Make partnerships your secret weapon. Here’s how Ectosense nailed it.

Make partnerships your secret weapon. Here’s how Ectosense nailed it.

Last year, during the Lisbon Investment Summit, I met with Sumon Sadhu, the scientist who became a known investor and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and he changed completely the way I see startups and innovation. He told me in an interview that he only believed in “working on things that will make a deep and meaningful impact on the world”. This goes beyond Paul Graham’s motto of making things people want. This is about improving the lives of millions of people. This is about contributing to the evolution of humanity itself.  

Naturally, this involves healthcare. So, I became more and more interested in healthcare startups. Not just because they can have a meaningful impact in the world, but also because they need to be incredibly bold and ambitious to tackle such a complex industry.   

At Beta-i, through startup programs such as Protechting, which is about to close applications for its second edition, we’ve seen many healthcare startups. One of them was Ectosense.

Ectosense is not the average healthcare startup. In just one year, they developed their product and gained the medical certification for their device to be used by hospitals, which is extremely fast for a startup. They were one of the winners of the first edition of Protechting, they went on a roadshow to China to showcase their product to investors, and they got investment from the biggest investigation and development institute of nanoelectronics in the world.

Their secret? Partnerships.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Duarte Mendes de Almeida, the Portuguese co-founder of Ectosense, to learn more about their product, how they closed important partnerships with big corporates in the industry, and how is it like to build a startup in healthcare.

So, Duarte, for those who don’t know, what is Ectosense?

Ectosense is a startup in the area of medical devices, more specifically to diagnose sleeping disorders, particularly sleep apnea. For those who don’t know, sleep apnea is a condition that makes people stop breathing while they’re sleeping. Imagine that you’re going to bed and after you fall asleep I cover your mouth and nose with my hands and you can’t breathe, so you wake up to take my hands from your mouth and nose and fall back to sleep. After a few minutes of sleep, it happens again, and you can’t breathe, and so on. It happens during the whole night. In serious cases, this can happen up to 100 times per hour. The problem with sleep apnea is that prevents oxygen from flowing into your brain, leading to an adrenaline charge, which speeds up your heart rate so that you can wake up and breathe again. This has some pretty negative consequences for your body. Not just for the low levels of oxygen but also because of the effort your heart makes.

Sleep apnea can lead to many chronic diseases that contribute to a considerable loss in quality of life. This also represents significant healthcare costs, which are usually supported by insurance companies, and for us, this was actually one of the reasons why we wanted to join Protechting.

And how are you currently developing your product?

What we initially developed was a software that would automate the diagnosis for sleep apnea through sensors which could be integrated with mobile solutions. Instead of having the usual method of diagnosis that is very complex. They basically make you sleep with many different sensors attached to your body, like on your head, on your face, on your eyes… Or, if you want to do the most accurate exam you have to sleep at the hospital and be monitored during that time. Later on, the doctor will review the results manually. This is very expensive, people have to wait for a long time to schedule this exam, in Portugal for example, it takes you between 6 months and 2 years to schedule the exam.

What we do is take a few sensors from this complex system, which can be integrated with mobile solutions, and we add artificial intelligence to these sensors so that we can have better quality in the diagnosis and more information from these sensors that weren’t previously extracted. Nowadays, you register the results and analyze them manually, while we use algorithms to extract more information from these sensors.

The current method of diagnosis makes no sense. It’s complex and costly, and it deals with a condition that affects 4% to 7% of the population and in more than 80% of the cases people haven’t yet been diagnosed. We’re talking about a condition that has severe consequences in your quality of life, in your work, in your productivity, so we thought why hasn’t somebody developed an easier solution?               

As any healthcare product, you must have to conduct studies to test it before you actually launch it. How is it going so far?

These tests or studies serve 2 different purposes actually. First, it helps in the development of the product, because as we have machine learning algorithms we need a large amount of data to make it reliable. Second, it’s needed to validate the product with doctors, university professors, and showcase it to the medical community and show it has a good performance when compared to the current solutions. And actually for us, it helps in terms of marketing because we’re not selling this as a gadget, we’re selling it as a medical device to be used in the medical practice.

Who are your customers then? Who is your target?

Our customers are the hospitals, but also the healthcare insurance providers. These insurance providers are the ones who mostly feel the economic impact of this condition not being diagnosed. Just to give you an idea, in the US the hidden costs of sleep apnea are estimated to be between 60 and 65 billion dollars, which is a tremendous amount.

Which studies have you conducted and how were you able to get the hospitals to run these tests?

