First thoughts on Lisbon’s tech ecosystem

On June 2nd, I had the pleasure to give a workshop on how to deploy a token smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain in Lisbon at the Festival. I took this opportunity to discover the tech ecosystem, get tanned and eat pastéis de nata. Here are a few thoughts.

What fuels the tech industry?

With great universities and an economy still recovering from the financial crisis, Portugal is packed with underused qualified tech workers. Also, with old ties with the UK, and undubbed movies, most Portuguese speak English flawlessly. Reinforced by tax incentives, major tech companies such as Microsoft or Bosch have opened centers locally.

Who wouldn’t want to work from that coffee and crepes place?

Moreover, it is nowadays crucial to be able to attract and retain top tech talents. And for this, Lisbon has totally unfair advantages. The city runs an efficient public transportation system, the airport is 15 minutes from the center, the cost of living is a fraction of most European capitals, cobblestone streets and historic buildings host cafés with caché and sun, waves and wind. Nevertheless, while housing is still cheap, it might not stay for long. Prices are pressured by platforms such as Airbnb and the local Uniplaces and international investors’ interest.

Tech talents now look for more than a salary

And did I mention pastéis de nata?

Technology is a social business

When they are not busy catching up with js frameworks and compiling their kernel, tech people tend to be social. Several incubators ( Startup Lisboa, Beta-i, … ) hosts regular events while the city attracts major festivals. Most notably the Dublin Web Summit moved in 2016 to Lisbon for three years. Using the site of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, it is draining its 50 000 attendees and top sponsors.

As for the Festival, the team from a job marketplace startup managed to combine a job fair with a fun and geeky experience. International speakers such as Buffer’s CEO, a 24h hackathon, VR experiments, Nintendo switch, workshops, and awesome boat parties. Notably, the women/men attendance ratio was fairly balanced for a tech event.

What about the blockchain ecosystem ?

It’s starting. As I experienced before in France, it is in an education phase of companies and developers. With established names such as Chainsmiths opening an office there, it will attract talents and build an ecosystem. Working remotely and distributed organisations is a thing now, and even more in this field.