Portugal is frequently seen as a country of beautiful blue and green landscapes that fill the eye. In some photographs show people riding donkeys or milking cows… living a simple way of life. Yes, that still exists. Although, the last couple of years, Portugal has been showing that technology and entrepreneurialism are also in this same picture. Actually, Portugal’s great advances in the Digital and Tech world are now drawing attention.
Recently, the Digital Economy & Society Index 2016 (DESI) of the European Union named Portugal as one of the five countries that have shown more signs of progress over the last year – see 2015 in review. Portugal climbed up two steps on the ladder and is now ranked 14th, just above the average result in the digital domain.
In addition, the annual Web Summit – one of the main tech events in Europe - is moving for the first time from Ireland to Portugal for the next three years. Coincidence? Maybe not. Portugal, an Atlantic gateway to Europe is now living a Tech Startup dream and this has not gone unnoticed by the “big players.”
The Start Up Phenomenon
Rising from the global financial crisis of 2008, Portugal rapidly emerging on the European startup map. Since 2010 startup companies boomed in Portugal, with the growth of Tech Hubs across the country – some examples are UPTEC and the coming Impact Hub Lisbon. The ongoing relationship between colleges and companies, align with the some investment, has connected Portugal to a whole new dimension.
To back up phenomenon, Startup Europe Partnership identified in Portugal 40 ICT scaleups – defined as “companies able to produce employment and innovation at scale and are interesting enough to stimulate the appetite for acquisition from larger ones” - that raised more than $166 million in the last five years.
And the winners are…
The same query underlines three Portuguese scaleups that were able to secure over $20 million and hit the news at an international level: Uniplaces, Feedzai and Talkdesk. Today, Farfetch is also one of the biggest examples of the Portuguese techy way of living.
Founded in 2011, Lisbon-based Uniplaces is a fast-growing website for booking student accommodations online. They offer accommodations in more than 39 cities across eight countries. The company raised $29 million in five funding rounds, mainly from UK investors.
The last funding round occurred in November 2015 ($24M/Series A), led by the UK firm Octopus Ventures and Atomico, with the participation of Portuguese Shilling Capital Partners (Business Angel) and Caixa Capital.
Feedzai is now headquartered in San Mateo, California (Silicon Valley) with offices in Portugal and London. Initially founded in Coimbra in 2011, it moved its headquarters in the US in 2013 after a funding round of $2 million led by Sapphire Ventures.
Feedzai uses machine learning and big data science to make commerce safe, pinpointing risk and blocking fraud earlier. The company has raised $26 million in four rounds.
Talkdesk is an easy-to-use, cloud-based call center software solution that helps growing businesses improve customer interactions while simultaneously reducing costs. Founded in Lisbon in 2011, the company is now based in San Francisco. The presence in Silicon Valley has been key, since the very beginning, for having access to capital.
Today Talkdesk has a marketing and sales team in the US while maintaining design, customer support, and engineering in Portugal. Talkdesk raised $24.5 million in four rounds. The most recent round of $6 million took place in October 2015.
Founded in 2008 by the Portuguese entrepreneur José Neves, Farfetch is a Global e-commerce site for independent boutiques. In less than seven years it has become an online home for 300 or so independent boutiques from São Paulo to Milan. The company’s headquarters are in London, but most of its technology operations are in Porto. Farfetch raised $195M in five rounds.
The most recent round of $86M was in March 2015 led by DST Global (a fund run by Silicon Valley-based Russia-born billionaire Yuri Milner) at a $1B valuation.
Where are the scaleups located?
The same Startup Europe Partnership study shows that most Portuguese scaleups (17.42% of the total) are located in Lisbon. Those companies based in the capital region raised about the 60% of the total money made available to Portuguese scaleups.
Another 11 scaleups (28%) are based in Porto, being the second scaleup hub in Portugal. The remaining scaleups (12) are scattered all over Portugal, with a larger concentration in the north and specifically in the area between Porto and Braga.
Although Portugal is not in the European top rankings in the digital domain – home to Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Finland - Portugal has become a brash rising star in the startup world taking aiming high (along with the Netherlands, Estonia, Germany, Malta and Austria). With Web Summit coming soon, 2016 can be the year that Portugal shows that it has what it takes to swim in the tech “Shark Tank”.