5 media tech companies making it BIG on Lisbon’s thriving start-up scene

Lisbon’s status as one of Europe’s startup cities, while still relatively in its infancy, is developing fast. Some of the country’s most high-profile startup success stories – such as Sensei, Feedzai and Unbabel – bring a field of other startups in their wake, including some in the media space who we speak to here.

So where did it all begin? Startup site Sifted reports that in the wake of Web Summit relocating to Lisbon from Dublin in 2016, “European entrepreneurs began eyeing the city as a low-cost, potentially high-growth hub of the future, with an enviable beachside lifestyle”. And it’s expected to keep growing: Startup Lisboa, one of the city’s startup accelerators with over 90 startups on their books, is set to open a huge new facility exclusively for startups later this year.

On that basis, we dug around to find out more about what makes the city so appealing for startups – and spoke to five startups in the media space who are part of Startup Lisboa’s programme, to find out what they do and where they’re headed.

An open-minded culture

Portugal – and the greater Lisbon area in particular – are already hot destinations for tech entrepreneurs and digital nomads. As we discussed in detail in a recent feature, this is down to its enviable climate, tasty cuisine and easygoing culture which is open to foreigners, bolstered by government initiatives to attract talent and match startup investment, allowing Portuguese startups to scale up globally.

I spoke with Teresa Fiúza, Vice President of Portugal Ventures, a firm founded in 2012 with a mission to support the financing and growth of the national entrepreneurship ecosystem by helping Portuguese companies achieve global competitiveness. Portugal Ventures alone has invested EUR €175 million in more than 180 new startups and currently has 140 startups in its portfolio, in the Digital, Engineering & Industry, Life Sciences and Tourism sectors, according to Fiúza.

Portugal Ventures also has innovated in creating a partner network falling under the banners of Ignition (110 entities including incubators, accelerators, universities, technopoles and associations), Capital (19 venture capital firms) and Corporate (10 organisations, leading companies in the national economy). “These initiatives were the starting point of the emergence of other entities that would stimulate the creation of new startups and promote national innovation,” Fiúza said.

All this has meant that “Portugal has seen a significant increase in tech startups over the past 10 years, namely in AI, sustainability, endogenous resources, industry, tourism, cybersecurity, and health technologies,” Fiúza told me.

Fiúza also lists Portugal’s status as a safe country with rewarding tax conditions for multinational companies, its excellence in higher education, its good air links to other large tech hubs, and its fibre optic network coverage, ranking 11th in the world, as significant contributing factors.

Start up, scale up

Another thing that makes Portugal stand out, she said, is its early-adopter status, something evident in the cities of Lisbon, Cascais and other parts of the country – whether in the form of ubiquitous e-scooters or the efficiency of on-demand delivery services. There is also a very high level of English spoken among the native Portuguese population, making it easy for international startups to base themselves here.

Portugal ranks in the “Very High Proficiency” category in Education First’s report on countries’ English-language skills (2021)

On the other hand, Sifted reports that heavy bureaucracy and having to build an international network almost from scratch can be difficult for founders – but in general the benefits of being based in Portugal strongly outweigh the drawbacks.

“Challenges today are opportunities, and Portugal has everything a startup needs to grow its business. It’s an early adopter that provides startups with the necessary traction and market feedback for the development of their products,” added Fiúza.

And it seems to be working. “One of the most widely used metrics for measuring ecosystem success is its ability to generate unicorns, companies worth USD $1 billion or more,” Fiúza said. “At the end of 2020, Portugal had three unicorns with Portuguese DNA: Ousystems, Farfetch – both of which Portugal Ventures portfolio companies – and Talkdesk.

“In December 2021, another four Portuguese startups achieved unicorn status: Anchorage, Remote, Feedzai and Sword Health. It should be noted that Outsystems is now part of even more exclusive club, the Decacorns [a startup with a current valuation of over $10 billion]. Portugal Ventures currently has two unicorns in its portfolio – Bitsight and Fever – companies that do significant business in and have a close connection to Portugal, despite being based outside of the country.”

For comparison, Sifted’s data shows that Europe is home to 120 unicorns in total, with the most being headquartered in the United Kingdom (27) and Germany (15).

What about the media space?

As a media organisation, we obviously wanted to know more about the space. From tackling fake news to connecting talent to producers in the entertainment industry, read about these five exciting media-related startups in Lisbon.

The Newsroom

The Newsroom founders, Pedro Pamplona Henriques and Jenny Romano
  1. What is The Newsroom, in a couple of sentences?
    • The Newsroom fights misinformation and promotes plurality online through explainable AI, transparency, and context. It empowers users with a transparent news assessment, as well as access to trustworthy, easily digestible, and actionable information.
  2. What problem does The Newsroom solve for media / related industries?
    • We’re working to tackle the issues of misinformation and echo chambers. Trust in media has been plummeting over the past years, with over 60 per cent of people globally stating they do not trust online news – that has devastating consequences on the industry, on our democracies and on our societies.
  3. At the moment, how do you measure success? 
    • Feedback from our users, both the good and the constructive one: in the phase we are in, it is crucial that we keep close contact with our users, and whenever we receive feedback from them, we see it as a huge resource, and a huge responsibility. Whenever we receive positive feedback, that’s a sign we’re going in the right direction. Whenever we hear about areas of improvement, that’s a sign that one of our users took time to reach out to us and tell us what they think, meaning that we’re doing something they care about and that we need to keep asking ourselves tough questions. 
  4. What are you most excited about right now?
    • The future of information, which is yet to be written: the way people engage with information is constantly evolving, their expectations are changing, and the opportunities this creates are immense. We’re excited to see what information will look like in 10 years, and we’re striving to play an active role in it. 


