I wasn’t born in Braga. I came here to study, 15 years ago. Back then, I was just looking for the best University teaching Psychology; I could never imagine that I was to be adopted by this city… and it’s being an amazing journey ever since.
This brief story reveals the pattern of competence that Braga has been showing when it comes to capturing and fixating talent. No ecosystem could ever grow without people, right?
Braga has a diverse industrial tissue from weighing equipments, textile, real estate and building to some engineering intensive factories like Bosch. This city also nurtures a vibrant University that gave birth to some of the most significative software pioneers in the country.
Around here, we meet and connect easily and, back in 2008, when the Economy started to bully our dreams, that was a crucial ingredient. We were young, graduated, full of energy and craving for accomplishments. We had the skills, we had the will and we even had a few success stories from the Past to inspire us.
In March 2011, Factory opened doors. We were eager to make a statement introducing a more informal, innovative and community-driven way of doing things. We took the lead of a cultural disruption both evangelizing for coworking, freelancing and entrepreneurship, but also trying to break the silos on the economic ecosystem.
Whether hosting or organizing events, we were on the frontline: Startup Weekend, Startup Pirates, Design Thinking Global Jam, Changeathon, Lean Startup Meetup, Minho.rb, Minho Startup Coffee, Udini Drinks or Girls Lean In… We were rocking with a systematic events and meetups program.
Looking back, we made a lot of things, but So You Think You Can Pitch was a blast! It started in Braga, it had a huge national impact and visibility, involved thousands of people, created jobs and had a profound effect on creating a cozier relationship among people, especially, when it comes to (formerly) deep asymmetric relationships, like between experienced CEOs and job-seekers or entrepreneurs.
As more and more entrepreneurs were coming to our door, we felt pushed to do even better and so we went abroad to learn the principles of incubation and startup acceleration.
In the beginning, we were a few underdogs, then people started to join the community and suddenly it became a widespread movement and we started to get this image of a dynamic city. Braga’s momentum was about to get under the spotlight.
In November 2011, TedxYouth Braga celebrated this constructive feeling gathering an elite of speakers that were pushing ideas forward.
More than being a gentleman and an inspiring entrepreneur, António Murta, our national digital champion, took the stage sharing his enlightened broad vision for the city and leading by his own example. Tedx Youth Braga was an amazing experience and gave birth to a star: Miguel Gonçalves (whose talk has more than half a million views on YouTube).
Miguel was a compelling speaker challenging pessimism, inactivity, status quo and urging individual initiative. Somehow, Miguel became an Ambassador taking what was happening in Braga to every talk or lecture he gave throughout the country. Braga was definitely on the map and entrepreneurs from all the region were coming to Braga to see what was happening.
Startups started to pop out and it became impossible to track them all on Made in Minho, a catalog on the web to keep track of the community’s initiative. Sure, we were having some successes, but there were also ephemeral events, startups and initiatives. Let’s put it this way: along this journey we also collected real life entrepreneurship lessons to use later…
Let’s call this, the Granularity Phase, since the ecosystem was still made of independent, disconcerted agents.
Startup Braga was launched in May 2014 and represents the kick-start of a new phase:
The Structured Braga Startup Scene.
Even though it is still a recent structure, Startup Braga’s achievements are already substantial. I would like to highlight two simple, but hard to get, achievements: strategic action plan and leadership.
For the first time, Braga, as a city, was intentionally betting on the startup ecosystem as part of the strategic plan for economic growth. For the first time, we had a sustained decision, arguing the business opportunity of focusing on the development of expertise on creating and raising MedTech startups. For the first time, we had assigned leadership committed to these goals.
Carlos Oliveira has a strong background in business and performed an important role serving in the Portuguese Government. Carlos leads the way, combining the soft power skills that move all sorts of high profile stakeholders to comply with Startup Braga’s goals. On the other hand, Tiago Sequeira formerly led the informal Startup Scene – on the granularity phase – and knows half a city. It’s a winning combination of skills and profiles!
So, what’s up in the Braga startup scene now?
– Entrepreneurship became an ubiquitous possibility.
– In less than 5 years, the number of startups from Braga competing on the international market rose significantly: Farfetch, Gen/Tekzenit, GroupBuddies, Asap54, Bitreserve, Codevision, Q Better, Edigma and so many others are beating the chances… and its competitors. Not only the products are great, but the quality of the teams leaves a strong impression.
– At the University of Minho every student gets the chance to have proper training in Entrepreneurship frameworks and core competencies. Kudos to the work done by AAUM LiftOff and some entrepreneurial teachers.
– Entrepreneurs from everywhere have now a place and a team that works full time to deliver a top notch acceleration program: Startup Braga.
– Startup Braga collected amazing results from the first acceleration program: Peekmed and Sword Health, for instance, were true rockstars. Plus 1.7M€ in funding and quite an impressive work done by the founders (referring to the progress achieved in the businesses).
– Startup Braga is having an exciting partnership policy and is now working with the second batch of startups partnering with FLAD and Fidelidade and maintaining the close fellowship with Microsoft. You know what they say: “Big Fish doesn’t come close unless there’s strong evidence of value!”
– We are now being recognized as a favorable destination for Portuguese founders, but also, we’re managing to capture the interest of foreign entrepreneurs that saw in Braga a place for starting up.
There’s still a long way to go in this never ending story. The life sciences cluster itself still has a lot to explore and there are so many problems to be solved that we can only think that the best is yet to come.
Oh! Have I mentioned that we are now finally breaking the ice with the unique Iberian Nanotechnology Lab? That’s right… a huge chapter is about to start: Nanotech for huge impact. Consider this for a second… Don’t have a clue about nanotech? Not a problem, we’re launching a new Meetup about Nanotech this month. We hope you can join us and take part on the be the birth of the third phase of Braga Startup Scene: Nanotech for huge impact.
Alexandre Mendes has a degree in Psychology and learned as much in books, podcasts and surfing on iTunesU. He worked on HR Depts. in a few major companies in the country and then moved to challenge knowledge transference from universities to the community promoting a win-win approach. He co-founded Os tais (do vídeo), a lovely video company, and he’s been an active promoter of entrepreneurship in Universities but also within top initiatives in the country like Passaporte do Empreendedorismo (IAPMEI), So You Think You Can Pitch, Startup Pirates, BetaStart, Liftoff, Startup Weekend or Creators School. Keeping a close connection to the startup scene, much of his late work relates to organizational design, culture, recruitment and helping startups scale their teams and processes to become bigger companies with a startup soul. Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn