Insightful takes on scaling your business

Why aren’t we talking about Spanish and Portuguese tech startups?

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Yessi Bello Perez
Story by
Yessi Bello Perez

Senior Writer, Growth QuartersYessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters. Yessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters.

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When we talk about European tech, it’s easy to think of well-established hubs such as Amsterdam, London, or Berlin — but make no mistake: innovation is happening in all corners of the continent.

As a Spaniard living in London, I’m constantly hyping up what my great country has to offer, and the caliber of talent that comes out of its universities — and let me tell you, neighboring Portugal has nothing to envy Spain.

Spain’s and Portugal’s tech ecosystems have grown significantly over the past decade, and even though their scenes are still nascent, they shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated.

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For example, ridesharing company Cabify was founded in Spain and has raised a staggering $477 million to date from well-known investors including Rakuten Capital. The company, which is a tech unicorn, currently operates in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

Fellow unicorn Glovo was founded in Barcelona in 2015. The company offers an on-demand courier service that buys, picks up, and delivers items ordered through its smartphone app.

Over in Portugal, Lisbon-born OutSystems joined the tech unicorn club in 2018. Several months later it was joined by Talkdeska provider of cloud-based contact center software, which although founded in Portugal in 2011 is now headquartered in San Francisco. 

Spanish and Portuguese companies are making waves, so what needs to happen in order for everyone to appreciate the ecosystems as much as I do?

Growing in the Iberian Peninsula

Aside from the obvious attraction — excellent quality of life, good weather all year round, and delicious food (!) — there are many reasons why the Iberian Peninsula is open for business.

Ok yes, I’ll be the first to admit that scaling a tech company in Portugal and Spain comes with its own set of unique challenges. However, there are also opportunities for entrepreneurs seeking to build businesses and investors looking to grow their portfolios — often by snapping up companies at much cheaper valuations.

Talent is technically as good as elsewhere and it’s often cheaper, says Adao Oliveiro, an investment manager at Portugal Ventures, a venture capital firm with €450 million in assets under management. “But we need to be better at pitching ourselves,” he adds.

Cool, Spanish and Portuguese entrepreneurs need to blow their own trumpet more? No worries, they can take lessons from me!

Get confident, get money

Javier Mateo, deputy director of entrepreneurship at València Activa — Valencia’s network of innovative entrepreneurs launched by the city’s council — agrees, noting how Spain needs to overcome somewhat of an inferiority complex with regards to its European counterparts.

Both countries, Mateo and Oliveiro agree, need to get better at showing off their qualities. There’s also room for improvement when it comes to access to capital, particularly beyond Series A, but this hasn’t stopped Spain or Portugal birthing tech unicorns. One can only help but wonder what the region could produce with even more funding.

This only scratches the surface, though. I’ll dig deeper with Mateo and Oliveiro — along with JC Taunay-Bucalo, TravelPerk’s chief commercial officer — on how to scale businesses in Spain and Portugal and what the region needs to do to get more noticed at TNW2020 next month.

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Published September 22, 2020 — 10:06 UTC