In late 2018 we decided to expand our agency offering beyond the United Kingdom and open a branch of How & How in Lisbon.
Our co-founder, Rog How, outlines some of the business and family-led reasons why we did it, and why — if you’re feeling like you need a change of scene and a fresh direction — we think you should strongly consider doing it too. Drop us a line, and we’ll gladly show you around!
After the financial crisis of 2008, the Portuguese economy was not in a great state. Alongside Greece, they faced bail-outs from the European Bank, and things were looking bleak. To bring themselves out of this slump some deep structural changes have been made to the economy and, alongside increased education levels, this has helped Portugal turn a corner.
Portugal has also seen a huge boom in tourism recently with Lisbon and its beaches becoming ’the’ place to go for Northern Europeans. The Algarve has been a favourite of many Europeans for decades, but only recently have tourists started venturing further afield. They have also invested heavily in attracting digital nomads and tech companies to the city — it’s not a hard sell to be honest — and it’s all working. The economy is now one of the fastest growing in Europe.
This ambition is most visible in projects like the Hub Creativo de Beato. A project that has pulled Factory, Berlin’s seasoned coworking space, to set up once the biggest coworking spaces the city has yet to see. Second Home, where we work, is also about to open an ambitious second site for over 650 coworkers in Rato, much larger than where we are above the Mercado da Ribera and Time Out Market Lisboa.
As well as coworking spaces, there are incubators, venture firms and agencies moving here. The creative, innovation and tech classes of the world are gathering. Already, the Mercedes innovation team are based here, Google have recently announced a new office of over 500 staff will be opening in the city and Outsystems — one of the recent Portuguese Unicorns — chose to stay rather than move to a bigger tech hub like London.
Why is it so good to set up here? For one it’s much less costly to operate in Lisbon. Labour is still comparatively cheap, and the millennial Portuguese are especially eager to work after the difficulties of the last decade. And if you can't find local talent, try the growing digital nomad community. We’ve found that it’s fairly easy to persuade developers, designers or project managers to move here given the list of things below...
There’s also an abundance of government-backed lending, loaning and grant programs for startups. Investors have moved here following the hype, and are now struggling to find enough good ideas to invest in. All great fuel for a digital boom. We recently heard of a venture builder studio in Berlin, who are shipping their new spinout startups to Portugal to access the finance here, because it’s so much easier to find funding.
Sun — Sea — Surf — Super Bock — Startups —Sun — Sea — Surf — Super Bock — Startups —
The biggest gathering of tech entrepreneurship… in the world! Web Summit has just signed a deal with Lisbon to keep their festival of tech ideas in the city for the next 10 years. It’s an amazing celebration of all things digital - where AI startups and blockchain boffins meet and share ideas. This deal will keep the global tech community visiting the city for at least one week every year, and some of them (like us) will inevitably fall in love with the city and stay.
For our agency, moving to Lisbon has opened us up to the world. There is a thriving international community and since moving here we are now working with people from all over Europe. At the same time it’s a small city so it’s easy to access some major players.
English is also widely spoken and accepted as the language of tech and innovation. Some Portuguese organisations don’t even have a Portuguese language version of their own website as they see it as positioning themselves as more serious innovators.
As a capital city there are regular flights to most major cities. There are lots of flights a day to all the London airports, which we're very familiar with. Ironically we are now working with more London clients as a result of moving to Portugal, so we're back and forth a lot.
The airport in Lisbon is practically in the city centre so it only takes 20 minutes in a cheap taxi to get there from anywhere, making the travel a little easier. Being in the same timezone is also a bonus and makes our UK customers feel that bit closer.
For our family life, Lisbon is hard to beat. Children are revered and indulged here — younger children especially so. Walking in the street or taking a bus, you feel like a superstar. People stop and coo “Your children are so beautiful”, “what an angel”. It makes us blush.
In restaurants waiters and other diners actively engage and help keep our children entertained. We’ve even had a waiter take the kids to show them around the kitchen when they were getting restless!
Warmth and affection towards children is celebrated and very much the norm, the kids kiss their teachers hello and goodbye everyday and it creates a wonderful feeling of support, love and inclusion for them.
While rents in the centre of Lisbon have increased dramatically over the last few years, everything else is still very cheap. If you're willing to live outside the areas favoured by the influx of internationals, then property can still be found at some of Europe's lowest prices. Rents have been pushed up due to a lack of supply in popular areas, but the sales market is well supplied. If you want to live outside the city then prices are insanely low.
You can buy a coffee for one Euro or less, along with a Pastel de Nata for the same. Even a beer or a glass of wine can still be found at that price too if you know where to go! And it’s possible to eat out very cheaply too, if you follow the locals.
Enjoyment and celebration of food is engrained in the culture. Seafood especially. We eat out with the family at least twice a week, and have a choice of hundreds of places to go to.
Although Portuguese traditional cuisine lacks a little on the veggie side — stodgy carbs and cheaper cuts of meat are hangover from the economic woes past — the core principles of a care and love for food remain. In Lisbon you can eat any kind of food you like: from Michelin-star fine dining, to Asian street food, vegan and vegetarian or traditional Portuguese. This city also loves its sushi!
In our local restaurant both these worlds exist side by side. Local police go for their after-work beer, so it’s like the locals pub in the UK. Here you can have a basic steak and chips, or you can buy a freshly cooked lobster, selected personally from the tank. Good food exists everywhere rather than only for an elite foodie class.
Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate. And while there is still poverty here, the strong family values here permeate society as a whole and you never feel unsafe. Being part of the EU also brings stability and support from its neighbours. It’s one of the most open, tolerant and welcoming cultures that we have ever experienced.
We've put this further down the list because often we feel bad talking about how good the weather is here. But since you made it this far, we're going to say it: the weather is amazing. From January 1st we’ve been going to the beach every weekend. The children run around barely clothed all day, then we have a seafood dinner in a cafe and watch the sun sink into the sea. The weather allows us to spend a good deal of time outside enjoying it with the family.
A consistent 20° and sunny in Spring; 30° plus and scorching in Summer and Autumn, then a little changeable in Winter (November and December) where it can hover around 15° with sun and some occasional (much needed) rain. Every day we wake up and it’s bright, clear and colourful: it fills us with inspiration and optimism. The city is also known as The City of Light — and indeed the light here is beautiful.
Beautiful beaches, historical towns, castles and cathedrals: Lisbon and Portugal's countryside and heritage have a lot to explore. We have trouble deciding what we should do each weekend. Local to Lisbon is Sintra with some amazing castles and mansions but it’s difficult not to head to the beach everyday. We’ve been here for six months now and feel like we are only just scratching the surface.
If I had to sum up what it’s like to live in Lisbon in one sentence, I’d say this: it’s a place where you can grow an international business, enjoy everyday living and feel like you are on holiday every weekend… See you here soon!