It’s being lauded as Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley, and with good reason: Lisbon is emerging as one of the fastest-growing tech ecosystems, and one of the most desirable locations for tech start-ups in the world.

Sure, it’s still in its infancy, but investment in the start-up scene in Portugal’s capital has grown by 30 per cent every year since 2016, double the average across the rest of Europe.

Start-ups based in the Portuguese capital were worth a whopping €21 billion as of 2022 – up 26 times since 2016. And, interestingly, the nation has launched more unicorns than Spain, Italy and Greece combined.

A unique and efficient tech ecosystem

Lisbon has several ingredients that make it a unique and efficient tech ecosystem.

There’s the quality of life, the government’s visa schemes and incentives designed to attract foreign entrepreneurs and the fact that the country has a very high quality of engineering talent at a competitive cost.

According to Eurostat, the country has the second-highest rate of engineering graduates in the European Union, with around 90,000 students graduating each year.

There’s also easy air links to other large tech hubs, Portugal’s fibre optic network coverage (ranked 11th in the world), and there are 300 days of sunshine every year. It’s hardly surprising Lisbon is now home to the world’s largest digital nomad community.

An active coworking scene

There’s an active coworking scene which has resulted in a great environment for entrepreneurs, founders, freelancers and tech talent to come together.

Add to this the hundreds of tech events and meet-ups that are held there each year, including the annual Web Summit (the largest of its kind in the world). The city is a hive of innovation and collaboration, ready to birth many more new start-ups that may one day turn into unicorns.

And speaking of unicorns, Portugal has created seven to date: Farfetch, Talkdesk, Feedzai, Remote, Sword Health, Anchorage Digital, and Outsystems – the world’s first market-leading, low-code software development system worth €8.9 billion.

Portugal counts almost double the unicorns of neighbouring Spain, which has four, and triple those of Italy, which has two. In fact, the country is amongst the top five unicorn-creating countries in the world as measured by unicorns per capita.

No plans to slow down

Lisbon has no plans of slowing down, especially if the start-up accelerator Unicorn Factory Lisboa has anything to say about it.

Launched in October 2022, it’s an umbrella brand for Startup Lisboa, which has supported more than 460 start-ups that have gone on to raise €410 million and create more than 5,000 jobs.

The difference with Unicorn Factory Lisboa is that its focus will be on scale-ups or start-ups that are already somewhat established, with a product or service in operation and a team in place – they just need that extra boost to get them to the next level.

“Innovation is not an idea, innovation is a process,” said Carlos Moedas, mayor of the city of Lisbon, speaking at the official launch on the opening night of Web Summit 2022.

Cheapest to do business

According to the OECD, Portugal is now the cheapest country in Europe in which to run a business.

With its rich array of tech talent, not to mention the rewarding tax conditions for multinational companies, it makes sense that some of the world’s biggest corporations – Google, Siemens, IKEA, Cisco, Unilever, Nestle, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz – have all established tech hubs in the Lisbon area in recent years.

Source: Euronews