The Top Startups to Watch in Portugal Use AI & Platform Connection to Grow

The Next Web — a major European tech media company that, among other things, hosts a tech news website and an annual conference for the industry — has recently announced the five “hottest” startups in Portugal. These range from a logistics platform for the fashion industry, to a language translation company utilising the power of artificial intelligence for its customers. The five startups exemplify the growth and economic benefits of the Portuguese startup industry over the past few years.

One of Europe’s best-known technology media companies — The Next Web (TNW) — has just announced the five “hottest” startups in Portugal . These are the companies that have had the highest performance and growth rates since their founding, and that have strong future potential to scale, according to tech analysts from TNW and payments tech company Adyen. These are also the companies that will be invited to the TNW Conference in Amsterdam in May, Europe’s leading tech festival that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and the world’s foremost digital thinkers.

The first company to make the cut is Huub, a logistics and tech platform for fashion brands, that strives to integrate the full supply chain process — from production to end-user — in one place, and that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data to boost business growth rates. According to TNW, the team is expected to double its number of employees to more than 80 by the end of 2019. Last year, Huub raised 2.5 million euro to help with hiring new staff and expanding its customer base. Currently, Hubb’s portfolio includes more than 40 brands in the fashion industry — and they are looking to reach between 150 and 200 brands by the end of this year. The company has experienced 110 percent growth in revenue since its founding in 2015.

Zaask is the second Portuguese startup to be honored by TNW. The platform connects service providers to the individuals and businesses who need them — from language training to gardening to dog walking — and it’s currently the leading service hiring platform in Portugal and Spain, with more than 460,000 users per month, and nearly 100,000 registered professional service providers. The company was launched in 2012, and since 2015, it has been operational in Portugal, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.

Another job-matching company also makes the top five — but this one is focused on recruiters and talent only in the tech industry. connects tech-heads — engineers, programmers, developers, et al. — to jobs in Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Berlin, and Hamburg. Beyond match-making, the company provides advice to job-seekers about developing their dream career, and advice to hiring companies about finding the best talent for their firms. Founded in 2013, during Portugal’s economic and employment crisis, has become especially important as the country continues to recover. The truth is in the numbers: Revenue growth had doubled every year since the company’s founding.

Developers designing a new app. Copyright: Gorodenkoff /

One of the largest startups (by employee numbers, international reach, and funding) coming out of Portugal so far, is Unbabel — the next on TNW’s “hottest” list. The company uses high-powered artificial intelligence to give companies and customer service teams superior multilingual translation capabilities. Since its start in 2013, the company has grown to more than 150 employees who work from Lisbon, San Francisco, New York, and London. They work with more than 100,000 translators and more than 400,000 global brands, that rely on Unbabel for customer support translation. The group has been recognised as one of Y Combinator’s fastest-growing seed companies, and they recently closed a Series B funding round of just over 20 million euro.

Finally, a company called YouClap tops off the group of most-promising Portuguese startups. YouClap has developed an app that allows users to send and receive virtual challenges to friends — and even favorite brands, an interactive aspect that has been missing from other social media platforms. This is the youngest company by far on the “hottest” list — launching in May 2018. Still, it’s one of the fastest-growing. Just a week after the launch, YouClap reached first place on the Trending Social Apps list in the Google Play Store, and fourth place in the App Store. By the end of last year, they had already reached 20,000 users.

All of these companies highlight an increasingly known fact about Portugal: Just a handful of years since the global financial crisis of the earlier 2000s, that hit Portugal particularly hard, the country has turned itself into one of the best places in Europe to launch a startup. A number of government initiatives have contributed to this fact: legislation in 2015 that provided a legal framework for crowdfunding platforms to operate, the Startup Portugal+ Program (an extension of the original Startup Portugal Program created in 2016, that will provide new access to training and sources of funding), and the StartUp Visa that was introduced last March — to name just a few.

In 2016, the Web Summit, one of the world’s biggest tech conferences, moved from Dublin to Lisbon — in a huge coup for the growth of the Portuguese startup industry. Last year, the Web Summit announced it will stay in Lisbon for another decade. This is expected to generate more than 3 billion euro in revenue for Portugal over the coming 10 years.

As Portugal continues its economic upswing, the tech and startup industry is helping immensely, and a number of Portugal’s newest startups are growing more rapidly than ever before.

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Kaitlin Lavinder

Kaitlin is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. She holds an MA in International Economics and European Studies from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and previously worked as a national security reporter and Europe analyst. She has conducted on the ground research in Germany, Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

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