by Ricardo Marvão

A few years ago, I met Pedro Rocha through Philipp Moehring from Seedcamp. Back then, we were both trying to bring Seedcamp to Lisbon’s startup ecosystem, so I had the chance to talk to Pedro.

During that year, we both worked hard and tried our best to bring Seedcamp to Portugal, however, all that we could hear was that Lisbon was still not ready for it. The best we got was the suggestion to take some of our startups to the Seedcamp event in Barcelona.

In Lisbon for 24 hours

The reality is that we didn’t want to give up. We went to London twice to convince Seedcamp executives. On the first visit, we couldn’t have gotten a bigger NO. The second time, we bought Philipp a ticket and told him, “Come to Portugal and if in 24 hours you are not convinced, you will not be bothered again.”

He eventually came, and in less than a day, he confirmed that Seedcamp would come to Lisbon that very same year. The first edition was a great success, and as a result, we had investments in four startups.

Since then, Seedcamp has returned to Lisbon every year for the past five years and invested four more times. This was such a huge accomplishment and a giant step forward for Lisbon’s startup ecosystem.

Lisbon’s Startup Ecosystem

When we started Beta-i, we immediately thought that building a startup ecosystem in Lisbon would take lots of time with a long-term vision and a joint effort from everyone. We had to develop the community (Beta-Talks), organize the first events that inspired ideas (Silicon Valley comes to Lisbon and Startup Weekend), motivate from ideas to prototypes (Beta-Start), then from prototypes to products (Lisbon Challenge), and last but not least, get the first international investors in the country (the first Seedcamp). 

It was also necessary for us to understand how to reach the market and international investors. Most important of all, it was necessary to ensure the participation of all relevant players in the construction of Lisbon’s startup ecosystem, such as large companies and SMEs, universities and research centres, government and public entities, and creative industries to make it happen.

Throughout this period, it was imperative to cultivate relationships between people both nationally and internationally. Philipp is just one example among hundreds of similar stories. Creating these relationships was important for encouraging trust and showing value in what Lisbon had to offer. More than business to business, it is person to person that matters. After all, business is done between people. So, it takes time, work, dedication, and tenacity.

As Vogue’s Anna Wintour said that the September Edition was the most important one for fashion, our September 2018 was one of the most important months for entrepreneurship in Portugal. This date marks a significant milestone for us; it represents the next stage when the first IPOs (Farfetch) and the first exits of relevant value took place. 

Since then, Portugal has gained new visibility at an international level and attracted a new type of investor that is aware of the opportunities in Europe’s westernmost country.

Lisbon's Startup Ecosystem

A New Era in Lisbon

What happened in September 2018 was crucial for the next step of Lisbon’s startup ecosystem. It was finally the time for entrepreneurs to have the chance to start getting the results of years of hard work. It was when entrepreneurs who had gone through the entire cycle realized the importance of early support and were then ready to help and contribute to the newcomers. 

This is our moment. We have the power to create seed funds to support startups, create new workspaces for entrepreneurs, and create schools for developers, along with so many other possibilities. We’re proud to be following the same path as some mature startup ecosystems, such as London, Paris, and Berlin. But, if you ask me if we’re the same, I have one answer: we are evolving much faster and we won’t stop!

Click here to read more insightful articles.