The Portuguese Empire as we know it has evolved and fallen, but the country is now establishing itself as leaders in the digital world. This has not come without its growing pains, however.
After the official fall of the Portuguese Empire in 1975, the region continued to be stricken with adversity throughout the 80’s and 90’s. This was followed by slow economic growth and the global recession that sent shock waves throughout the country’s economy in 2008.
By 2011, the region had turned to the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a financial bailout which required tremendous restructuring of the country’s assets and spending habits. This resulted in 485,000 unemployed Portuguese, an exorbitant amount of laid-off civil servants, significantly increased taxes and reduced contributions to social services and pensions.
Still, to this day, the impact of the recession was underestimated as public and private debt remained high, unemployment rates remained in double digits, and the balance sheets of banks never really stabilized. However, enough was enough and a perfect storm started to emerge.
The youth in the country took control of their own destiny. They harnessed a collective creative energy and they utilized entrepreneurship as a vehicle to create the type of future they envisioned. Before they knew it, startups started to surface and the different corners of the Internet became the new oceans that digital Portuguese ships started to explore and colonize.
Often referred to as the next tech capital, Lisbon, Portugal scores high on the European Digital City Index for a low-cost of living and a high quality of life (Techcrunch, 2017). A great majority of the city is English-speaking, people are well-educated, and the EU’s Committee of Regions coined it as the European Entrepreneurial region of the year.
Now, the region boasts unemployment less than 3% (down from 17% in 2012) and venture capital injection has increased ten-fold. Coined as the global creative class, the high quality of living attracts talent from all over the world. Also, the country’s capital, Lisbon, is home to Europe’s largest technology conference, Web Summit which will attract 60,000 delegates (7000 of which are CEOs) from 170 countries and is said to generate 175 million Euros in revenue for the region.
Building off this creative energy, the Horasis Global Meeting began in 2016 and it takes place in Lisbon’s neighboring City of Cascais. Horasis is a relatively new community of more than 600 select world leaders (including several heads of government) from 70 countries that get together for a series of intimate talks and experiences designed to share novel ideas around how to sustain and nurture our development into the future.
Cascais is conveniently located 30 minutes away from the Lisbon Airport and the Chairman of Horasis, German entrepreneur Dr. Frank-Jurgen Richter, and the production team did their part to attract some very notable guests including:
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal, Portugal
António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, Portugal
Peter Mutharika, President, Malawi
Mohamed ElBaradei, Former Vice-President of Egypt, Nobel Peace Price 2005, Egypt
José Manuel Barroso, Chairman, Goldman Sachs International, United Kingdom
Nobuyuki Idei, Chief Executive Officer, Quantum Leaps Corporation, Japan
Pedro Duarte Neves, Alternate Chairperson, European Banking Authority, United Kingdom
Lila Tretikov, Chief Executive Officer, Terrawatt Initiative, France
Deborah Wince-Smith, President, United States Council on Competitiveness, USA
Topics of discussion and presentations ranged from scaling emerging technologies, (A.I., FinTech, Big Data, IoT etc.), finding solutions to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) to maintaining optimism in global markets.
As the world evolves and as more global collaboration is needed to address the exponential changes to humanity as we know it, Portugal attracts this global audience to further the conversation and influence the steps required to succeed.
The United Nations Security-General puts it best: “there is no plan B because there is no Planet B. Portugal has empowered the youth and the citizens of their country to create an agenda that will help navigate us through these treacherous waters. Only time will tell what will come from this leadership, but we know that bold action is necessary to achieve bold results.
Here’s a short video clip of my time in Portugal for the Horasis Global Meeting