Lisbon, by the Sea

by seedcapital

Note: this article was written for a Techcrunch guest post back in August but was never published. Maybe we’re not news worth printing…

Who wouldn’t like to get their startup going in a city by the sea, with great climate, surrounded by hills, and get around the city on trams or get to the beach through a beautiful suspended bridge? And you can also add to that great food and great wine…

No, I am not talking about San Francisco, California. I’m talking about Lisboa, Portugal. Although we do have a beach called California close by: the Californian coast was first explored by a Portuguese sailor at the service of the Spanish crown, who was a native of Sesimbra, a fishing town 30 km south of Lisbon where there is a place called California Beach.

It must be said that Lisbon probably isn’t on the radar as a preferred location for startups; or that it is a hotbed of entrepreneurial action. But it could be; it can be; it should be. We are, after all, the West Coast of Europe. The business environment has been getting friendlier after years of slowing bureaucracy and there are some local startups that should warrant a closer look.

As for the business environment: you can now incorporate in Portugal for €360 in less than one hour and, in some cases, you can even do it online; corporate tax rate is an average 25% but a capital gain on the sale of shares held for more than one year is tax exempt; foreign direct investment has a lot of tax incentives and so does investment in high tech companies; 100Mbps fiber-to-the-home connections are available since January and 1Gbps connections will be available in September.

Regarding the startup environment there are a lot of changes going on. A lot of talent is available since there are three major universities in and around Lisbon where stuff like transparent and paper transistors is being invented. Some students now prefer to get their own startup going, instead of working for some major company; some are even leaving those companies and their secured jobs to go it alone.

Some local startups that deserve special mention:

Recently Microsoft has acquired a Portuguese company (Mobicomp) specialized in mobile phone software for an undisclosed amount. If Microsoft is in on it, maybe others should take notice of other Portuguese projects.

I believe that Lisbon should be the preferred location for startups that are intent on going worldwide. If you are an American company, we are the closest European country; we can be the perfect point of entry in Europe. If you are an European company, we are the EU country which is closest to the US. In both cases this would save you a lot of time on flights :-). Aditionally we have close bonds with Brazil, one of the BRIC emerging markets that also speaks Portuguese (one the most spoken languages worldwide) and close bonds with nearby Spain (its connection with other South American countries is also a potential advantage). If you add to that nearby Africa, you can understand that our geographic position was an advantage for Portuguese seafaring explorers (the first venture backed startups) who discovered new worlds and created globalization. Maybe these characteristics could also be an advantage for startups.

According to Paul Graham’s wisdom, Lisbon is all about style, hipness and quality of life. The message that Lisbon sends out is the same as Berkeley’s or San Francisco’s: you should live better.

I’d say that the next best thing to the West Coast of the US would be the West Coast of the EU. Maybe we should be on your startup’s radar after all…


  1. Anibal Damiao on 11.18.2009

    And the weather…. The same as San Francisco ;)