Over the last few years, Lisbon has blossomed into one of the best cities to build a startup in Europe — and the startup ecosystem isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
The city is ranked the best place in the world to remote work in the world. There is a rich culture, developed infrastructure, sustainable transport options, low rental prices and world-class tech talent.
From Websummit to the 2,799 hours of sun per year here’s why so many entrepreneurs build a startup in Lisbon.
- Development Value-For-Money is Higher in Lisbon
- Fiscal Benefits & Talent Attraction
- Real Estate Prices are 80% to 66% Cheaper Than Places Like Zurich and Berlin
- There are State of the Art Startup Hubs and a Giant Startup Centrality Coming Soon
- Local Development Agencies and Communities are Booming
- Websummit? Lisbon.
- It is a Very International City
- Timezone & Proximity
- English is Widely Spoken
Bureaucracy Has Had a Tech Revolution
Bonus: Build a Startup In Lisbon, Stay for the Quality of Life
1. Development Value-For-Money is Higher in Lisbon
You will find that some of the greatest employees working at global IT companies are Portuguese. This is, in part, thanks to local faculties (most notably FCT-UNL and IST) churning out hundreds of great developers every year. A huge 53% of people in Portugal between 20 and 30 are STEM graduates and is on par with the best in class and significantly higher than Germany or the Netherlands. This goes a long way to serve the mammoth demand for developers from Lisbon’s startups and tech firms.
Developing in Lisbon is considerably cheaper than in London, Paris, Berlin or Zurich. Our developers are among the best, yet frequently only cost a third of what it would cost in major US cities and around half compared to most European cities.
Meaning, for the price of one developer in Zurich or San Francisco it’s likely you’ll get two to three in Lisbon
In the outsourcing space, specialized agencies here charge around $50-$99 per talent per hour, meaning you can get a fully-fledged team of developers and data-scientists here for the same price as hiring and managing developers in London or Paris.
Not only is it significantly cheaper to develop in Lisbon there is a critical mass of tech capabilities here. With a wide array of talent in stacks such as Go, Python, Node, Angular and React. When potential talent is up to date with the latest in development technologies you and your startup are able to stay at the forefront of innovation.
If you build a startup in Lisbon you will get great quality development in high-end, cutting edge tech for a lower price.
2. Fiscal Benefits & Talent Attraction
A good chunk of Lisbon tech talent comes from abroad. From Brazil; due to better security for young families and more stability. As well as from all over Europe; due to great food, culture, surf, lower living costs — which I’ll go into more detail on a bit later.
There is another reason developers are coming from all over the world to nurture their careers in Lisbon. The Portuguese government has implemented a fiscal incentive. For the first 10 years, foreigners working in strategic industries (such as tech) are eligible to benefit from the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) Status. Once you obtain NHR status any Portuguese income you receive is taxed at a 20% flat rate. More than this you’re tax-exempt on any income earned outside of Portugal.
Additionally, there’s 0% on wealth and 0% capital gains on Crypto. Making the country a haven for crypto companies. Kraken and Binance are setting up in Portugal and hiring. This simple image made headlines as it became a widely shared Reddit Post:
Even notorious “crypto tax refugees” such as the “bitcoin family” chose Portugal due to its taxation regime which sees cryptocurrency as a payment method, not as an asset like stocks or real property. That distinction makes these assets be tax-exempt.
3. Real Estate Prices are 80% to 66% Cheaper Than Places Like Zurich and Berlin
Based on headline price, office spaces in Lisbon’s buzzing city centre cost on average 22€ per m² per month. That’s over 80% less than London’s West End.
Despite Lisbon’s recent spike in home rental and sale prices due to the influx of tourism and “Airbnbzation” of the city centre, it’s still an affordable place to live. According to Numbeo, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around €896. Whilst a three-bedroom will set you back around €1,692. This is, on average, 59% cheaper than comparable apartments in London.
COVID 19 Update: Due to the downturn in tourism numbers due to Coronavirus there has been a correction in rental prices. We estimate they are now 10-20% cheaper, benefitting anyone negotiating (or renegotiating) rental contracts.
4. There are State of the Art Startup Hubs and a Giant Startup Centrality Coming Soon
Second Home opened its second venue globally in Lisbon after its first in London. However, they are not the lone contender here. There are plenty of other startup hubs and coworking spaces to choose from such as:
- Cowork Central
- Impact Hub
- Startup Lisboa (where I started my entrepreneurial journey)
Arguably the most exciting thing to come is going to a new European startup hub right next to the iconic Tagus river. Entrepreneurial space builder Factory, with support from Startup Lisboa, is building a giant space in Lisbon dubbed Beato Creative Hub. The hub plans to be 35,000m² in its first phase (with plans to be around 100,000m² at completion) and is already signing big names like Mercedes to its roster.
Do you have a brilliant idea that you want to bring to life?
From the product and business reasoning to streamlining your MVP to the most important features, our team of product experts and ex-startup founders can help you bring your vision to life.
5. Local Development Agencies and Communities are Booming
Here at Altar.io, specialists in product development and highly active in the Angular front-end community, we run the Frontend Lisbon Meetup Group. Hosting regular events to talk about the latest cutting edge front-end technologies.
6. Websummit? Lisbon.
Since 2016 Lisbon has been the home city of Websummit. From 27,500 people in its 2015 edition in Dublin, it doubled to 50,000 as it reached Lisbon. Websummit’s preference for Lisbon versus Berlin or Paris is very telling about the city’s newfound place in the global startup ecosystem.
