The Portuguese Tech Scene: The Boom Week Recap & Ecosystem Themes
Earlier this month, The Port had the opportunity to explore the Portuguese tech ecosystem in Porto and Lisbon. While in Porto, we attended The BOOM Week, a week-long event with a focus on massive growth for marketing and sales. After learning from the great lineup of speakers and meeting the energetic minds of Portugal tech who were there, here’s a recap of the event and a look at some of the trends of Portugal tech.
From History’s First Ocean Voyages to Modern-Day Innovations
Home to some of history’s greatest explorers like Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus who took to the ocean to navigate the unknown and discover uncharted territory, it is evident that this passion for discovery is still here today. Walking through the streets of Lisbon and Porto, you’ll find ancient ship references to voyaging days gone by (from ancient artifacts to souvenirs and modern-day) and feel the subtle differences between a Mediterranean country that borders the ocean rather than the sea.
Today, explorers traverse the lands of innovation, and ride the waves of technology.
Today, explorers traverse the lands of innovation, and ride the waves of technology. In recent decades and years, modern and international minds have propelled the country forward. The result? A booming Portuguese tech scene.
Portuguese Tech Maturity Contributing to Country Growth
Incubators and technology hubs like Uptec — one of the hosts of The Boom Week — have reported close to €100 million total impact on salaries, €188 million total impact on GDP, and 5000 jobs both directly and indirectly.
[Incubators and technology hubs have generated] €100 million total impact on salaries, €188 million total impact on GDP, and 5000 jobs both directly and indirectly.
The expertise of the speakers shines through and is evident in the growth their businesses have seen in recent years. Speaker Pedro Gustavo Torres, Director of Software Engineering at Talkdesk, summed up this sentiment nicely in his talk on Scaling Growth: “It’s not sexy. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of bad days and at best an ok day. … “Don’t give up, but also know that scaling is hard. ... Put the processes in place, then grow with them.”
The Urge to Fail Fast to Innovate Faster
A common theme throughout the conference shared by speakers and echoed by attendees was the need to get more resources and momentum to be able to scale and fail faster… to be able to innovate faster. Because the Porto and Lisbon tech worlds move at a different pace than the hyper-acceleration of other tech hubs like Silicon Valley or New York City, local founders and businesses were aware that an idea that could take two years to succeed or fail in faster-moving tech hubs, may take at least double that time in Portugal.
Because of this, members of the Portugal tech space are taking proactive measures towards understanding this pace, and getting all the information they can to be able to understand the true viability of their business on a global scale and at a global pace. They even have meetups like Failure Thursdays that not only showcase ventures that failed, but celebrate the “major life-changes that were provoked by events that can sometimes be considered a ‘failure.’”
During the conference, speakers like Ruy Santos Couto (Head of Growth at Infraspeak) reinforced this philosophy by highlighting the advantages of iterating effectively, sharing actionable frameworks and steps to track progress when scaling, and reinforcing the importance of learning from the failures that every entrepreneur and business will go through.
User-Focused, People-Focused, and Always Learning
Another inspiring pattern from the Portuguese tech world is its strong focus on people — whether it is with regards to the product user, the prospect, the customer, or the team member. Part of the conference was hosted at the Porto Design Factory (PDF), an idea laboratory that is “disruptive, innovative, inspirational, and passionate about learning.” And built into the PDF manifesto is the importance of “putting people in the centre of everything” and made it one of the five project requirements to be “user-centered.”
This, coupled with a tangible passion for learning, makes for a strong combination to keep the ecosystem and its innovations human, relevant, and forward-moving. This is captured in multiple parts of the PDF manifesto — “Embrace Passion-Based Learning,” and “Learn for your sake, not for credit” — as well as its project requirement to be “interdisciplinary.
An Eye on Global Growth & Talent
On a team level, people leaders like speaker Sofia Matos (Head of People & Culture at Infraspeak, who spoke about best hiring practices for strong growth) shared best practices on hiring for fit and fun ways to strengthen team engagement.
For startups setting up their first offices, Pedro Gustavo Torres shared the hiring tip to set up offices close to tech hubs, to enable businesses to scale internationally and attract global talent more easily. A strong piece of advice grounded in the fact that innovation and momentum happens closest to the city centers and tech hubs.
A Connected Ecosystem of Stakeholders Building Together
After attending The Boom Week in Porto and getting to meet the entrepreneurial minds of Portugal, it was clear that there was a passion to exchange knowledge, skill sets, and mindsets. This passion is then strengthened by the plethora of innovation resources available to the local tech ecosystem. Tech and innovation hubs — like Uptec, Porto Design Factory, among many others — are giving this generation of creators the inspiration and tools they need to succeed. In the Porto Design Factory alone, there is a built-in makers’ lab available for speakers and PDF members, along with an innovative 9-month program for students to get work experience (with large corporations like Nokia) while producing ideas that enable these large corporations to stay agile and relevant in today’s fast-moving world.
Together, all these themes give way to a mentality that is focused on building user-focused scalable products that will help to contribute to great work environments, scalable businesses, and a sustainable tech ecosystem. Tech hubs around the world would all benefit from drawing inspiration and taking cues from the booming Portuguese tech scene and its evolving ecosystem.
It was a truly inspiring week and no doubt we will be back soon. For more photos from the inspiring week, scroll through the gallery below.
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