In Portugal we’re running a study with one of the major hospitals in Lisbon, “Hospital Santa Maria”, and that on is still on-going. And another one that’s about to start at “Hospital Beatriz Angelo” that will be longer as we will monitor people’s sleep during several nights in the patient’s home. The goal is to see how the patient responds to sleeping with this device for several nights, and it has a particular advantage because sleep apnea can vary a lot from night to night, and sometimes the current diagnosis method can miss this because they only do it for one night. This means that 1 out of 4 patients can miss his or her treatment because of this. So, during this study will analyze the benefits of using the device more than once.

What feedback have you received so far?

It’s been really good and we’ve achieved the CE certification with these studies. So, that’s already taken care of. The doctors see this as a necessary solution that is very different from what’s now available, and that can diagnose many cases which they struggle with in the past. As for the insurance providers, they spend enormous amounts of money which correspond to a significant percentage of their revenues. So, insurance companies have all the interest in the world in having this kind of product.

Talking about insurance providers, you have participated in the first edition of Protechting, the accelerator by Fidelidade and Fosun. Fidelidade is one the leading insurance companies in Portugal. Were you able to work with them while developing your product?

Yes, we did work closely with them, particularly with Luz Saúde, which belongs to Fidelidade. Actually, the “Hospital Beatriz Angelo” where we’ll conduct one of our studies is from Luz Saúde and this deal came from Protechting. After the program, we kept on talking to Luz Saúde and this opportunity came out. However, we haven’t yet focused on having Luz Saúde using our product, because we’re not there yet, we’re still conducting the study so, we’ll see where it goes from here. From Multicare, which is the insurance provider of Fidelidade, we’ve been talking with them regularly and they’ve been giving us a lot of support and mentoring on how we can deliver the best value proposition to insurance providers. Multicare is actually considering including this exam in their insurance plan so, we’ll see.   

Protechting, overall, was a great experience. It is actually very different from most acceleration programs because it allows you to have direct contact with very experienced mentors from your industry and with a wide network of contacts mostly in the areas of healthcare and insurance. It would be extremely difficult to reach out to these high-level players if we weren’t in Protechting. Another thing is that you also get plenty of exposure from Fidelidade, Fosun, and Luz Saúde, so in the end, Protechting acts like a shortcut for you to tap into this tough industry.

What is your current biggest challenge?

The health certifications and bureaucracies were one of our biggest challenges, but fortunately, we’re done with that. So, for now, we have two big challenges ahead of us. The first one is that our product has to be used with a specific hardware that the hospital needs to buy. This equipment is very expensive so, our plan is to go for a different model in which we also provide a specific hardware that can be used with our software. This hardware will be development in partnership with the biggest investigation and development institute of nanoelectronics in the world, which is also based in the same city we’re in, Leuven. This institute also has part of our company and we’re working closely with them to develop a hardware that is produced at a lower cost and that can be sent by mail. So, one of our biggest challenges is developing this hardware, and getting the medical certification, as this is another medical device.

The second and probably biggest challenge is going to market with this product. So, we’ll have to sell the software, which already exists, in combination with the hardware we’re developing. This includes selling to insurance providers and a few hospitals, even though our main focus is the insurance providers because they can reach to a larger number of people and their main focus is in prevention, which is greatly aligned with what we’re doing. Sleep apnea causes many chronic diseases including, heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, and many others, so, this early exam to diagnose sleep apnea can be extremely helpful to prevent these diseases.

Healthcare is an over-regulated and expensive industry to disrupt, and it has a history of failing to implement ambitious IT projects. What makes you think you’ll be able to disrupt this industry?

In this area, startups have lots of disadvantages. For example, for us, it’s much more difficult to start from a medical certification process from scratch, because we have very little experience, and the process is extremely arduous and bureaucratic. On the other hand, startups have the advantages of being small, efficient, and young. So, we usually work very long hours and we execute faster. In our case, for instance, the development of the product and getting the certification took us 1 year. Every time I say this to anyone who is working in healthcare, they’re usually surprised that it took us so little to get a product in healthcare up and running in so little time. And, I honestly think this has to do with us being a small company which allows us to be more efficient and cut the bureaucracies that most big companies have. However, these big companies have the industry knowledge that we don’t have, and they also have the funds to invest in this kind of solutions, which for a startup is usually harder to get. So, it’s obviously crucial for you to get partnerships and work together with other players in the industry.

I strongly believe that Ectosense will overcome all the obstacles and be successful because we are the most cost-effective, convenient, and accurate solution in the market. We have the only solution that allows you monitor sleep for several nights, and it’s the smallest and cheapest device.    

