In recent years its startup scene has been growing and gaining international exposure, especially with events such as WebSummit. Overall 2019 was a year of consolidation, as startups were recognized in the tourism sector, one of the forces lifting Portugal out of the financial crisis. More and more young entrepreneurs are emerging from universities in Lisbon, Porto, Aveiro, Braga or Coimbra, and international companies like Mercedes-Benz, Cloudflare, Huawei or Revolut are setting up digital operations across the country. Startup Portugal is boosting governmental policies such as the Startup Visa, National Incubation Network RNI (with over 130 incubators) and the 200M co-investment programme.
Here are a few of the hottest early-stage Portuguese startups tackling topics like sustainability, digital communications, travel, food, pets and health, that you might just be hearing more of in 2020.
Didimo – Didimo, founded in 2016, is a leader in the creation of high-resolution digital “humans”. Their technology brings authenticity to virtual interactions by enhancing character creation. The technology developed by founder Verónica Orvalho and her team allows anyone to take a single selfie, and in just a few seconds, create a digital identity that looks, speaks, and acts like them. These “didimos” have several applications, from retail to online games and entertainment, and they have giant business partners like Amazon and Sony. They finished 2019 by closing a €4.4 million round of funding to expand to the education and health markets, so keep an eye out for “didimos”.
LUGGit – LUGGit, founded in 2019, offers real-time luggage collection, luggage storage and delivery via an app, saving every traveller from carrying their luggage before check-in and after check-out, giving them instead the time and convenience of enjoying the city. In 2019, they were able to launch the product in Lisbon and Porto, won an acceleration programme (Newton), were nominated for a WTO innovation award and raised their first funding round of €400K with Portugal Ventures. This year they plan to expand across Europe, so check them out next time you’re visiting a city.
Virtuleap – Virtuleap is a virtual reality (VR) startup taking cognitive assessment and training to a new level, by bringing together VR games, AI, education and healthcare. Its app ‘Enhance’ offers a daily cognitive workout of short, intense and fun games scientifically designed to help increase attention and concentration levels. These training games test and train various cognitive skills like memory, problem-solving, spatial orientation and motor control. Enhance VR is already available in English and Mandarin, and in the coming months, you’ll find the app available also in German and French. The startup, founded in 2018, has raised over €360K in seed funding, to put in place its plans to lead the market.
ABtrace – We trust in antibiotics to help us with bacterial infections, but did you know that Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is on the rise? Fewer antibiotics are effective, as microorganisms or “superbugs” develop antimicrobial resistance. ABtrace, founded in 2018, processes healthcare data through an augmented decision-making tool, comparing it to billions of data points and presenting a recommendation for which, if any, antibiotic should be prescribed. Its solution enables clinicians to make better informed decisions when prescribing antibiotics, helping to reduce overuse and misuse, which ultimately contributes to the fight against AMR.
Barkyn – André João was frustrated with the dull and cold nature of the online pet market. So he created Barkyn in 2017, a personalised service for dogs, which assigns each dog a vet and who users can contact 24/7. Users can sign up via a subscription-based model, choosing a specific package adapted to the size and age of their dog, to receive a monthly supply of dog food at home. The startup has already made the life of over 26K dog owners much easier, having now also expanded to Spain and Italy. In 2020, they’re heading to Central Europe, so if you love your dog, go online and check out Barkyn’s new product lines (one includes lobster!) and order some tasty dog snacks.
Infraspeak – Hotels and other large buildings pose big challenges. Founder Luís Martins, having had first-hand experience with the daily problems experienced by technicians and engineers, was driven to make building maintenance more intelligent. Infraspeak, founded in 2015, is a website platform and mobile app software that helps hotel managers, technicians and staff to run critical daily operations. Today, Infraspeak has saved hundreds of thousands of hours, paper sheets and stress for building personnel, having helped 1.3 million faults be reported and 22.5 million tasks be executed. Today, the company manages more than 500K assets in 39K buildings, in 10 different countries. Next time you lay your head on a hotel bed, think of how many problems were solved even before guests notice them.
Stratio Automotive – Stratio also made it onto our list of Portuguese startups to watch in 2019. The Coimbra-based team started out monitoring heavy-duty trucks and now works closely with global vehicle manufacturers to develop artificial intelligence tools, enabling vehicles to self-diagnose, self-decide, and self-repair. Its unique technology enables advanced prognostics of vehicles when in motion and allows manufacturers to quickly develop more reliable vehicles. Founded in 2015, the startup’s team has grown to 50+ people and raised initial funding from venture capital firms in the US and UK, with its last funding being in May 2019, at around €2.7 million.
Secret City Trails – If you enjoy walking tours, Secret City Trails, founded in 2017, offers a new way to discover cities using gamification. After choosing a trail, users receive instructions via email, and then the riddle-cracking game begins. Users can play with the city, notice its unique details and have fun together, and even play together in groups with a leaderboard for the fastest players. It’s a fun way to discover a new place, while preserving and promoting the authenticity of cities. Unleash your curiosity and thirst for discovery, and chose one of unique playful tours across 50 cities in Europe, from Palma de Majorca to Moscow. Having started 2020 with an investment of €200K, we can expect to see a lot more of this startup in the coming months.
Vawlt Technologies – Online security is a major concern for both companies and individuals. Vawlt, founded in 2018, has developed a cloud-based solution that encrypts and stores data according to users’ needs, distributing it across different public cloud services (such as those provided by AWS, Microsoft, etc.). In this way they ensure maximum security against data loss; even if a server is physically destroyed, data can still be recovered. Intrusions are also covered, as not even Vawlt has access to customers’ passwords. In May 2019, the startup landed €550K seed investment to expand further.
Twevo – Have you ever wondered how drones and other unmanned vehicles can fly and move around without hitting each other or stumble into obstacles? Twevo, founded in 2016, is a telecommunications engineering startup with a solid team of PhD’s, that has patented and developed several communications systems. Their first product ‘REVOsdr’, is a multicarrier software-defined radio (SDR) that enables fast and reliable point-to-point data link communication over long distances. Having such a reliable and secure communication link is key for operations like commercial UAVs/drone flying. The team has won two rounds of H2020 funding from the European Union, showing that it is surely headed in the right direction.