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AICEP
Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal

CABEÇALHO

Right now, if you are a doctor or a nurse in Portugal and you need to book a room where you can isolate yourself from your family to keep them safe, you can do it for free on Rooms Against Covid. There are nearly 4000 rooms available with almost 8000 nights booked.

If you want to go to your local grocery store or pharmacy but want to know if there is a line before you head there you can download the Posso ir? (Can I go?) app - a “wisdom of the crowds”- based app which will give you the answer. Over 100,000 people have downloaded it.

 

And if you want to help your local barber, restaurant or shop with a cash injection you can use Preserve, where you can buy vouchers that can be redeemed after the crisis.

 

All of these platforms are products of Tech4Covid19, a movement started by a large group of Portuguese tech entrepreneurs that helps people in the country overcome the threats and challenges posed by Covid-19.

 

In mid-March, as Europe was quickly going into crisis mode, Portugal feared it might become one of the countries most severely hit by the novel coronavirus. Confirmed cases in Portugal’s only neighbor, Spain, were starting to skyrocket (at the moment Spain has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe), and projections were that it wouldn’t take long until a large number of cases spilled over to the continent’s westernmost country. 

 

On Saturday, March 14th, around 60 Portuguese founders and cofounders, who run a business incubator together, decided they weren’t going to sit still. Four days before the country declared a state of emergency, they started a WhatsApp conversation about what initiatives they could start, and platforms they could create to help their country cope with the new situation. That conversation inspired the creation of Tech4Covid19.

 

“In a very entrepreneurial way the ideas started to flow, and after one hour there was a Slack workspace for people to organize different ideas in different channels,” Felipe Ávila da Costa, cofounder and CEO of SaaS platform Infraspeak and the spokesperson for Tech4Covid19, says.

 

The initial group of tech entrepreneurs started to invite people. By the end of the first day there were 290 people in the Slack group, at the end of the second day there were almost 600, after 5 days they were 1500, and now they are over 5400 people. 

 

“We joke that we moved from being a startup to being a corporation in a week,” Ávila da Costa says.

 

 Some of the ideas have already been replicated in other countries: Rooms Against Covid in Brazil and the UK, and the Can I go app has been launched in Spain and Slovakia.

 

Tech4Covid19 is so popular in Portugal that the country’s President released a video of support stating that “the group is essential in these months where it's absolutely necessary to attend to the needs (of the people) which the state and the public administration, by itself, cannot meet.”

 

The movement has received over 500,000 euros in donations, with almost 200,000 euros coming from individuals, and the rest from corporations. The money, Ávila da Costa says, is used mostly to buy PPE that is donated to hospitals. 

 

Among the original creators of Tech4Covid19 are a few Forbes 30 under 30 honorees: Bruno Azevedo and Rodrigo Pires, cofounders of electrical mobility company AddVolt, and Tiago Sá, cofounder and CEO of agricultural operations platform WiseCrop

 

Azevedo, who was one of the most active members of the effort, says that since his wife is a nurse, he was initially involved with finding the materials for hospitals. 

 

“In the beginning we were working more than 10-12 hours a day, plus trying to spend time with our families, plus running our companies,” Azevedo says. “But the feeling that there are so many people willing to help is the most remarkable and you get this energy to keep moving,” Azevedo says.

 

According to Sá, some of the projects are highly flexible and could adapt to other purposes even after a solution for the virus is found.

 

“Some of the projects can be used to mitigate the negative impact of other diseases as well, and I'm sure some of them will go on for a long time” Sá says.

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