Interview with: Hugo Augusto, Techstars Lisbon

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Techstars Lisbon in partnership with Semapa Next chose LACS Conde D’Óbidos as the base for its first 90-day programme. Techstars is a world-renowned business accelerator programme that has helped startups from some 150 countries to boost their business by investing directly in them and through an introduction to a vast network of business mentors.

Over 600 companies applied to be part of this 2019 edition and that number was finally whittled down to just ten. The startup founders travelled to Lisbon, started the programme on 24 March and will showcase what they have achieved on a Demo Day in May.

Startups eligible for the programme are focused on the digital transformation of industrial and environmental tech, smart transport, and travel and leisure tech sectors. The ten companies selected for the first Techstars Lisbon are 20tree.aiChipoloCircuitEVAIdataseLotstocksSeek SophieTagspaceVerbz, and Wicastr.

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Semapa Next partnership brings added benefits

Semapa Next, the venture capital arm of Portuguese industrial company Semapa, partners the Lisbon chapter of Techstars, providing both potential follow-on funding for the startups as well as direct expertise in the manufacturing, transport, environmental tech and travel sectors.

Two years of progress in 12 weeks

“Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed,” explained Hugo Augusto, Managing Director of Techstars Lisbon in partnership with Semapa Next. “We find 10 great teams and we try to connect them with a network of mentors and then get them to accelerate their business by doing two years’ work in just 12 weeks.”

The first month of the programme is focused on Mentorship and Techstars brings in experts who have experience launching their own businesses or have particular industry expertise that can be of use to the startups in the programme.

“We had close to 100 mentors in the first three weeks in March to talk with the companies. We had more than 1,000 mentor hours,” said Hugo Augusto, noting that the concrete results of these contacts should be seen by the end of this year.

Learning from the best

From the startups’ point of view, the mentorship period was very productive. “We’ve been getting conversations with high profile people that usually would have taken us maybe six months to secure and we’ve been having several of those a week so it’s been spot-on,” Paul Martin, the CEO of Tagspace, a Sydney-based company that offers a one-stop solution to create augmented reality experiences, told LACS.

Indra de Bakker, CEO of 20tree.ai, a startup that monitors and provides data-driven information on forest resources, noted that the specific expertise of the mentors provided has been paramount for the success of the programme. “The mentors here are very experienced in forestry, which has helped our business. There have been a lot of lessons learned from the mentors and we’ve had lots of hands-on experience to grow our business further,” he said.

The following two months of the programme are focused on Execution and Fundraising and finally, on Demo Day, the 10 startups share the progress they have achieved during the programme.

Jacinta Lim, the CEO of travel startup Seek Sophie offering travellers direct access to unique travel experiences, explained how the Techstars Lisbon programme was benefitting her team, “We joined the Techstars Semapa Next accelerator programme because we wanted to learn from other people that have built amazing companies before us and we’ve met incredible founders and executive who have all been incredibly giving of their time and help build our business to get us to the next stage faster.”

LACS’s setting inspires ambitious startups

“As anyone that visits LACS knows, the first thing that stands out is the scenery. It’s inspiring and particularly for us as we are focused on manufacturing, transport, environmental tech and travel and we can see all those things here,” explained Hugo Augusto of Techstars Lisbon.

“When you look at the river you see the containers, you see the ships being repaired outside, and you see a lot of tourists passing by. I think it’s not only beautiful but symbolic in relation to what we are doing as a programme,” he said adding that the mix of nationalities at LACS Conde D’Óbidos, “It’s an international coworking space and that’s good for our founders who come from seven different countries themselves.”

The Techstars Lisbon programme will be based at LACS for at least another two editions, in 2020 and 2021.

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