Web Summit Rio. With one eye on Brazil and another on attracting talent to Portugal


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More than two dozen startups land this Monday in Rio de Janeiro. In their luggage high expectations for the first edition of the Web Summit in Brazil. There is no lack of expansion plans.

With one eye on Brazil, another on Latin America and a third on attracting talent to Portugal, the national startup ecosystem is landing at the Web Summit Rio de Janeiro, which kicks off this Monday in Brazil, where more than 20 thousand participants are expected. Planning for expansion is on the agenda for some of the participants, but there are also those who go with one purpose: to attract projects and entrepreneurs to Portugal.

“The event in Rio de Janeiro could be another catalyst for promoting Portugal as an attractive destination for startups and international talent. For this, it is important that we take this opportunity to show what our country has to offer and implement specific initiatives to attract foreign talent,” argues António Dias Martins, executive director of Startup Portugal.

Mechanisms such as visa programs and work permits “that simplify processes for entrepreneurs and international startups to establish business in the country” are already in place, recalls the head of the body whose mission is to boost the Portuguese startup ecosystem and the management of 125 million from the Recovery and Resilience Plan.

“We also want to talk about the most recent instruments – such as the Vouchers for Startups or the Empreende XXI program, initiatives in which we are highly involved and that have the potential to attract a lot of entrepreneurial talent. Another initiative that should be explored and, fortunately, is already underway in some countries, as is the case of Brazil,” reinforces Dias Martins, noting that the two countries, on April 24, signed a protocol to strengthen economic relations.

“Portugal can be Brazil’s gateway to Europe, a market of more than 500 million people, just as Brazil means, for Portuguese companies, entry into a market of almost 200 million people,” he reinforces.

But Startup Portugal’s mission – which, through the Business Abroad program, has taken 14 of the more than two dozen participations in the summit – also includes “bridging the gap between Portuguese startups and investors and other local entities – namely, agencies that facilitate contacts and interaction between companies from the two countries. Basically, our work will be to expand the network of contacts, partnerships and networks between these players, facilitating their access to information that accelerates their process of entering the Brazilian market.

Web Summit Rio. With one eye on Brazil and another on attracting talent to Portugal

On the very first day of the conference, May 1st, the Portuguese delegation meets with local stakeholders in an event organized by the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Rio de Janeiro, in collaboration with Startup Portugal, the Lisbon City Council and AICEP, in a morning with several sessions on legal and fiscal processes, business opportunities in the country and a pitch session with Portuguese startups.

Gil Azevedo also marked Startup Lisbon’s trip to Rio de Janeiro with a double objective. Not only to help startups and scaleups “establish a network of local contacts and identify opportunities for international expansion to Brazil and Latin America,” but also – or was he not still executive director of Unicorn Factory Lisboa – “to develop additional channels and establish partnerships that allow greater attraction of projects and entrepreneurs to Portugal, namely through our incubation and acceleration programs, both at the level of Startup Lisboa and Unicorn Factory Lisboa.”

And he is optimistic about the potential results. “Over the years, we have been hosting several Brazilian entrepreneurs and talent and we believe that there is a strong potential to continue to develop this bridge,” argues Gil Azevedo. “This event allows us to have a showcase of our ecosystem, with the dissemination of the advantages of Portugal as a strategic center for expansion in Europe, as well as the strong development and internationalization that we have been witnessing in the Portuguese innovation ecosystem. It is also an opportunity to present our incubation and acceleration programs that are open to support international startups and scaleups, regardless of the stage of development of their business,” he argues.

Carlos Moedas, the promoter of the idea of the Unicorn Factory, already said in November, during the Lisbon Web Summit, that he aimed to attract more Brazilians to the city and, for this, the Rio Web Summit could be a good gateway.

Startup Lisboa already has seven startups with Brazilian roots incubated and, under the Scaling Up program, they have received “interest from Brazilian entrepreneurs”. “This summit allows us to strengthen this movement of bringing the Portuguese and Brazilian ecosystems closer together,” says Gil Azevedo. Throughout the summit, several initiatives are planned – such as a lounge with the presence of startups, masterclasses, as well as several events to develop partnerships and make the programs known, he lists.

“The 25 Portuguese startups and scaleups that will go to Rio will also be an excellent business card to showcase the value of innovation in Portugal and thus attract attention and attract investors and talent from Brazil to the Portuguese ecosystem,” Gil Azevedo also points out.

Networking and an eye for local talent
Of the more than two dozen national startups that stamped their passports for the summit, some – such as Sensei, knok, Leadzai, Zharta, or sheerMe – already have operations or are in the process of expanding into the Brazilian market.

Sensei is going in with “high” expectations. “We are betting heavily on the internationalization of the company to Brazil after having opened with Grupo Muffato what was the first autonomous supermarket (based on AI) in Latin America in Brazil – Muffato GO – whose opening happened to coincide with the week of the last Web Summit Lisbon, in November 2022”, says Joana Rafael, co-founder and chief operating officer of Sensei. The presence at the summit in Rio will thus be a “great opportunity to create new contacts, whether with investors or partners, and also to learn more about the local ecosystem.


