LISBON Why Lisbon's Tech Scene is on Fire

Lisbon has already been hailed as Europe's answer to San Francisco, yet as the world's leading tech conference moves its headquarters to the Portuguese capital, the start-up scene looks set to accelerate.

LISBON

Why Lisbon's Tech Scene is on Fire

Lisbon has already been hailed as Europe's answer to San Francisco, yet as the world's leading tech conference moves its headquarters to the Portuguese capital, the start-up scene looks set to accelerate.

Described as somewhere between Glastonbury and Davos for Geeks, Web Summit is one of the tech world’s most dynamic get-togethers. 21 conferences spread over 3 days, the event brings together speakers that range from the founder of Tinder and the director general of the World-Trade organization. For the past 7 years, it's been held in Dublin, which means the 50,000 or so participants have had the chance to toast pints of Guinness with the likes of Bono and Elon Musk during the much-appraised Pub Crawl, where Uber famously raised a crucial round of funding.

This year, for the first time, Web Summit moves location to Lisbon. It's part of a new plan by CEO Paddy Crosgrove to take Web Summit beyond the tech scene, recognizing the impact that technology now has across the political, economic and social spheres of life. For the first time, Prime Ministers, Ministers and Mayors will engage in in-depth discussions with major sports personalities like Ronaldinho and global musicians such as Tinie Tempah.

In a recent interview, Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave explained, “There’s much happening in the world that is concerning. There’s an unprecedented refugee crisis, political uncertainty in the United States and Europe, a sluggish global economy, growing numbers of terrorist attacks, a backlash against globalisation, fears over technology’s failed promises and so much more… It’s time for Web Summit to grow up that little bit more, and in a way that reflects the growing impact of technology on every aspect of our lives and the lives of 7 billion other humans.”

The move is also a strong testament to the Portuguese capital’s burgeoning tech scene, which has seen a growing number of European start-ups move their headquarters here in the past few years. With a striking bridge and a world-class surf scene within 15 minutes of the city centre, the interest has also led the city to earn the nick-name of Europe’s answer to San Francisco.  

Lisbon’s mayor Manuel Caldeira is keen to support the comparison, citing the government’s support of start-up initiatives and the entrepreneurial spirit that already exists among Lisboetas as a vibrant breeding ground for new ideas and businesses. Yet some locals look on the comparison with a wry smile; for them, the lifestyle is far more laid-back, far more in line with LA, than San Francisco’s one-market dominated buzz. The crux of the matter crucially lies with cost. In addition to a highly educated local work-force and one of the highest quality of lifestyles in Europe, what makes Lisbon so attractive for start-ups is the low-rents available for both office and living space.

According to research from global data agency Numbeo, life in Lisbon is approximately 50% cheaper than in London, which means chances of financial success for young entrepreneurs is greatly improved. Catering to the demand, London’s most dynamic co-working enterprise Second Home is due to establish their second European head-quarters here come December.

Testament to Lisbon’s kick-ass quality of life, the 2016 WebSummit (which runs from the 7th to the 10th of November) kicks off with a Surf Summit, held on the famed surf breaks of Ericeira in the week leading up to the conference. Led by the likes of big wave surfers Andrew Cotton and Garret Mcnamara and professional surfers Tiago Pires and Anastasia Ashley, networking opportunities came in the form of wet-suit changing, surf lessons, paddle boarding, beach parties and bike rides along the World Surf Reserve. Word is that the intimate event sold out like wildfire, so one to book ahead for next year. 

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