Lisbon is rapidly becoming known as the California of Europe. The similarities stretch further than just its west coast location and great surf: the city is also starting to compete with Silicon Valley in attracting startups and entrepreneurs.
Last month the Portuguese capital was included in WIRED’s list of hottest start-up destinations for the first time, an acknowledgement that the number of tech and creative companies based in the city is growing fast. Over the last five years, 40 Portugal-based startups have raised more than $166 million in funding.
While much of the impetus comes from local entrepreneurs, international investors are also making their homes in the city. Foreigners accounted for 90% of the €730 million invested in Portuguese real estate last year, nearly three times the amount for 2013.
While enterprises are committing long term, others are digital nomads basing themselves in Lisbon for a few weeks or months. But all of them are looking for interesting spaces in which to work, and to cater for this growth, a number of new co-working spaces are popping in the city.
NOW, a 4,000 sq m shared workspace – set to be the largest in Lisbon – aims to open in November in the Beato area to the east of the city. The following month sees London based Second Home open its first international space in the city’s historic centre, Cais do Sodre. Another British coworking brand Ministry of Startups is also considering a new space in Lisbon, choosing the Portuguese capital over destinations such as Tel Aviv and Berlin.
Even Lisbon’s city council is getting in on the act, releasing the former Manutenção Militar factory to serve as a creative hub. As well as acting as an incubator, it will host the administrative offices of Web Summit, which promises to draw some 50,000 more entrepreneurs to the city this month when it holds its annual tech conference at the Feira Internacional de Lisboa.
‘Lisbon is the place to be now,’ says Peter Faber, co-founder of Surf Office, a coworking space where members can live on site. ‘A lot of interesting people are moving here and starting new projects; there are a lot of things happening.’
Coworklisboa-founder Fernando Mendes – and the man behind NOW – agrees with Faber. ‘This is the best country to be right now. Portuguese people love to receive new comers. Add in sun, beaches, safety, good food and you have the secret of our success.’
Mendes says that 30% of the companies that use Coworklisboa’s spaces are from abroad, up from just 5% in 2010. Reflecting that, NOW will also offer living spaces alongside its shared work areas.
‘NOW is much more than an incubator or co-working space. It’s being designed to accommodate new services to better support the huge wave of entrepreneurs we expect will be coming to the city in the next few years. We’ll have all the dimensions, to support everything from the nomadic freelancer to digital startup and designer makers,’ says Mendes.
5 Lisbon coworking spaces and tech hubs you should know
Now is the biggest proposed co-working space in Lisbon and is scheduled to open in November. Spanning 4,000 sq m, it will include living spaces alongside shared work areas and studio spaces. The project also has a community focus and will boost shared learning among members.
Second Home’s Lisbon outpost is slated to open in early December and will be located above Mercardo da Ribeira – a vibrant food court and market near the river. With interiors designed by award-winning Spanish architects Selgas Cano, creators of the brand’s original London space and the 2015 Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion, Second Home Lisboa will feature a bookshop, cafe and bar that hosts cultural events.
If you’re looking for a short term space to live, work and play, Surf Office could be the answer. Centrally located in Cais do Sodre, the city’s party zone, Surf Office has rooms to rent from €60 per night and the space comes with a shared workspace, super fast wifi, break-out rooms and a lounge. Companies from 2 to 20 people can hire the rooms by the night if they want to take a break from their usual location. Surf trips are optional!
Situated in the east of Lisbon in Poco do Bispo – an area rapidly becoming the city’s Shoreditch – Lisbon WorkHub is based in one of the most striking buildings in the area: the former Abel Pereira da Fonseca wine warehouse. It features two vast 5-metre-tall circular windows overlooking a pretty tree-shaded square below. Desk spaces are available from €120 per month with events spaces, and private offices from €500 per month.
Also in Poco do Bispo, this 1,600 sq m creative hub focuses on multi-media, film and photography. It interviews all applicants for suitability. Todos offers 40 sq m studio spaces for rent from €400/month, and also has a 17m x 9m photography studio, editing and post production suite, fitting rooms and meeting spaces.