“We’re a team of givers”: meet Startup Leiria
Right in the center of Portugal is Startup Leiria. Home to startups that have flown as far as Paris or even Hollywood, today it is an agnostic hub for attracting new innovative and knowledge-intensive projects. We spoke to Vítor Ferreira, General Director of Startup Leiria, to find out more about this incubator which sees agrifood, health and cybersecurity as great opportunities for its future.
This content is available in Portuguese.
– How did Startup Leiria come about?
Startup Leiria is the result of the merger of two associations. IDDNet, an incubator founded in 2004, and Startup Leiria, an accelerator created in 2018. We realized that joining forces was more important than having two institutions in a region like Leiria. And so it was, after December 2020, we grew by more than 200% and incubated all kinds of projects.
– Do you have any areas of specialization?
We are “agnostic”, we have everything from Cricket Farming (a company working on R&D for the production of insects for human consumption), to Fintech companies, AI, etc. The common thread is that the businesses are innovative, knowledge-intensive and generate value for the region.
– What does your incubation model consist of?
Our motto is that we don’t refuse a first contact meeting to anyone, whether it’s a foodtruck, a haberdashery or a disruptive business. After that first meeting, we decide whether the business fits into the ecosystem.
If it does, we draw up an incubation plan, according to the project’s stage of maturity (pre-seed, seed, scale, etc.) According to the stage, the assigned consultant will use a set of tools during the follow-up sessions (at least one per month). We also assign a mentor to accompany the project.
We then monitor the project’s progress until it reaches maturity. At the start, all projects go through our onboarding platform, where they have access to all the benefits of the ecosystem, information about the region, softlanding, support models, etc. We go far beyond the space; all startups have a client manager and close monitoring.
– Can you tell us the story of a startup that made a difference in the incubator? And where has incubating with you made a difference?
Obviously there are differentiating projects that are better known to everyone – Soundparticles, Lovys, Glartek, Bhout, Reatia, Evollu, etc. Startup Leiria’s recent history is somewhat intertwined with the growth of Soundparticles or Lovys, but I think the difference we’ve made with everyone is in the personal accompaniment, in the culture of co-creation we have, in celebrating the happiness of the whole ecosystem.
For example, Bhout was invested in by Portugal Ventures following our 2022 Demo Day at Leiria Castle. At this event, we had startups pitching at the Church of Pena, an awards ceremony on the balcony of Leiria Castle and the inauguration of our third space, at the Leiria Market. I consider this to be a special moment because of the combination of all these factors.
– Failure is also part of the journey. What do you learn most from something that didn’t go well?
Of course we have many less successful attempts or programs, where we spent a lot of time and got zero results! But I’d say this comes from our culture, which encourages employees to try, which doesn’t punish failure and celebrates success.
For example, Forest Starter was a pioneering idea to accelerate European startups, with a consortium of incubators from Sweden, Finland, Greece and Italy, and it yielded zero success.
“We have a personal and emotional connection with our members, which creates a kind of giant family!”
– What is your incubator’s differentiating factor? In other words, what is it about you that uniquely enhances the success of the startups you incubate?
We are an ecosystem that understands that the connection between founders, employees, the incubator team and the region’s vital forces is essential. We are a team of “givers” who celebrate the success of others like no one else, who value professionalism, but also madness and creativity – in other words – the organizational culture, the capacity of the team, the network (internal and external to the ecosystem) and the dynamism make us unique.
– What kind of projects or startups are you looking for?
– vertical, stage of company development, etc.
All of them – as long as they are innovative and knowledge-intensive. But we’re going to have several accelerator programs this year, some agnostic, but for projects coming from academia; others, linked to the agri-food area (from the field, to food production), but which include IT, I4.0, AI, biotech, etc.
We are part of a Testbed (Test4Food, with the Lusiaves group) and we are accelerating companies and projects in this area, supporting the development of prototypes and business cases. Another important area will be anything to do with knowledge-intensive businesses in the Health area. We have an acceleration program with incubators and universities in Austria and Serbia (HEICE).
Today we are part of a Digital Innovation Hub in the area of cybersecurity (C-hub), 1 Testbed, 2 mobilizing agendas and several European projects.
– Community is one of the factors that distinguishes an incubator from an office center. How do you look after yours and what plans do you have to make it more cohesive and fertile?
We have a lot of events, more than 35 in 2023 alone. From technical events, webinars, conferences, open classes, sharing events between founders, Demo Days, themed parties like Welcome Summer, Back to Work, Wine O’Clock (which is my favorite 😊), etc. We have a personal and emotional connection with our members, which creates a kind of giant family!
– Do you want to share any news with us? Any events or initiatives that we should all keep in our agendas?
As I mentioned, our acceleration programs in Agritech and Health Tech. Our new partnerships with Batalha and Alcobaça. We’re going to have new incubation spaces and our ecosystem Demo Day, which will take place on May 15th.
#IncubXdiscoveries is Startup Portugal’s monthly feature that will help you discover Portuguese incubators. What projects they incubate, how they manage their community and what success stories they’ve had and future projects are some of the topics covered in these interviews.
If you’d like to find out more about Startup Leiria, either because you’d like to see your project incubated in this region or because you’d like to establish a partnership, contact the Startup Portugal team at firstname.lastname@example.org.