Six months after Enshored established a European HQ in Lisbon, Ana Timoteo explains how the city’s entrepreneurial spirit is a perfect match for their ambitious growth strategies
“I’ve never done anything but dream,” said Lisbon’s most famous poet Fernando Pessoa. And in the Portuguese capital’s bars, streets, and vibrant neighborhoods , the power of dreams continues to fire up what’s fast becoming Europe’s start-up capital.
The fact that investment in the start-up scene in Lisbon has grown by 30 percent every year since 2016 – twice the average of the rest of Europe – is a measure of its success. That it’s becoming the number one city for digital nomads, offers a great lifestyle and has a high level of multi-lingual talent are key reasons behind this.
But arguably the biggest reason, explains Enshored’s Portugal manager Ana Timoteo, is the city’s forward-thinking attitude and enthusiasm towards innovation.
“When I look at a younger generation of people here in their 20’s, most of them don’t want to work for big companies,” she says. “They want to create their own company…and people have a natural predisposition to create something from scratch. Some of them are thinking of selling it in a few years for millions and others have a ‘small is beautiful’ mentality. I can see this mentality in young people and it’s very different to the one that existed in my generation.”
This mindset was certainly a powerful pull factor when Enshored chose to establish its European headquarters in Lisbon. As a fertile ground for tech entrepreneurs, Lisbon is well placed to not only support Enshored’s ambitious growth plans but also match its culture.
“We think of ourselves as a start-up too,” explains Timoteo, “and Lisbon is very vibrant. There are lots of entrepreneurs and we are all focussed on creating the conditions to succeed.”
Enshored takes pride in the nurturing role it plays in providing outsourcing for disruptive start-ups and Timoteo stresses that they are always on the lookout for future unicorns.
Providing customer service, back office support and content moderation are the key functions they offer to enable businesses to scale up quickly. But for an outsourcing partner to really help start-ups take off, argues Timoteo, they need to be well attuned to the needs of entrepreneurs.
“We want to nurture start-ups from an early stage whereas other companies wait until they’re more mature,” she says. “That’s why we recruit people who really like this environment – not everyone has the right character to thrive in this space because it changes fast. Flexibility is key here. Sometimes you have five people and then you need 200 people because it’s growing a lot. This is where we can help.”
Enshored’s track record of working with the likes of Paddle, Grubhub and TravelNest, along with the healthy pipeline of start-up talent in Lisbon, suggests their services will very much be in demand.
Start-ups in the Portuguese capital are said to be worth €2.1billion and because of its developed infrastructure, low rental prices and world class talent, we can expect to see more unicorns such as Talkdesk and OutSystems emerge from Lisbon’s ecosystem.
A new generation is empowering them too. With research showing that Gen Z could be the most entrepreneurial generation ever, Timoteo acknowledges that they feel at the heart of something special.
“The start-up mentality of growing something that makes sense is very strong among young people here,” she says. “It’s becoming more difficult to attract young people to big companies nowadays – even though they pay more – because young people don’t feel at home with the culture there. They don’t feel they are part of something.”
It’s this sense of being part of something important that Timoteo says will help guide their journey into the European start-up market.
“We need to understand their mentality and be a good partner so that our people grow and their people grow,” she says. “We are ultimately co-creators.”
And as they support their first Portuguese clients through the early stages of growth, Timoteo readily admits to sharing the same sense of excitement as the founders behind the start-ups.
“I want to be part of this growth journey ,” she says. “It feels incredible to see how far a company can go when supported. . We want to be good partners and help companies grow. That’s what inspires us.”
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