Tech City Spotlight: Lisbon
There’s no shortage of cities being touted as the European Silicon Valley, but there’s one city in particular that has more than a couple of similarities with its peer across the pond. Just like San Francisco, Lisbon has a notable red suspension bridge, cable cars, surfing and world class wine, and it also has a thriving tech scene. Although the startup scene is relatively new, it’s also full of potential.
And this year it will be home to the world renowned Web Summit, Europe’s largest and most important technology marketplace, bringing together 50,000 attendees from more 150 countries, gaining a reputation as the best technology conference on the planet! This November it will feature 53,056 tech CEO’s, founders and startups, including the likes of Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, Director General from the World Trade Organization Roberto Azevêdo and Niantic CMO Mike Quigley.
‘We chose Lisbon because of the strong infrastructure in the city, the world-class venue and the thriving startup community,’ said Cosgrave, co-founder of Web Summit.
After several years of recession the economic crisis has brought to the light new business ideas. A new breed of Portuguese entrepreneurs have spotted gaps in the market and used their creativity to fill them, and in the process have started the transition of the economy from its traditional manufacturing roots to one based on innovation. With a population of 10 million Portuguese startups are born with a global mindset and have a natural tendency to target wider markets.
Specifically Lisbon is a magnetism for startups, investors, entrepreneurs and an altogether creative community. Many investors are setting new funds in Lisbon and are keen to help grow the startup community. The government are supporting the movement, partly through the launch of investment agency Portugal Ventures, a €450 million fund focusing on innovative tech companies and startups in more traditional sectors. There are multiple universities and top ranked business schools in the city which translates into a constant stream of talent, from developers and designers to software product managers, and the increasing opportunities and high quality of life are making it enticing for competitive, international talent too.
This is a city with history, architecture, world class food and wine, and an appreciation for good quality of life. The cost of living is significantly lower than most other European cities, the locals are friendly and the entrepreneurs are modest. If anything the Lisbon tech scene is an underdog, and we can’t see what the city produces over the coming months and years.
Where to live
Bairro Alto is Lisbon’s well known nightlife quarter which really comes to life when the sun sets, perfect for party animals. It’s got a bohemian vibe with busy and bright streets full of small bars and restaurants, where drinkers spill out onto the streets. Not far from Bairro Alto is Principe Real, a quieter but very hip area with many restaurants and bars to chose from. You’ll find some of Lisbon’s most tranquil squares here, beautiful gardens and colourful mansions. Chiado is the most cosmopolitan and elegant neighbourhood where many of the city’s attractions, theatres, famous cafes and Baroque churches are located. With its designer boutiques and charming bookshops it’s the best place to shop too. Not only is Alfama one of Europe’s oldest neighborhoods, it’s also the heart and soul of the city. The historic quarter is made up of crazy maze-like streets, making it the perfect place to get lost.
Where to eat
A Travessa – a converted convent – is one of Lisbon’s most famous restaurants where you’ll be served a surprise menu depending on the chef’s inspiration and ingredients of the day. Always full so make sure to book well in advance. For authentic Portuguese food try A Baiuca, a tiny family run bistro where you can enjoy fado music while you eat. The Nun’s Canteen is a hidden spot with fuss free dining. In fact you will get a main course and either a soup or dessert for just €6.50, incredible view from the roof terrace included. A trip to Lisbon wouldn’t be complete without some piri-piri chicken and nowhere does it better than Bonjardim, a roadside restaurant that’s been around since the 1950s. At the Time Out building near the shore there is also a great and super trendy food hall called Mercado da Ribeira with many of the city’s favourite shops and restaurants together under one roof.
Where to drink
Close to the docks you’ll find Pink Street which has rows of fun bars, the best of which is called Pensao Amor (old sailor’s brothel). Situated on top of a carpark on Bairro Alto is Park, one of the coolest bars. You take a lift up to the carpark where you’ll get one of the best sunset views. Cais De Sodre and Santos are nice areas for evening drinks. You’ll also find Lux here, a megaclub which everyone claims is the best. Primeiro Andar (just off Avenida de Liberdade) is a nice arty bar and at the weekend the rooms beside it turn into a rave club called Quintal.
What to do
Hop on a tram (no.28 is a good one) and you’ll easily be able to go round picturesque streets and most of the viewpoints in the city and for only a few euros. Throughout the city there are many ‘miradouros’ which are viewpoints where you’ll get spectacular views of the city. Alfama and Graca are the oldest parts of the cities and are the best places to wander round and take photos. Look out for the beautiful tile work. There’s also a great flea market in Graca on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Belem is worth a trip for the cathedral and art gallery, and Jardim Estrela is the best botanic garden. And of course the beach! Try your hand at surfing.