Visit to Fabrica de Startups – Lisbon Vertication 2018

Posted on 24/04/2018

Lisbon is quickly growing as a startup hub – in part driven by low cost of highly educated labor and a comfortable lifestyle. To support the ecosystem, a range of public and private institutions have sprung up. Among these is Fabrica de Startups, a for-profit organization focussing on connecting ideas, start-ups, corporates and team members.

We visited Fabrica de Startups as part of our Lisbon round trip to get an insight into what makes the vibrant startup environment in Lisbon tick. What makes Fabrica de Startups different is their idea driven business model and close ties to corporate partners. Not only were we inspired by their business model and ability to bridge the startup-corporate gap, they also cemented our own ideas about how to set the team and how startup-corporate collaboration off-site create value.

What makes a successful startup different, or rather, how do you guarantee success for a new business? Venture capitalists will tell you a young investment is all about the team. With the right team, you can change the world. In turn, this, of course, begs the question: What makes a good team? After having run accelerator programmes and facilitated startup-corporate partnerships for years, the key differentiating factor Fabrica de Startups flagged was the team. Any startup aspiring to achieve greatness should have:

  • The Hacker – this the commercially focused role, who brings growth and validation to the business model
  • The Designer – the person on the team that makes the solution truly usable by ensuring the end-user can leverage the solution fully
  • The Hustler – the techie on the team that builds the actual product and makes everything work

Presentation at Startup Factory

So you have the right team, but where do we go from here? How do we choose the right idea and how can we accelerate? In the experience of Fabrica de Startups, akin to our own adaption of the SPRINT methodology, the ideas need to be rapidly tested with end-users and iterated on. The mantra to follow during the first months is “build fast, fail fast, learn fast”. One the solution has been validated with users, the actual product can be built and the business start to form. Whether you are a startup launching or a team in a corporate working on a specific problem, this framework can be a useful tool in building a solution users actually want.

Ok, but how does this tie up with corporates and startups working together – aren’t they normally competing? The model Fabrica de Startups has built centers on building startups to tackle actual business issues corporates face. Therefore, the corporate can outsource the problem solving to a range of competing teams composed of employees from the corporate and entrepreneurs. Hence when the problem is solved, and the solution found, the corporate can immediately plug it into their business. Even for the failing teams, the employees have been exposed to new ways of working and an innovative environment. In the experience of Fabrica de Startups and their partners, this has been a tremendous driver of innovative thinking and development when the employees come home to the mother company. In turn, the startups and entrepreneurs know from the start they are tackling an actual pain and there is a market ready to purchase when they solve the issue. Therefore, the risk is lowered in the launch of the startup

Ok, that all sounds great, but how do I tap into such an ecosystem? Many corporates don’t have access to or green light to enter into partnerships, that by nature cannot have a very clear P&L target and tangible value proposition. Therefore, many global companies have started to form their own incubators and accelerator programmes. This is a way to achieve the ecosystem solution but maintain a large degree of control. The setup may not have a target P&L for the five-year plan, but the value proposition is clear: Corporates become more innovative, attract talent, retain employees, and learn – all while retaining a venture upside.