In October 2018 it was announced that Lisbon will continue to host WebSummit for a whopping 10 years!
Related: How to Start a Business in Portugal in 7 Simple Steps
7. It is a Very International City
There are over 120 cities connected to Lisbon’s airport, which served a record-breaking 30 million people by the end of September 2019. The city is increasingly on the radar – particularly for short breaks, and is often ranked “the best” or “the trendiest to visit” as seen here.
8. Timezone & Proximity
If you decide to launch in Lisbon you will be in the same timezone as London, only one hour behind the majority of Western Europe. More than this, within reasonable working hours there is a six-hour overlap with the US’s East Coast and a three-hour overlap with the West Coast.
It’s also extremely easy to access the major European cities from Lisbon. The majority of which, such as London, Paris & Zurich, are only a three-hour flight away on average.
9. English is Widely Spoken
Unlike many countries, television and movies aren’t dubbed in Portugal – simply subtitled. This, twinned with English being taught as a second language in all schools, means that most under 40 in Portugal are fluent at a business level – especially in the major metropolitan areas.
10. Bureaucracy Has Had a Tech Revolution
Since 2005 the Portuguese government has pioneered a few e-gov initiatives and taken some of the best seen abroad. Since 2005 a single ID card has replaced 5 different cards (Social Security, Universal Healthcare, Electoral Card, Fiscal ID and Regular ID).
For fiscal matters, the national Fiscal Portal allows any freelancer to issue invoices directly whereas for small companies we recommend Invoicexpress.
Swiss RegTech Startup APIAX while on the Co-Founders Retreat with Altar.io to kick off their ambitious tech startup in Lisbon.
Build a Startup In Lisbon, Stay for the Quality of Life
Aside from being one of the best places to build your business, there are also a plethora of non-startup related reasons to relocate to Portugal’s capital.
Lisbon Is One Of The Prettiest Cities in the World
With its cobblestone streets, iconic trams, great viewpoints, Gothic and Manueline-style architecture and so much more Lisbon is truly a beautiful city. Whether it’s by foot, Tuk-tuk, or rental scooter there are a myriad of ways to get lost in the city and take in the sights.
The Food is Great, the Nightlife is Better Than Ever
Portugal’s gastronomy is as iconic as it is unique. From the famous Pastel de Nata (custard tart) to the plethora of bacalhau (salted cod) recipes (of which there are rumoured to be 1000) and everything in between.
It is Mediterranean cuisine at its finest, a favourite of renowned chefs such as Anthony Bourdain & Rick Stein. Due to the proximity to the ocean, Lisbon’s fish (grilled, not fried!) is as fresh as you could wish for.
There is a culture in Portugal of the Tasca (or Tavern in English). With plenty to choose from, these small restaurants are a great source of local food at an extremely reasonable price.
On the other end of the price range, there are 25 Michelin starred restaurants to choose from – all showing off the best Lisbon has to offer.
Wherever you are from there is a wide variety of international cuisine available if you are looking for a taste of home – as well as vegan and vegetarian options throughout the city.
If this wasn’t enough there is also the iconic Time Out Market. Here you will find a smorgasbord of Portuguese cuisine all under one roof. As well as events and cooking courses.
In terms of nightlife, you are spoilt for choice. There’s the legendary Pink Street in Cais do Sodré or the famous Bairro Alto- both famous for its packed bars and buzzing nightlife. Or you could choose from one of the many craft beer pubs throughout the city or other quieter, tucked away watering holes.
Amazing Weather & Surf All Year Round
There are dozens of amazing beaches to surf, starting 20 minutes away from the city limits! The beach season is long – normally from March to November. See some of them here.
Dreamy but true. Surf here isn’t only one of the healthiest things you can do but also one of the most accessible.
Coffee is Simultaneously the Cheapest and the Best in Europe (On Par With Italy)
Coffee lovers have another reason to love Lisbon and Portugal. Here an espresso is not only always perfect (according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais) it is also much cheaper than the average, going from between €060/$0,70 in most places to €1.20 in the fanciest locations.
The Weather is Incredible
Lisbon boasts 2799 hours of sun per year, a whopping 99% more than London, 68% more than Paris and 72% more than Berlin according to Current Results.
It’s the Third Safest Country in the World and Has One of the Lowest Inflations in the World
In safety terms, it stays behind only the two small and isolated nations of Iceland and New Zealand. Murder rates are extremely low. Terrorism is not an issue and theft, in general, is rare. Full rankings here.
It is also a stable economy with inflation under 1% since 2013 and even now that inflation is ramping up everywhere and getting the headlines, Portugal still counters the narrative by being stuck to the bottom of the list (which is great).
Ready to Build Your Startup? Choose Lisbon
Those are just a few reasons why you should build a startup in Lisbon.
Entrepreneurship is abundant and the Startup scene is going from strength to strength, in a multicultural environment. On top of this development is much better value for money. Renting offices and apartments is cheaper and the city is the home of WebSummit.
I hope this article has helped you discover some of the amazing things Lisbon has to offer – I hope to see you here soon!
P.S Check out this video for a look at what’s waiting for you in Lisbon.
Andre has a wealth of experience in the Startup scene, having created Table & Friends, a social restaurant reservation system back in 2011. Since the start of Altar.io, he’s been involved in helping clients in a broad range of sectors such as Marketplaces, Travel and Education.