Congratulations Lisbon! Welcome to the Web Summit

Lisbon is to be congratulated! Web Summit, one of the leading internet conferences, is coming to Lisbon in 2016. Why am I so excited? Because, apart from all the tourism revenue, it’s another step on the path Lisbon has been taking to be a hub for technology and entrepreneurship.

I have just come from San Francisco and Silicon Valley where there is a dynamism generated by all kinds of startups and entrepreneurs. For me, this kind of dynamism is one of the main solutions that Portugal has to regain a relevant position on the international scene.

Portugal needs to start taking risks and innovating. Until now there were quite a few limitations for startups, mainly of three types:

  • Lack of market size
  • Poor entrepreneurial support ecosystem
  • Risk-averse culture

The lack of market size is no longer a problem for many companies as new technologies make it possible to operate remotely via the internet. It is becoming normal to find several foreign citizens who are working from Lisbon to all over the world. Why? For the climate, the affordable prices, the beauty and life of the city and the access to qualified professionals with reasonable salaries (one of the big problems of San Francisco that suffers a war of talent).

The ecosystem is also changing. Funds such as Caixa Capital, Portugal Ventures and Faber Ventures, combined with accelerators and incubators such as Beta-i or Startup Lisboa, provide capital and knowledge, critical to the development of the sector. The reduction of the corporate tax rate also helps. Universities, although still quite traditional, are mostly starting to open their eyes to entrepreneurship instead of trying to push students into the stability of big business and 9am-6pm jobs.

Beyond all the more rational arguments, the truth is that it is extremely attractive for a person to open a company where they can live in a nice house, in a fantastic city that is 25 minutes away from excellent beaches and where they can surf all year round. Even more so for the millennial generation.

The Web Summit is an excellent opportunity not only for the revenue it brings to the city but also to catalyze this development. Forty thousand people, many of them world opinion leaders will visit Lisbon and many of them will fall in love with the city as is normal to happen. Some of them will want to move here, open new innovative businesses, others will visit frequently and we will have a set of ambassadors for the city all over the world. This is a type of emigration that is very desirable.

For locals, the much talked about the subject will encourage more people to join the new technologies and open their businesses.

I look forward to this new wave which I hope will replace an entrenched culture of classism and nepotism that has led the country to the situation of recent years.

There is still much to develop in Lisbon, but the effort and vision that has been put into the city is commendable. Examples such as the preparation for the post Expo 98, which allowed sustained growth in tourism after the fair (unlike what happened with Seville for example), are again evident in this new phase of Lisbon which combines history and tradition with technology and innovation.

We who like in Portugal to blame the government, the associations, and everyone in general, will now “blame” them for the excellent work. Congratulations to everyone who worked to bring the event to Lisbon and also people who wrote to the organization asking them to come. Now let’s work hard to show that it was a great decision by Web Summit. No doubt Lisbon is cool!

David Bernardo
David Bernardo
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