Portugal Discovers Its Spirit Of Entrepreneurial Adventure
A tide of entrepreneurship is sweeping Europe, as the Eurozone crisis and accompanying austerity measures prompt more and more people to take a chance on start their own business and fuel continental growth of technology incubators and accelerators.
Nowhere has this 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.
Somewhat overshadowed by Berlin’s booming tech hub, and to a lesser extent by rapid start-up growth across Eastern Europe, the rapid emergence of the Portuguese entrepreneur has to be the unseen story of the past four years, as promising new companies win investment funding, launch international products and secure their exits. 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 after several years in recession, on the back of this startup revolution, GDP is up 1.6% this year. Here, entrepreneurship has enjoyed government support, which includes the launch of investment agency Portugal Ventures, a €450 million fund focusing on investments in innovative tech companies as well as startups in more traditional sectors.
The creation of a number of business incubators, such as Startup Lisboa, has provided a further boost, offering fledgling firms the office-space and business support they need to get off the ground. Accelerator activity in Portugal is also speeding up. The most famous, Lisbon Challenge, has been acknowledged as one of the top five most active programmes in Europe.
A number of startups have emerged and gone on to join the likes of TechStars, Y Combinator and Seedcamp, while 40% of those coming out of Lisbon Challenge have secured VC investment, increasingly from the US.
So who are Portugal’s ‘ones to watch’?
Call centre software company Talkdesk, which raised $15 million in Series A funding in June from US investors Storm Ventures and DFJ, for a start. The business began when co-founders Tiago Paiva and Cristina Fonseca spent two weeks coding to create a cloud-based call centre solution, which they entered in a Twilio developer contest and subsequently won. The following week the pair were heading for Silicon Valley. The company now has more than 2,000 customers in 54 countries including DoorDash, Weather.com, Edmunds.com and Anki.
Feedzai is a Portuguese fraud protection start-up that has just secured $17.5 million in a Series B funding, backed by Oak HC/FT, Sapphire Ventures and Espirito Santo Ventures. Founded in 2011, their software identifies risk and blocks fraud earlier, minimising risk, loss and unnecessary intrusions on customers. Last year Feedzai analysed more than 18 billion transactions, equivalent to more than $760 billion in payment value.