Want to follow the footsteps of Ectosense and work with top players in healthcare, insurance, and fintech? Apply to Protechting until March 26th. 


Tendayi Viki: “Startups have been bragging for the past 10 years”

Tendayi Viki: “Startups have been bragging for the past 10 years”

A week and a half ago I got a message on Slack from Ricardo Marvão, founder of Beta-i and Head of Global Resources, asking me if I wanted to interview Tendayi Viki, our invited speaker for the Future Is Innovation, and the Lisbon Investment Summit. I said yes, of course, but back then I knew very little about Tendayi, other than he was a top corporate innovation consultant and author of a well-known book called “The Corporate Startup”.  

Corporate Innovation Lisbon

However, it didn’t take me long to get to know him. I read many of his articles on Forbes, where he regularly writes, and I was absolutely fascinated. I found out that he co-designed an innovation framework that won the Best Innovation Program 2015 at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards in New York. Not to mention that he had worked on innovation with huge companies such as American Express, Standard Bank, Airbus, Pearson, General Electric, Whirlpool, or The British Museum.

As the questions were taking shape in my head, I grew more and more excited about this interview. How will big companies take on the innovation challenge from now ahead? What can they learn from startup methodologies? Which industries will technology breakthrough in the next decade? How will startups survive and how will corporates adapt?

Clearly, we have a lot to learn from Tendayi Viki. Check out the interview below and get to meet Tendayi at the Lisbon Investment Summit.      

Recently, you have written an article for Forbes in which you say that “large companies will be the largest beneficiaries of the lean startup movement”. Why is that?

Several reasons. The first thing is that technology goes through waves. During certain periods or certain waves, it’s either very expensive to launch a company or very cheap. So, this is from Steve Case’s new book called The Third Wave. In the First Wave, people were building the infrastructure, putting all the broadband, building the underlying technologies for the internet, and it was very expensive to launch a company at this time. So, during this period it was harder for startups to compete with larger companies, with more resources, and the startups that succeed in this period had a lot of money, large Venture Capital investments. In that era, you got companies like IBM, Microsoft, or AOL. And that’s simply because if you’re building the infrastructure, and if you’re a company that starts with that you’ll lay down most of the expenses so, you need big investments to do that.

And once that infrastructure was established?

Yeah, so, once the infrastructure is laid, starting a company becomes cheap. So, in the Second Wave starting a company became really cheap. You could use Amazon Web Services, you could create websites like Airbnb, or Uber, and build a company on top of other technologies.

So, the lean startup movement emerges at the same time as the Second Wave and as these new companies appear, and people think that this Second Wave is going to last forever. People think that the world has changed completely, that startups will dominate the future, entrepreneurs think that “the world is ours”. And this is very successful because the lean startup movement was put down as a methodology to help startups. However, now that the Second Wave is peaking, and we’re about to enter a Third Wave, and the Third Wave is expensive again.                    

What exactly happens in this Third Wave and when will we see it happen?

In this Third Wave, companies that weren’t yet impacted by much technology are going to be impacted, like banking, health, transportation, or food and beverage. For example, in health and education you can’t do anything without influencing policy, and also research in health is really expensive. Fintech startups are also finding that it’s better to partner with the banks to get the license, than trying to get a banking license for yourself, which is a much harder thing to do. So, large companies are going to dominate the Third Wave because it will be much more expensive to launch companies and technologies that are successful.

Now, you put that together with the fact that for the last 5 years, 6 years, 10 years, startups have been bragging about their methods… I mean, they’ve been talking about their methods in public, showing off for the last 10 years. Lean Startup this, MVP that… So, the large companies that were listening to all this stuff, they were trying to figure out how they can take those practices and put them into their company. They struggle with it, they do it wrong, but that’s what happens with disruption, it always looks like people aren’t doing it the right way. So, the more they struggle with it, the more they figure it out. So, now, we’re entering a period where it’s going to be more expensive to compete against a large company, but large companies are also going to have to act more like startups.

Can you give me a few examples of companies that are already implementing a few of these methodologies?            

Philips is a good example, General Electric, Pearson, the company that I’m working with, a few banks too. The other day I had a call with an old, mutual fund, like 100 years old, that is trying to implement this. I had a pet food company in Germany that is implementing lean startup methodologies in manufacturing. This is slowly getting out there, and their first versions are always going to be really bad. They’ll struggle, they’ll open an innovation lab, then they’ll close it, and they’ll figure this stuff out, but, the fact that they have more resources than any startup will ever have, makes a difference.

