Why Lisbon? It’s in the middle between Belgium and California!

After those three days of Launch in Lisbon I not only was more knowledgeable about starting my business in Lisbon, but I also felt welcome here. 


“And why Lisbon?” is a question we get a lot, often from people who already have an idea of what the answer will be, the open secret that attracts people to Lisbon these days. As a Belgian interior designer, with my partner who is a digital product designer from San Francisco, we always just say: “it’s in the middle between Belgium and California!”

We fell in love with Lisbon last year while on a three-month road trip around Spain and Portugal; after the trip, we decided it was the next place we wanted to call home. The sunny weather gives me so much great energy compared to rainy Belgium, and it also has a “West Coast” feel that goes beyond just the color of the bridge. Professionally, so much investment and renovation mean there are interiors to be designed, and the new focus on tech means my partner has opportunities too. Great! So we find an apartment and drive down from Belgium last December, our car loaded with books, my material samples, work equipment, and our dog. It’s only after arriving that all the logistical questions hit me: how do I actually move to Portugal, as a person, and professionally?

The former is a whole story in itself—European countries are masters of bureaucracy—but the latter question led to my finding Launch in Lisbon. Even though it’s more geared toward a tech startup audience, I thought the content would still be relatively useful to me, as well as the networking, having worked on tech company offices in the past.

I was nervous showing up on the first day, but that dissipated quickly as each of the three days were packed with activity. Being in a small, multinational group was awesome; we benefited from close attention to our questions and a mix of life experience. It provided a great background in different areas: applicable Portuguese laws, immigration, tax, real estate, and grants. And interspersed, excursions to visit coworking spaces, incubators, hip landmarks, and to eat great food. We got an overview of the entrepreneurial environment in Lisbon, and in addition, an introduction to the city itself through the entrepreneurial lens. 

As an interior designer, the most interesting part of the program was being able to visit so many coworking spaces and offices. They were very different than the tech offices I’ve worked on in the past, but they conveyed the energy and accessibility of the scene here. Each has its own vibe, and it’s clear that you can find the right place and community for you. I now have the dilemma of deciding which one I want to work from!

After those three days I not only was more knowledgeable about starting my business in Lisbon, but I also felt welcome here. Our choice of city was affirmed by the positive energy of the program, which motivated me to keep going and dive into starting my business without hesitation. I got answers to the many questions I had about starting a business, met some like-minded entrepreneurs starting their own companies here, toured some really cool co-working spaces, and made friends. Also, being introduced to trusted professionals was useful—there are so many lawyers and accountants in Lisbon that finding one shouldn’t be hard, but it’s difficult to find reviews online, so recommendations are key.

If you’re thinking about Lisbon, you should give it a shot! It’s an amazing city. I hope to meet you at a future Launch in Lisbon get-together or other community gatherings. And, shameless pitch: in case you’re in Lisbon (or not, I work remotely too) and have a project that needs interior design services, get in touch!

Lola Cwikowski