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Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Hottest Startups in Lisbon

Serial entrepreneurs Mila Suharev, Nils Henning, and Mitya Moskalchuk had been involved in the German startup scene for more than 15 years, successfully exiting four companies with valuations above €100 million (around $98.5 million) before deciding to launch their new startup in the Portuguese capital. “Lisbon has several ingredients making it a unique and efficient tech ecosystem,” says Suharev, CEO of proptech company CASAFARI, listing factors such as quality of life, governmental programs designed to attract foreign entrepreneurs, and its Silicon Valley-like business mindset. 

Lisbon is increasingly becoming the tech hub of choice for many European entrepreneurs: Of the 10 CEOs profiled here, half are expats. “A new ecosystem such as the one growing in Lisbon is fascinating to experience firsthand,” says Amir Bozorgzadeh, CEO of Virtualeap. “It is a melting pot of foreigners and Portuguese, working hand-in-hand amid a very sunny setting in which work-life balance is always a priority for founders.” This influx of talent is contributing to Portugal becoming increasingly known as “unicorn country”—the nation has launched more unicorns (seven) than Spain, Italy, and Greece combined.


Remote’s mission is to simplify how companies can hire global talent from anywhere. “It used to be extremely complex and expensive for a company to hire employees and contractors living in other countries,” says CEO Job van der Voort. “The company would need to be equipped to handle international taxes and compliance, be able to offer benefits in the other country, and pay employees in their local currency.”

The startup, which was founded by van der Voort and Marcelo Lebre in 2019, simplifies the process with a platform that allows clients including DoorDash, GitLab, HelloFresh, Loom, and Arduino to onboard, pay, and manage employees and contractors in more than 150 countries.

“One of our core services is serving as employer-of-record for customers in countries where they do not have legal entities. A major difference between Remote and competitors is that we never outsource these in-country legal entities to third parties.” In April 2022, it announced a $300 million Series C financing round with a valuation of almost $3 billion, led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from existing investors including Accel, Sequoia, Index Ventures, and others. Remote has now raised a total of $495 million. remote.com


In December 2021, Anchorage Digital became the first Portuguese crypto unicorn after raising a total of $487 million dollars from investors including KKR, Andreessen Horowitz, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund), Goldman Sachs, and Visa. Launched in 2017, Anchorage Digital came about after cofounder Diogo Mónica helped an investor who had lost access to $15 million in bitcoin. He was able to recover the funds, but it dawned on him that this problem shouldn’t have happened in the first place. The solution he devised with cofounder Nathan McCauley was Anchorage, a regulated crypto platform that allows institutions to offer crypto products and integrated financial services such as secure custody, regulatory compliance, and client service. Launched in 2017 by Mónica and McCauley—who met when they were early employees at Square, where they built payment platforms still in use today—Anchorage, which is also the first federally chartered crypto bank in the US, is now valued at over $3 billion. “We believe that every bank will be a crypto bank, and every company will be a crypto company,” Mónica says. anchorage.com


Before launching Artpool, CEO Pauline Foessel had worked in the art world for over 13 years, both as an artist and a curator. “I see the power of art, the importance of the role of the curator linking the artist’s work and the audiences, and I believe the digital space is the solution to fund the arts in a better and more efficient way,” she says. “I think NFTs are an amazing solution to remove frictions to sale of art editions, and a great solution for raising revenues in the art world.”