In this market, tech retail is “hiring several positions for its HQ,” as well as “a team in Brazil, namely a local country manager.” And after the summit they already make plans to participate in the APAS Show, the largest supermarket event in Brazil, with their client Muffato, to present their store concept.

One of the startups in the ‘national delegation’ Leadzai “already has clients in several Latin American countries, having recently started activity in Brazil”, says João Aroso, founder & CEO, a market where they have “some resources”. “We haven’t had any difficulty in hiring, but the truth is that we’re by no means limited to Portugal. We have teams in various parts of Europe, in addition to Brazil and Colombia”, points out the person responsible for the startup when asked if the presence at Web Summit Rio would also be a moment for recruitment.


For others, the summit is the opportunity to announce the start of operations in the Brazilian market. This is the case of Modatta. “Our vision has always been to expand into Brazil as soon as we could gather the right conditions to do so, as it is a market that has a perfect fit with Modatta. So in November 2022, we started preparing the entry into the Brazilian market with the help of M4 Ventures, through a capital contribution to that effect, the elaboration of an entry strategy and operationalization of it. We knew that to enter a challenging market like Brazil we needed a partner that had the right experience to help us,” begins Eduardo Pinto Basto, who cofounded the platform with Rodrigo Moretti in 2019. “We aim to reach more than one million users by the end of this year and to have more than 150 brands advertising on our platform,” he adds.

SheerMe has long had its eye on Brazil. Right now, the startup that operates in wellness services is preparing the soft launch in the country and the expectation is to “grow a lot in the coming months”. It already has 30,000 spaces listed in its directory of wellness, beauty and fitness services in three states (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador and Recife) and more than 300 clients already accepting online appointments. “We want to reach 1,000 active clients in Brazil by August. When we reach the break-even point we’ll move to having only the option of online appointments and payments just like we have in Portugal,” explains Miguel Ribeiro, co-founder & CEO of sheerMe. But in this market, the “strategy involves making sheerME more social by giving users benefits for promoting their experiences.”

The growth potential is enormous: “Brazil is a huge country with great potential, the level of digitalization is high, and due to cultural issues the scheduling of wellness services is crucial especially in large cities. The frequency of use is also much higher than in any other country in Europe,” he justifies.


Part of the development, support, and sales team is in Brazil. And there is a will to strengthen it. And, in this sense, the Brazilian market could be a potential pool to deal with the shortage of talent in Portugal. “We find a lot of talent in Brazil and we want to continue recruiting, not necessarily to come to Portugal, but to join our team in Brazil. We are always open to help whoever wants to come and work in Portugal, but we believe that sheerME’s operation in Brazil can be much larger than in Portugal, considering the size of the country and interest in wellness services. In Portugal it’s actually more difficult to hire, but in Brazil we’re finding very good people,” admits Miguel Ribeiro.

Go to Rio with an eye to Latin America
Rio de Janeiro will also be a recruiting ground for Hoopers “not only from Brazil to Portugal, but, above all, to help us operate in this market,” which André Costa, cofounder of the community platform that connects players, fans, and basketball enthusiasts through camps, content, experiences, and NFT, calls “strategic.”

“We want to increase our exposure in this market, but also to present and collect feedback on solutions we have been building,” says André Costa.


But also use the participation in the summit as a springboard to Latin America. “We are already operating in Brazil and want to take advantage of the event to increase our exposure in this market, but also to establish important contacts with entities and players in Latin America,” he says.

“In the first phase, we will be focused only on the Brazilian market, where we entered independently, but we know we want to expand to other countries in this region in the future,” continues the Hoopers cofounder. For this, more capital will be needed. “We will be thinking about raising investment starting at the end of this year or early next year and we obviously want to do that with local operators.”

And he is not the only one with Latin America in his sights. “By gaining traction in Brazil, we can easily take off in other Latin American countries. This was a strategy our team used at Zomato and other startups we launched in Brazil in the past,” admits Miguel Ribeiro. But expanding requires more capital. To enter Brazil they counted, among other partners, on the support of the M4 Ventures fund – “without M4 Ventures our entry in Brazil would have been much more difficult, because we not only got help to open a company, bank accounts and the like, but also the opening to connect us to their network in Brazil”, sheerMe’s cofounder points out” – new flights require more financial muscle.


“We are days away from finalizing our seed round, and we believe it will be enough to take the first steps in Brazil and scale up. But we are aware that in the middle of 2024 we will start looking for investment for series A of sheerME, with proven results in Brazil we will need to scale up faster, both in Brazil and internationally,” reveals the co-founder.

“Brazil is a very important step for sheerME, however in parallel we are also already testing another market, we are already in trials with customers in Spain. Getting sheerME tuned in Portuguese and Spanish will give us the confidence to move on to other countries.”


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