Is Lisbon set to become the next Silicon Valley as Europe's tech hub?
Lisbon is playing host to next week’s Web Summit 2016 in a move that could see it become Europe’s new tech hub.
The Portuguese capital will be home to the tech event from 7-10 November, taking the mantle from Dublin, which has hosted for the last seven years. The conference will see 50,000 people descend on the city to network and listen to speakers, and is worth €200 million to Lisbon’s economy.
Lisbon has long been likened to San Francisco for its red bridge across the bay, hills, trams and surfing scene, but now it could be emulating the Californian city’s tech reputation too. A fantastic climate, cheap rent, and a high quality of life mean that the city is an attractive bet for startups and young talent. The government is working to boost the startup scene and attract talent from the US, UK, Netherlands and Germany. Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Portugal’s economy minister, told the Guardian: “we’re attracting them for a lot of reasons: because we have a financing system, a very competitive fiscal setting for startups; but also because of the lifestyle and quality of life that entrepreneurs find here.”
Ridhi Kantelal, an entrepreneur who runs her own startup, says Lisbon has lots to offer. “Everyone speaks English, there’s great tech talent, and the cost of living is so much cheaper than London. On what I was paying for rent in London, I can live here and afford one or two trips to London every month. The weather is nice, the food is nice and the people are nice.” Some say, however, that Lisbon’s bureaucratic labour laws need to be overhauled and tax breaks should be offered to startup businesses. João Vasconcelos, Portugal’s industry secretary, takes the San Francisco comparisons with a pinch of salt. “Everyone is trying to define what’s happening in Lisbon right now. For some it’s Berlin with sun; for others it’s the new Silicon Valley. It’s none of those: this is Portugal and this is Lisbon.”