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Liina Edun in Portugal: Top 5 reasons Lisbon is one of the best cities in Europe for startups

Lisbon is often called “Europe’s San Francisco” or “Startup City,” ranked as one of Europe’s top innovation spots and a startup hub. The focus used to be on tech and digital but has since expanded, and there’s plenty of opportunities for other startups to grow, particularly those that involve social impact.

Aside from the well-known perks of living in the capital city of Portugal, such as sunny weather, below are My Top 5 reasons why Lisbon is
one of the best spots in Europe for entrepreneurs to build their startups.

No. 5 – Sun, surf, and dreamy Lisbon

Some of Lisbon’s biggest attractions are:

• the climate, with mild winters and hot summers;

• delicious seafood;

• surfing beaches just a few kilometres away;

• and an international environment where English is more widely spoken than in its neighbouring countries.

Lisbon also has direct flights to major cities around the world, and offers a mix of modern and traditional, with small cobblestone streets and blue tiled buildings standing next to new architectural infrastructure. Lisbon is also thought to have a low cost of living and affordable real estate. However this is not quite accurate, which brings us to some of the cons of building your startup in Lisbon. (See below.)

No. 4 – Coworking spaces and coffee shops

There is an abundance of coworking spaces in Lisbon, such as:

Second Home,

Beato Creative Hub

• Cork Central,

Impact Hub,

LACS,

and Canopy.

CHOUPANA

There are also a lot of coffee shops that allow people to bring their laptop and work.

The best ones are:

• Tease Bakery

Copenhagen Coffee Lab

º The Coffee Library

• Biblioteca

Palácio Galveias and cafe

• and Choupana caffé saldanha.

No. 3 – Government initiatives

The government of Portugal encourages foreigners to create businesses here by offering tax benefits and financial help. The tax benefits include the Non-Habitual Resident regime (NHR), where for the first 10 years you only pay a 20-percent flat rate on your taxes. Another benefit of the NHR is that you are exempt from paying taxes on any income earned from outside of Portugal.

Moreover, during Phase 1 of Covid-19, the Portuguese government announced that it was offering a package of 25 million euros to ensure the startup ecosystem survived during the pandemic.

No. 2 – Young and eager talent

Lisbon has some of the country’s best universities, which includes highly-ranked business and tech programs. There’s a large ecosystem of young talents who are as qualified as fresh graduates from other EU countries (and cheaper), and there’s a lot of emphasis on innovation and cutting-edge technology.

It’s also a big plus that English is widely spoken among the younger generations, despite Portuguese being the official language. Lisbon is also home to the Web Summit, providing ample opportunities to network and even find your next hire or co-founder.

No. 1 – Incubation and acceleration programs

There are numerous incubators (startups at the idea stage) and accelerators (startups at the scale-up stage) in Lisbon, many of them focusing on attracting foreign talent.

Some popular incubators are:

Startup Lisboa

Startup Portugal

• and Demium.

Some accelerators include:

Maze X

Dream Assembly (powered by Farfetch),

• and Zero Gravity (powered by the NOVA School of Business and Economics).

A few accelerators offer investment in exchange for equity, or for a convertible note, or offer a stipend. There are also startup communities that offer guidance and opportunities to network, such as Made of Lisboa.

The flip side of moving your startup to Lisbon

We can’t list the top reasons why Lisbon is a great place for startups and entrepreneurship without mentioning some of the issues you might encounter. As noted above, the cost of living is not necessarily more affordable than elsewhere in Western Europe.

With a 1-bedroom apartment of about 60 meters square averaging to 750 euros a month, and a meal for one person costing between 9 euros and 12 euros, Lisbon is not as cheap as people might think. Five years ago perhaps yes. But since the boom of tourism and digital nomads moving into the city, rent and amenities have gone up exponentially. In fact, even groceries cost about the same as in France or Germany, where the minimum salary is about twice or three times more than in Portugal, where the minimum salary of Portugal is 740 euros per month).

Another issue is that even though English is widely spoken, most of the paperwork (and customer service) you will have to deal with – including basic things like setting up your tax number or electricity account – will be in Portuguese, seeing as it’s the country’s official language.

And finally, the main drawback – the bureaucracy.

Portugal is notorious for its slow and problematic bureaucracy. Not only does it take months to sort out one small matter, but many of the paperwork you have to handle or provide don’t even make sense. And even when they do, you will have to jump through so many hoops to get one thing done, that by the end of it you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

All in all, Lisbon is still one of the best places for entrepreneurs and those in the startup scene. With a large community, government initiatives, incubation and acceleration programs, young and fresh talent, and beautiful weather, there’s no denying that Lisbon is still an excellent choice.

About the author:

A graduate of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., Liina Edun has a background in psychology and a career in writing and content management.

Having lived most of her life as an expat, she is currently located in Lisbon. 

See more on Dispatches here about Portugal.

See our Lisbon archive here.

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