Sqill co-founders
  1. What is Sqill, in a couple of sentences?
    • sqill is the video app for sports. We give athletes and sport organisations the tools to autonomously create amazing video content in order to better capitalise their social networks. We bring customised motion effects to any sport video, enhancing creativity and adaptation to an immersive mobile experience. Through sqill, athletes from more than 20 sports can as well build their online video portfolio. Their sqills (short-form videos) are evaluated by worldwide sport fans and the best curated content is shown to each community member. We are on a mission to transform athletes into content creators, through video.
  2. What problem does Sqill solve for media / related industries?
    • sqill works on the democratisation of access to content creation tools for sports. Today, users need time, advanced video tools and advanced video expertise in order to edit a sport video and create good content for social networks. We – at sqill – are allowing any person to create better video content, in an easier and faster way with mobile sport-specific tools.
  3. At the moment, how do you measure success? 
    • We are a content creation tool hence we measure success by the amount and quality of videos our users generate weekly. 
  4. What are you most excited about right now?
    • We are extremely excited to launch our 2.0 product with unique video features. After a few months in our beta market – Portugal – adapting to user feedback, developing product and strengthening internal processes we are now confident to expand to other countries – starting with Brazil –  and seek for aggressive growth. To cope with this growth, our team is excited to onboard new talent. 


L-R: Henrik Karlberg (Founder and CEO), Mathieu Molinero (Co-founder), Ludovico Tansini Petrali (CMO), and Trofim Prodayvoda (CTO)
  1. What is Envoy, in a couple of sentences?
    • Envoy is a software that equips content apps with a subscription model with a new marketing channel and data insights on user behaviour during sharing and consumption of paid content.
  2. What problem does Envoy solve for media / related industries?
    • Most content apps struggle to meet their subscription and app download targets, and therefore their revenue growth objectives. Why? To begin with, they all use the same acquisition channels (Paid traffic on Google or Social Media), which are now exhausted and inefficient (low conversion rates and high Cost of Acquisition). On top of that, most apps focus solely on their standard monthly/annual subscription offers that are too rigid to enable them to monetise on heterogeneous segments.
    • Our solution will enable the generation of more qualified leads through an innovative sharing solution inspired by the WeChat ecosystem in Asia. In addition, being part of the Envoy ecosystem will enable our clients to access and exploit more behavioural data thanks to our algorithms powered by machine learning. Finally, the apps will be able to A/B test new pricing propositions such as microtransactions (daily pass/ pay per content etc..) and the offering of NFTs.
  3. At the moment, how do you measure success? 
    • Conversion rates, growth and generation of incremental revenue. 
  4. What are you most excited about right now?
    • We tested our first version of the product with 10 apps and we saw their conversion rates skyrocketing between X5 and X15.
    • We are now building the version 2.0 and we are even more ambitious. We want to cover the full journey from sharing to the final transaction of the new user, so that we can help the apps to monetise quickly with a direct impact on revenue.
    • We are now testing this new version of the product with a pool of preferred partners, including The NFL and other famous brands, and we can’t wait to be live and deliver incredible results for our customers. 


Henrique Pina (Castmi CEO and founder) and Diogo Batista (CTO and co-founder)
  1. What is Castmi, in a couple of sentences?
    • Castmi is a platform that connects the entertainment industry, helping producers find actors and crew members for their projects.
  2. What problem does Castmi solve for media / related industries?
    • Every film, television or theatre producer wants to build a team made of the best talent. Castmi makes the recruitment process much faster and affordable, giving quick access to thousands of profiles, while providing a meeting point where performers and freelancers can find the best job opportunities.
  3. At the moment, how do you measure success? 
    • At the moment, our goal is to have as many casting calls and job listings posted by our users as possible. By doing that, we know that we’re helping producers find talent and we’re helping industry professionals find jobs. 
  4. What are you most excited about right now?
    • We’re very excited about launching Castmi worldwide, allowing everyone in the world to use the platform, no matter where the production is taking place or where you need talent from. We’re also creating exciting new features that we’ll be unveiling soon. 


Advertio team
  1. What is Advertio, in a couple of sentences?
    • Advertio is a customer acquisition platform that enables all types of businesses, from marketing agencies to small local businesses, to grow their online presence without risk, paying only for results. We are on a mission to help our partners and clients grow their businesses in a scalable manner. Our goal is to set a benchmark for customer acquisition cost for all businesses, tackling what is one of the biggest failure factors of new companies.
  2. What problem does Advertio solve for media / related industries?
    • Our biggest differentiating factor is our business model. By charging only for the results generated through our platform, we are contributing to a more sustainable and fair market distribution, where small businesses also gain a voice. This, together with the latest technology in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, makes Advertio stand out.
  3. At the moment, how do you measure success? 
    • We see a world where smaller businesses won’t need to worry about marketing jargon or be digital advertising experts to play an active role in the market. We want anyone to be able to share their services with their audience and advertise in an efficient and profitable manner, so one way we measure success is by how many businesses we are able to support. At the same time, we want to continue to enable our partners to provide the best service to their clients and for that, we need to be constantly evolving. This results in success being materialised into more features and tools that empower our users to produce even better returns. These, together with a growing team of talented and hardworking people, make us proud of our success so far, while giving us the motivation to reach even greater heights. 
  4. What are you most excited about right now?
    • Our intention is to continue growing and expanding our activity to even more markets, as we have been doing in recent years. Our goals are clear: reach more markets, optimise our algorithm in all supported languages (nine so far), and continue to focus on qualified talent. 

With thanks to Startup Lisboa and Portugal Ventures.


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