Launched in 2019 with cofounder Willy Bardiot, Artpool is an NFT marketplace and social network for the art world where artists can sell their NFTs—often their first—curated by a community of more than 900 professional curators. artpool.xyz


João Batalha, his brother Luís, and Micael Oliveira are former MIT computer scientists whose previous achievements include writing software that runs in the International Space Station and developing a platform for annotating academic papers. Their new project: “We are applying the scientific method to sales,” says Batalha. “We have seen firsthand the challenges of scaling B2B sales in companies and realized that the existing point solutions weren’t addressing the core problems. The goal is to turn a cumbersome set of tasks into a simpler solution that charges productivity.” Their startup, Amplemarket, aims to do that by using AI-driven workflows that help sales teams find and engage with new customers. Founded in late 2019, Amplemarket has raised $12 million from investors including Comcast Ventures and Armilar Venture Partners. amplemarket.com


Detech.ai is a reliability intelligence platform that helps organizations decrease the number of outages and other reliability issues. “I’m obsessed with this space,” says CEO José Velez. “My father is an IT Director at a large Portuguese company, and I grew up having conversations about the issues the companies had. Reliability was one of the biggest challenges they were experiencing.” His startup solves those problems by ingesting monitoring and observability data from tools such as AWS and turning it into insights and automations that ease the work of IT departments. “It lowers the barrier to adoption of industry-leading site reliability engineering practices, previously accessible only by FAANGs,” he says. To date, it has raised $620,000. detech.ai


Virtuleap is building VR applications to improve your brain, with the help of USC psychologist Skip Rizzo and memory champion Nelson Dellis. According to CEO Amir Bozorgzadeh, the company has built apps that can train and test the cognitive abilities of its 43,000+ users. It also has four clinical studies underway with partners such as Roche, with whom it’s testing a VR training tool for dementia. “In 10 years, our solution will not only serve as the gold standard for cognitive assessment and training for at-risk groups, but also be part of the daily lives of the general population, as a ‘gym for the mind,’” says Bozorgzadeh. virtuleap.com


“People are companies’ most important asset,” says Miguel Santo Amaro, CEO of Coverflex. “For the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side, and employees want smarter, more transparent, and more flexible models to enjoy their compensation.” Coverflex provides that by giving companies a single operating system that allows them to manage their employees’ compensation, including salaries, equity, bonuses, and benefits. Currently, more than 1,500 Portuguese companies use the software. The company, which was founded in 2019 by Amaro, Luis Rocha, Nuno Pinto, and Rui Carvalho, is expanding to Italy and Spain this year. coverflex.com

Sound Particles

Dune, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Frozen, and Fortnite were all produced using software developed by Sound Particles. The startup founded by Nuno Fonseca, who developed the software that adapts CGI techniques to sound, will soon be launching its technology for headphones in a bid to enter the VR and gaming market. According to Fonseca, the company will also soon be opening an office in LA to reinforce its presence in Hollywood. In May 2022, it raised €2.5 million in a seed round, coled by Indico Capital Partners and Iberis. soundparticles.com


Founded in 2017 by Mila Suharev, Nils Henning, and Mitya Moskalchuk, CASAFARI aims to build the most complete centralized database for real-estate agents using machine learning, allowing more than 30,000 professionals across Europe—including Sotheby’s International Realty, Savills, Century21, and Keller Williams—to make deals and accelerate transactions. The idea came to them in Spain when they were involved in several real estate buy-to-let transactions and couldn’t find a single source that included all the housing stock available. It was a problem they had to solve: “We now index every property listing found on the web and build the history of each property by deduplicating listings describing the same property into one and monitoring all the changes in real time,” Suharev says. casafari.com


Web3 platform Exclusible didn’t have the most auspicious start. Launched in July 2021 by Thibault Launay, Olivier Moingeon, Olivier Bureau, Artur Goulão, and Pierre Guigourese as an NFT marketplace for luxury brands and real estate developments in the metaverse, its goal was to simplify the purchase of digital assets and introduce new customers to the digital luxury market. “Initially nobody wanted to work with us, as we didn’t have a track record,” says Launay, Exclusible’s CEO. “Instead we decided to launch our first NFT project under our own brand as a proof of concept.” That project was named the Exclusible Alpha Collection, an NFT series that works as a membership pass for upcoming drops. It generated €2.4 million in sales of 3,000 NFTs in less than 48 hours. Today, Exclusible has a community of 182,500 active users and has raised €2.2 million. exclusible.com

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