Dreaming of Unicorns

By Sophie Sadler

After announcing in the September magazine the third anniversary of StartUp Portimão, I went to visit their offices to find out more about the incubator and how it can create more entrepreneurs.

Situated within the Autodromo complex, promising speed, hard-fought victories and modern technology, the StartUp offices are certainly an inspiring place to work. In a modern minimalist building, I am shown inside and introduced to a number of the entrepreneurs that have based themselves here.

Of course with the current COVID-19 situation, the offices are not the bustling hub they should be, however, the people I meet there all enthuse about how it is a unique work space and offered them a great opportunity to establish their online business. There is a small kitchen area and a table tennis table if you want to let off some steam after a stressful work call.

StartUp Portimão is the incubator of Portimão City, as a partner of the Algarve International Autódromo that gave the facilities. It is partnered with GEN Portugal – Global Entrepreneurship Network, which is the entity that fuels the incubator. Rents are reasonable and the many events organised by StartUp Portimão are a great place to network, exchange ideas and gain knowledge.

I have asked to talk to a young entrepreneur who has established their startup business from here. I am fortunate to be introduced to Ricardo Viegas, co-founder of Logrise, a software company which assists e-commerce, real estate and tourism companies to identify client segments and optimise their marketing campaigns.

Originally from Silves, this young entrepreneur started dreaming of success at a young age. He attended a 3-day event to create a Startup on a 3-day marathon, where his team won 2nd Place. That gave them access to IST (Instituto Superior Técnicoi) incubator where he had the opportunity to meet the founders of Talkdesk.

Talkdesk is a unicorn cloud-based contact centre was founded in Portugal in 2011. Now it is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in London, Lisbon, Madrid, Salt Lake City, Coimbra, Aveiro and Porto. (A unicorn is a term used in the venture capital industry to describe a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion.)

“We can´t all be unicorns,” says Ricardo, “but in order to find the next one we need to start supporting the small businesses”. Logrise now increases their client’s conversion rates by 5-7% but he has never been given a grant or any financial support. “We started with nothing and got to where we are with networking and finding new clients. This is why these offices are so great.”

If you dream of being the next billion-dollar company, StartUP Visa is a program to welcome foreign entrepreneurs who intend to develop an entrepreneurship or innovation project in Portugal.

I am eager to find out what Ricardo thinks of the opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the Algarve, especially at this time when everyone recognises the need to diversify from tourism. “There are more facilities and opportunities in the big cities like Lisbon, Evora, Braga and Coimbra and big cultural differences. I think the Algarve lacks an identity and people are more scared of failing than in Lisbon where I have seen many companies go out of business, but they just start again in another format.”

So where does the Algarve´s future success lie? In Ricardo´s opinion, it is with lifestyle-based companies, “We need to develop more tech companies that revolve around the Algarve´s USP which is lifestyle, Airbnb, booking.com to give two examples. The other thing is to create hubs like this but in the city centres. You bring five new companies into the centre of Lagos or Loule if they each have five employees that will bring 25 people to the centres. Now you imagine bringing 50 companies, that’s what we need to reduce the reliance on tourism to fill bars and restaurants.”

Ricardo also identifies the lack of expertise and knowledge in the Algarve, and this is where he believes the upward trend in digital nomads will help. “They will bring new knowledge and experience. In 10 years time, I believe that the Algarve will be a remote working hub.” In fact, he says, in the Algarve, we need to be looking for camels, not unicorns – I am confused! A camel is a new name for startups with mile growth and stability.

Whether you want to be a camel or a unicorn, contact the hub to rent office space at a reasonable price, all nationalities are welcome, you simply apply on their website.

If we dream big, we can all be unicorns, or indeed camels!



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