Lisbon, the startup spirit

In April 2012 I was given the honour of speaking on the subject of ethnography at UX Cocktail hour, which was hosted by Startup Lisboa.

The initiative was the brain child of James Page and Sabrina Mach who run Webnographer, which is one of Lisbon’s few dedicated user experience consultancies.

For those that are interested, I’ve written up a summary of my talk, which I originally gave at the UK UPA.

A city of talent

In many ways, the spirit of the people I met in Lisbon reminded me of the excitement I experienced in the mid 1990s when the world wide web was a new frontier. There are so many people starting ventures, such as Table and Friends, which arranges people to meet at a restaurant based on interests or as a service that can be offered to event organisers.

In London, communities can be somewhat fragmented, probably due to the amount of events and the limits on everyones’ time. However, Lisbon’s design, coding, service, innovation and startup scene is much more interesting as there are more opportunities for people from all disciplines to meet.

An example of this is when we went out to celebrate the opening of a new wine bar, which was the initiative of a friend of James and Sabrina. There I met with someone from the World Bank, who was working on a project to establish a online trust system. Listening in on conversations, everything was being discussed from psychology, functionalism, anthropology, open source, social design and the best breed of cat! It felt like I was in the Café de Flore, with the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre.

I can’t stress just how friendly and hospitable everyone was during my stay. The Portuguese enjoy a reputation for their hospitality and their amazing wine enhances the whole experience! 

A business opportunity

With such a rich pool of talent, an amazing city, fantastic weather and a plethora of charming offices and houses, Lisbon is an ideal place to establish a European business. The upside of the economic downturn is the fact that it’s cheaper than ever to establish a business.

Pioneering Webnographer

I know James and Sabrina from working with them at bSkyb in London. At that time they were situated near Brighton. I was somewhat surprised when they told me they were relocating to Lisbon. However, as the service the’ve created allows them to operate anywhere, it makes a great deal of sense they would make the move. Especially since James’s father, Martin Page, wrote a seminal book on the Portuguese. Read the full story on their blog.

With an airport only 15 minutes from the city centre and cheap EasyJet flights they can be in any capital city within 3 hours from their front door. These guys have the best of both worlds, the charm, affordability and wether of Portugal, whilst reaping the economic benefits of service the international markets.

I would like to than everyone that was so kind to me. A special thanks goes to the whole Webnographer team!!

Useful links

Seed capital

Wine sharing

Webnographer’s blog



Design researcher, ethnographer and cat fancier

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6 comments on “Lisbon, the startup spirit
  1. Bruno Figueiredo says:

    I’m sorry to have missed you while you were in town. Just a minor correction: Webnographer is not the only user experience consultancy in Lisbon. My company was doing business long before they settled in Lisbon (which I helped them to, with some guidance). Maybe you’ve heard of UXLx: User Experience Lisbon, the largest UX event in Europe, and that we organize.And you’re right: Lisbon is a fantastic place to run a business.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for that Clarification Bruno. And, of course, UXL is world famous!

  3. Bruno Figueiredo says:

    If you’re ever in town again, give me a shout. I couldn’t make it to your talk because I was incredibly busy at that time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It would be my pleasure!

  5. mvalente says:

    Thanks for the reference and the link Simon ( would reference you and your readers to a post I made 3 years ago on SeedCapital’s blog which lots of people laughed about. Guess they now have joined the bandwagon.– MV

  6. Anonymous says:

    Your article sums up all the advantages the Lisbon.All I would add is that the Portugese are multi lingual as they speak Spanish, Portugese and English at least!

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