Want to beat the curve? You've really got to know where your towel is!

So you're taking your idea and you're going to do it! It's an exciting moment. A soul jiggling moment of truth. Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience? Whether or not it's your first startup there's always a rush of adrenaline at the thought of what's about to happen, the risks and the fortunes to be made.

For all but the lucky few the key question that will dominate the first 12 months will be funding. To bootstrap, raise from friends/family, to crowdfund or to approach some angel will be a constant source of distraction.   

Moving fast will be key. Startup years are like 'Dog Years', time seems to change shape. Although  the mindset to do the most with the least will be inherent to all you will be doing, you also want to throw all you can at it. A launch event on £100? Would you get more traction if you spent £1000? The route from A to C is unlikely to be via B. There will be dead ends and mistakes along the way that slow you down, and drain the coffers. So many startups fail because they simply can't handle the cash vs time equation.

Putting this all into the pot, you realise the bootstrapping option isn't going to give you much of a shot, but giving away equity is eye watering at this stage. Some kind soul will help you rationalise that you've got to do it to give your idea a chance, and that maybe 55% of something is much better than 100% of nothing, but in you're head you are stuck before you've even started.

Hopefully in your planning you will also give some thought to two other factors which are statistically significant root causes for startup failure: 

1 -> No market fit - Building something the market doesn't need (or want)

2-> Team - building the wrong team or not being able to find the team you need

Then comes the moment you realise that the 'streets of XXX are paved with gold'. Perhaps the best chance for your new idea to flourish is to give it a run in London, Berlin, san Francisco or similar epicentres that seem to have the answers, money, people and buzz that you crave.

There's also something nagging you. Is this the last time I'll get a chance do to a startup? It's such a life changing moment, you want it to be the most exciting, most intense, most rewarding experience it can be.

So what to do? You're a digitally enabled entrepreneur. Maybe you can make a new game plan that work for you?

Portugal is a rising player in the global ecosystem. It's hitting the headlines in 2016 because of the decision made by Web Summit to move from Dublin to Lisbon and the first event will be in November. 50K+ people are excepted, and there are already over 10K tickets taken.

Just 2.5 hours by air from London, and on the same timezone, Portugal has some obvious things that make it attractive as a startup destination including great connectivity (online and offline), EU visa requirements, temperate climate and wonderful lifestyle options. There's also a world class healthcare system and a high standard of language skills across the country. (From Banks to Boardrooms, English will get through even the most technical of situations. You are also likely to find friendly faces who can switch between three or four language options at their disposal).

Beyond that, sources of glee for startup entrepreneurs everywhere include: 

Costs - Lower costs simply mean funding goes further. 100 Euros per month for a desk in a Lisbon co-working space sounds very attractive compared to £400 in London. Salaries too are significantly lower. Full time developers with a couple of years experience currently take home circa 1000 Euros per month. 

Property options - 2008 was a painful time for the economy in Portugal and although a raft of development projects have begun in the last two years, there are still many property options and deals to be done. Large swathes of property, even in Lisbon, that stand empty or abandoned and ready for a friendly startup to repurpose it.

Alternative Funding - There are programmes and vouchers for interns and service providers that help the early stage company get moving. There's also a large pool (150M Euros) of European funding that is encouraging entrepreneurship at all levels (particularly in areas outside of Lisbon). Corporate dealmakers too are close at hand, and they have a thirst for innovation.

Talent - with +15% unemployment in the country, and higher percentages of graduates with no rewarding outlet for their skills there is a rich vein of talent in the country that is looking to get a break. Startup DNA is already flowing in their blood. Nearly 98% of the Portuguese GDP is made up of SME or micro businesses.

The downside in all this positivity can be can be Tax. The Portuguese government has been progressive, and has put entrepreneurship at the heart of its economic plans but it hasn't yet adopted the sorts of tax incentives around investment and capital gains that have fuelled startup growth in the UK and other countries. But, that in itself shouldn't remain a big barrier for the EU enabled startup.

Bringing early stage ideas to try them out in Portugal makes a lot of sense. More options for non equity based funding and more runway to limited funding levels. With a population of just 10M, segmented trails are also easier to run and there's the opportunity to make a big story in a new ecosystem that is rising fast.

Above all else, the sense of community is what has impressed me the most. I really love it. Across Portugal my experience to date has been of a collaborative, connected and inspired startup culture which embraces the notion that 'rising tides float all boats'.  

Web Summit has made the move, and November will give a lot of people the opportunity to see for themselves what it's all about. My advice to you if you are thinking about opportunities in Portugal is to get up early. Don't wait for your Winter Web Summit break. There may be too many towels on the chairs by the time you arrive!


Stewart Noakes