The Lisbon Awakening

Man was I in a bad mood when I touched down in Lisbon. The last days had been stressful, a comically bad Bayern team were well beaten by Porto the evening before and I had to leave my home at 4am to catch the flight.

Well Lisbon sure did change my mood quickly. I went from grumpy cat to curiosity to extreme enthusiasm within a few hours. Every now and then you’re in a city for the first time and you just “feel it”.

It then struck me that I had felt like this before. I had seen this movie before. This was the Berlin movie:

  • The tech scene is organic – it happened on its own, came out of nowhere. That is much more fun and sustainable than any kind of political or targeted economic strategy.
  • There are a ton of constraints (funding, local talent base, etc.) so entrepreneurs need to hustle to make things happen. Hustle is good.
  • Berlin was an economic void, Portugal had a massive economic crisis and Lisbon sure isn’t letting that crisis go to waste.
  • Entrepreneurship has the real chance to be a center stage act, not a side gig. It’s everywhere.
  • The city is very, very cool. You just want to be here.
  • You can have a great life on a startup salary.
  • Everyone speaks english; everyone is welcoming and open. That matters a lot when you want to attract international talent and funding.

There’s actually a few things I think the Lisbon scene is doing better than Berlin in its early days:

  • There are more geeks & engineers building companies.
  • Because the Portuguese market is very small, entrepreneurs need to go international real quick.
  • The weather is significantly better and you can go surfing right outside the city.

It’s early days in Lisbon. And there are many other Lisbons out there; this entrepreneurial awakening is happening all across Europe.

But I sure hope we do a lot of investments here – because man do I love this city.

P.S.: A huge thanks to Tiago and his crew at Go Youth Conference for having me. It’s an incredible conference started by a bunch of 17 year olds a few years ago. That tells you a lot about what is happening here.


  • gray27

    Ciarán, your words on Lisbon have made me even prouder to be apart of this growing hub. Well said. We are delighted to have world-class individuals like yourself here and contributing. Come back soon!

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      I’m not sure about the world class, but I am sure I will be back.

  • Luis Borges Quina

    Lisbon is my hometown and offers the best quality of life. From it’s Western position and the Golden Gate like bridge, it reminds a lot of SF. If there was political will (and investment funds), Lisbon could turn into the SF of Europe. It’s also the best way to launch on the Brazilian market with lower salaries and costs, but the same language. My company is sponsoring TADHack (13@14th June), a Telecoma Application Developer hackathon, and we will be organizing a large Meetup in May; the local market is very responsive to everything new. Definitely Lisbon is a hot place !

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      Yes it has a lot going for it. Very different parameters than SF though; so it will become its own unique thing. The same way London, Stockholm, Berlin & others are not SV/SF but sure are great tech cities.

  • Gianfranco Lanzio

    Any websites/resources about the portuguese startup job market? Very interested!

    • carrozo

      Check out 🙂

      • Gianfranco Lanzio


      • carrozo

        Now 😉

    • Francisco


      • Gianfranco Lanzio

        Thank you, unfortunately I’m looking for non-technical jobs (marketing/communications) 🙂

        • Cláudio Castro

          Hi Gianfranco! If you understand Portuguese, you should check out this website, maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for:

          • Gianfranco Lanzio

            Obrigado Claudio! 🙂

    • Rodrigo Moreira Rato

      Hey Gianfranco, send me an email please I am hiring marketing / communications for community management and growth hacking for my startup

      • Gianfranco Lanzio

        Will do, thank you Rodrigo!

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      Cool to see the community jump right in to help you.

      • Gianfranco Lanzio

        It’s awesome, proud to be part Portuguese.

    • Mario M. might be a good entry-start for you

      • Gianfranco Lanzio

        Thank you Mario!

  • Bruno Antunes Luis

    From Lisbon 🙂

  • Pavel

    absolutely agree … also withnessed

  • Brandon G. Donnelly

    “The city is very, very cool. You just want to be here.”

    seriously important point 🙂

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      That matters a lot for attracting talent.

      • Brandon G. Donnelly

        i agree 100%

  • Kevin Mullins

    Ciarán, a friend of mine passed me this article and you nailed it! I’ve been here for 5 years (after being in Dublin for 3) and Lisboa is on fire. The organic buzz around building a entrepreneur ecosystem is not only here but there is a collaborative spirit (so far) that is helping create something very special. Next time you’re passing through, hit me up.

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      Must be exciting to be in on the ground floor.

  • Marcelo Amorim

    Lisbon is a very nice city but you can take a look outside Europe in my hometown Florianópolis – south of Brazil. More than 550 tech companies, 03 big universities, 500 thousand people, 50 beaches and huge geek and IT comunity. You will be suprise with amazing startups and companies we are bulding here. Regards

    • Luis N. Filipe

      Brazilian companies tend to be very much Brazil-focused, no way they can compete in a global market like Lisbon companies do!

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      that looks and sounds awesome. entrepreneurship is increasingly distributed and big companies can be built anywhere.

    • João Romão

      I live in Lisbon & lived in Florianópolis. Guess I’m lucky 🙂

  • Phil Wright

    It is the exact reason I chose to base myself in Lisbon to launch
    I first started to visit Lisbon in 1990 and married my Portuguese wife in 1996. There are so many wonderful reasons to be based in Lisbon as all our international customers are realising.

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      Great to hear.

  • Artiom Dashinsky

    “Everyone speaks english” – I wish it was true, but it’s not 🙁 I lived in Lisbon for 1.5 month this year. In Berlin for example people speak English much much better, I guess because of the bigger amount of foreigners.

    • Ciarán O’Leary

      Yes I think it is not yet like in Berlin; esp non-tech scene.

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