2020 in review
The year 2020 will always be paired with the concept “challenging”. Since day 1, the eminence of an epidemic started in Asia turning to a pandemic was a real possibility, but no one was able to predict the scale in which it affected all parts of society, all over the world. People, governments, businesses, all had to rethink, adapt, define new priorities and follow new protocols.
Despite COVID-19 and the following economic crisis, many businesses were still able to turn a profit, many entrepreneurs were able to help people and add value to their communities. And that will be our focus for this article, as Startup Portugal, stakeholders in the Portuguese ecosystem, and members of an inspiring community, that was able to grow and raise money against all odds.
It was a stressful, scary, yet busy year for us at Startup Portugal. We kicked off 2020 with a new podcast, hosted amazing guests who inspired us with hopes of a bigger, stronger, more influential ecosystem. We moved into a new office in February, with more visibility and better access for one of our most meaningful initiatives yet: the One Stop Shop – Balcão do Empreendedor, a desk where makers and founders can set up meetings to ask all questions related to their businesses, be it about legal details, the available public supports, or private initiatives to foster entrepreneurship. It is yet another way to engage with our community and to make sure Startup Portugal is able to continuously support their endeavors.
The One Stop Shop was not put to a halt with the pandemic. Like most of our lives, it now exists in an online realm and has supported over 250 entrepreneurs, and reached over twenty thousand people with meaningful information about the ecosystem. Actually, this was not the only part of Startup Portugal that went online: with the pressing need for digital skills and tools overwhelming our SMEs, we partnered with Le Wagon to gather the support of over 20 content creators and community entities to spread important content and support the “new normal”, from home approach to work in Stay Home, Keep Growing. In total, under this umbrella, we promoted nearly twenty webinars and reached over 22 400 people with this content.
Moved with the same hands-on energy, we tried to reach out a little further and went out of the box with Sapo 24 and The Next Big Idea with an Editorial Partnership to spread the entrepreneurial gospel for wider audiences. And we nailed it: over the 66 articles we put out, covering the available supports for gig workers, SMEs, startups, tips, and tricks to manage workload and teams in a remote situation, highlighting the inspirational efforts of PT-based startups, and reflecting on how the world is reacting to the new reality, summing over 164 000 views. This particular task was an all-year round, non-stop effort, covering more than 40 startups and involving a generous amount of coffee cups. To the coffee brands reading this: we are always looking for sponsors and we do not overvalue our sleeping hours (wink wink).
To sum things up: we were hands-on with finding new ways to stay relevant and to impact our partners and the player hacking our ecosystem. We promoted nearly 30 webinars, we went abroad with almost 80 starts and supported their efforts to expand to 7 new markets, in 4 continents, we created 7 new initiatives to foster entrepreneurship in Portugal, reaching more than a million people while doing so, we supported 120 startups in their Web Summit endeavors, and promoted a pitch training session with 30 entrepreneurs. It was not an easy year. Far from it! But we do call it an accomplished mission. Hell, we call it a bunch of accomplished missions, and we are proud of our efforts, of our team’s resilience and our ability to create even if drowning in coffee, under the covers and getting depressed in our sofas.
Obviously, all of this would not have been possible if we did not find the same energy resonating in our ecosystem. Portugal Ventures, despite a trying year, was able to invest a new maximum of €17,7M and added 12 new startups to the portfolio. The 200M fund completed 11 new co-investments, for a total of €16,53M. More importantly, Portuguese-founded startups raised over €430M in 2020, and more than 70% of the money raised came from foreign funds and VC’s.
This nearly impossible amount of money raised had contributions from unicorns, of course, but also of newly founded startups such as Remote, who snatched almost €40M, Startup Visa companies such as Shimejito (who, by the way, went for a record-breaking €10M seed round), and groundbreaking woman-lead €50M investments in the USA by DefinedCrowd. Even GoParity was able to reach out to alternative forms of investment and was able to raise €2M from people who believe in impact businesses.
Talking of impact, there is no way we could finish this review without even mentioning the initiative we consider to better reflect what entrepreneurship is all around: we are talking about the Tech4Covid19 movement. Something that started with a handful of entrepreneurs and founders asking themselves how could they help tackling the pandemic, which grew to be a community of over 5000 people hacking 34 different projects to support the National Health System with online medical appointments, housing for health professionals who were in contact with COVID19 patients, equipment for remote classes to be distributed to schools and students, and campaigns to raise money for medical equipment. And these are only to name a few! Their reach and impact far exceeded what can be compressed into a single paragraph (we did a little more than that, writing several times about the initiative and spreading the good word).
Adding to this the initiatives such as AI Moonshot Challenge (which prompted teams from all over the world to find a solution for ocean plastic pollution in exchange to work from Portugal and a prize of €500k), IN3+ (in which Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda awarded a 1 million euros for research projects), and Digitaliza Já (an effort from Made of Lisboa to reach nationwide SME’s and support them with the efforts of getting the business running online); a protocol between the Portuguese Government with Google to train companies in digital skills, and the UPskill program to reskill unemployed people and train them to follow IT careers, it is safe to say that in 2020 our ecosystem performed above all expectations. We could not be more proud of taking part in such a driven and inspiring community.
Now we have a new challenge: how can we perform even better? This will be our focus throughout the next months, and we hope you can join this community in doing so.