European startup capitals like Berlin or Barcelona, mostly due to the mix of funding possibilities and accelerator programs, the networking scene, available talents, and a great quality of life in a vibrant city with the beach nearby.
Besides these reasons, there are additional ones which make Lisbon a great place especially for corporate startups. Let me tell you why we chose Lisbon as our home, because I believe this can be true for other corporate startups as well:
The neutral ground of our corporate organization
With a huge international organization as our parent, investor, partner, and client, it was important for us to find a neutral but accessible ground for the new company. In our case, our corporate partners are located in Germany, the US, Japan, India and China. None of these countries would have been the preferred location for us due to a potential bias of being closer to one of them. Therefore, Portugal was the independent choice regarding location, language and culture.
Location and time zone
To collaborate across the globe, it is also important to find matching windows in the different time zones. Whether you have clients in the US or in Japan, the Portuguese time zone makes it possible to collaborate with all other locations during the regular work day. When it comes to traveling, Lisbon is very well located, not only in Portugal, but also in Europe. It has an international airport with flights to almost anywhere in the world. It’s a 3-hour flight to Frankfurt, and a 7-hour flight to New York. Within Portugal, a 3-hour drive will get you to the south or the north of the country.
Hotspot for young talented people with the drive to create
When building up a new company, you need talented people to work for you. This is definitely a given in Lisbon: not only mentioning the entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and locals already living in Lisbon, many young talented people from different industries and seniority levels are eager to move to Lisbon for the job.
Especially in the software engineering sector, Lisbon is booming. Portugal has great university programs for tech, e.g. Machine Learning, which bring highly qualified juniors to the market each year. Talent in Portugal is also easier to hire than in other locations, and often still cheaper.
There are also dedicated companies like LandingJobs, which created an ecosystem of tech talent and help many new companies, like corporate startups, to match with the right talent. If you are new to the city and need a first boost to hire, companies like them can give you the right kick start.
However, the tech market in Lisbon is highly competitive regarding salaries, benefits, products, and impact. Talents tend to follow the best offer and the best fit, not only monetary but also in terms of culture. Additionally, brand loyalty is not as established as it is in more traditional companies or big brands.
The meetup/networking scene
Lisbon is full of creatives, makers and innovators, and has one of the best meetup scenes and networks for entrepreneurs, digital nomads and tech-savvy people worldwide. There are endless groups with events happening every week, not only to socialize over a beer or a hike, but also to talk tech, exchange about product management techniques or the latest hacks on Spark. (Talking about Pre-Covid-19, of course) This environment gives you the chance to make valuable connections, participate yourself and become known in the ecosystem.
But in the end, it’s not a big city. Which means it’s not possible to remain anonymous as a company. Everyone knows each other and news spread fast, so if you’re not doing a good job, others will quickly know.
Open innovation programs & startup collaborations
For corporate startups, it is vital to make connections within their sector. beta-i is one of the big players in Lisbon, which fosters collaboration between startups, corporates, governments and investors. They run open-innovation challenges with the city of Lisbon based on different topics, like Mobility or Tourism, to create pilots between startups and local corporates that will improve city life. This gave us the chance to have all the players of our industry, mobility & transportation, on one table and discuss how we can innovate together through collaboration.
The openness of the city and government
We were positively surprised by how welcoming the city of Lisbon is for new arrivers. The Camara Municipal de Lisboa (CML) is very open to collaborations and innovations, and always eager to improve Lisbon’s city life and the future of transportation, which was a great sign for us.
Visas and attractive tax benefits
The Portuguese government started many initiatives to make the country attractive for skilled foreigners. The Non-Habitual-Residence-Status gives foreigners of certain professions a flat tax of 20% (+ 11% Social Security) for 10 years. Startup Visas and Tech Visas make it easier for foreigners from outside Schengen to move to Portugal. This makes your location attractive for talents from aboard.
The Coworking scene
Every month, a new Coworking space opens its doors and all of them offer a great experience. The advantages for corporate startups are the short-term contracts and the possibility to easily grow or reduce office space on demand. Community events foster connections with other entrepreneurs and companies in the building. On coworker.com, Lisbon lists 99 coworking spaces, compared to 114 in Berlin or 28 in Tel Aviv.
And, a 10-minute drive away from the city center, on the eastern riverside front of Lisbon, the City of Lisbon is transforming an old military food factory into a huge campus for tech startups and creatives. Hub Criativo do Beato, with 35.000-square-meter of creativity, innovation and collaboration, will host over 3.000 people from all around the world and will be a unique place for innovation.
The early stage of a digital capital
Although it seems like Lisbon has been trending for a while now, it is still at its early stages of becoming one of the digital capitals of Europe. The events, jobs, and networks aren’t saturated yet, and is it still early enough to jump on the early adaptors train.
And I am not talking about the Portuguese language. Most Portuguese have a very good level of English, and the language is widely spoken in the city. There might be an old lady next door who doesn’t understand English well enough to communicate, but in a work and day-to-day-living-context, everything is possible with English.
The lifestyle and safety
Lisbon is not only a pretty city but has a lot of charm. There is a vibe in the city, a drive to create. Lots of beautiful beaches are less than an hour away by car, the food is good and the coffee is great. Plus, Portugal is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, ranking in 3rd place in the 2020 global peace index, after Iceland and New Zealand.
Despite some inflation in recent years, Portugal is still more affordable than most cities in Europe. And other Portuguese cities, such as Porto and Coimbra, are emerging as attractive places to set up a startup, with abundant talent, cheaper costs of living than in the capital and an equally good quality of life.