Skip to main content

This week, a few of the Liberty team are attending the SIM Conference in Porto. SIM stands for Startup Investment Matching, but – in case your Portuguese isn’t up to scratch (like mine) – ‘sim’ also means yes in Portuguese. And it’s been fascinating to hear about how Startup Portugal, the organisers of the event, are saying ‘yes’ to championing Portuguese startups, both through this event and other initiatives.

Executive Director, Antonio Dias Martins told us how the event was conceived especially for startup founders. As a not-for-profit event, staffed by volunteers from local universities, it has been in the fortunate position of being able to create a very curated agenda based on “founder” rather than commercial interests.

Speakers have been chosen to inspire and educate with relevant stories and experience, and there is a genuine emphasis on helping startups and investors to connect. The main room is dedicated to meetings and informal conversations, while the event’s registration system is showcasing a new “smart matching” technique which proactively matches startup characteristics to investor profiles to better facilitate targeted networking opportunities – without attendees having to manually sift through profiles.

Porto is a great location for the SIM Conference – even in the rain – already claiming 10 unicorns with offices in the city and a range of vibrant universities nearby that deploy thousands of engineers to startups.

Portugal more generally is experiencing amazing growth within its startup scene. There are currently more than 4,000 startups in Portugal, with healthtech, cryptocurrency, cybersecurity and fintech all doing really well, and smart manufacturing also showing great potential.

In 2021, the community logged a record €1.5bn in investments, largely from foreign VC investors. Compared to €30m 10 years ago, this marks a huge evolution. Portuguese startups are outstripping the development of other sectors of the economy, achieving (on average) 25% more growth and 60% more foreign exports than other SMEs. Not only that but they pay a staggering 60% more than regular SMEs.

This, Martins stated, is why it’s so important to support them, and makes Portugal one of best international startup hubs to grow business, with benefits for the entire economy. The new startup law (that Startup Portugal worked with the government to pass in 2023) is testament to this.

Creating the first worldwide definition of both startup and scaleup, it established an all-important legal framework for the deployment of both Portuguese and European funds and benefits to the sector. It also introduced a number of competitive tax breaks relating to stock options, foreign employees and corporate income tax (IRC).

The Porto event has already clocked more than 2,000 participants coming to showcase and explore the best of the Portuguese ecosystem and discuss the most pertinent topics for startup founders and investors in Europe. Looking forward to seeing what next year’s event in Lisbon has in store!

Jen Hibberd

Jen is a Director at Liberty Communications

Leave a Reply