And what about Portuguese companies who are now trying to implement these innovation methodologies? They’re now opening innovation labs, starting accelerators, and all that, but this is still very new.          

Well, don’t sleep on that. Trends in Europe catch on. Companies in Portugal will look at other companies in Europe and say: “oh if this company is doing it we need to figure out how to do it ourselves”. So, this is kind of a domino effect. And I know that this movement is going in the right direction because China, the government of China, and there’s nothing more traditional than that, they have put into their 5-year goals to transform China from being just a manufacturing company to a company that creates new products and innovates. This is a government mandate, they have set up a department to do this. I’m soon heading to China to run a workshop with the pet food companies there on how they’re going to apply innovation principles.

Just before you were talking about your work with Pearson. I mean, you have co-designed Pearson’s Product Lifecycle, an innovation framework that won the Best Innovation Program 2015 at the Corporate Entrepreneur Awards. Can you talk about this framework and how it was implemented?

Yeah, so, co-designing it was fun, implementing was hard. Implementation is always hard because that’s where you get the resistance from all the major players in the company, and that was really tough. We started off with the product teams within the company to teach them how to use lean and agile, and then we discovered that if you teach product teams to do lean and agile it’s easier to tap into the decision making process. So, the Lean Product Lifecycle comes out of that, from this need that teams are doing the right thing at the right time. They’re not launching ideas before they’ve tested them, but also the managers are doing the right decisions and asking the right questions at the right time. So, they’re no longer asking for 5-year projections. We built the Product Lifecycle in stages, and in each stage, teams are supposed to know what they’ll be doing, and know the right question to ask a team in another stage. This allows you to measure, understand how to invest, and what to do next.

People have been talking a lot about industries such as healthcare, transportation, like you mentioned before, which are very complex industries for startups to disrupt by themselves. Do you think that if startups don’t partner up with big companies they’ll most likely fail?

No, no, no. Not necessarily. I saw a quote the other day from Alex Rampell of Andreessen Horowitz, and I think he nailed it. He says that ‘the battle between every startup and incumbent comes down to whether the startup gets distribution before the incumbent gets innovation’. So, if the startup is quick to get distribution, get everything it needs, get set up and start rolling, then it may disrupt the incumbent because the incumbent has already all of that. If you think about in terms of education large companies like Pearson already have government contacts, contracts with major districts, global innovation deals all over the world, except that they have everything locked up. So, the question is can an education technology startup crack-down code before Pearson cracks the code of how to make it hectic.      

How do you envision the companies of the future? Will they be a hybrid between startups and big corporates?

I think that companies are learning one thing, which is that they have to balance the searching for new business models to executing on current business models. So, for me, a company of the future is ambidextrous. It has really great expertise in executing and delivering on the core products, but it also has a great expertise in searching for new business models. This is the great company of the future. Now, how the company does search, that’s up to the company and its context. The company can do searching by collaborating with startups, it can do searching by opening an innovation lab, it can do searching by R&D, it can do searching by running an internal accelerator, it can do searching by running an external accelerator, there are so many tools. At the heart of it, it’s just to do searching the right way, so, just making sure that whatever you’re working on, you end up using the methodologies that lead you to having a successful product, and that, you’re not doing what we call of ‘innovation theater’, you know, just for marketing purposes.  


Tendayi Viki will be giving an exclusive keynote on innovation for the Corporate Track at the Lisbon Investment Summit. Register here to attend.  


Marvin Liao, 500 Startups: “There’s too much of this bullshit cult of product”

Marvin Liao, 500 Startups: “There’s too much of this bullshit cult of product”

Last year at the Lisbon Investment Summit there was one story that got quite famous within the Beta-i team. I mean, for all this time that we’ve been organizing the Lisbon Investment Summit, we’ve been saying that our main goal is to bring entrepreneurs, investors, and executives together in a surprisingly informal and slightly unexpected environment, and, finally, last year we got undisputable evidence that it really did happen.

Marvin Liao, Partner of 500 Startups, was one of our invited speakers at the Lisbon Investment Summit 2016, and Infraspeak, was one of the startups pitching from our accelerator Lisbon Challenge. Marvin got to meet Infraspeak’s co-founder, Felipe Ávila da Costa, in our sunset cocktail on a yacht. A couple of months later we get a message from Felipe saying that Infraspeak is moving to San Francisco and will receive funding from 500 Startups, one of the best startup programs in the world. 

We were proud matchmakers back then, and we want to do it all over again. The thing is Marvin Liao is coming back to speak at the Lisbon Investment Summit in 2017.

We have interviewed Marvin last week to learn more about 500 Startups, to understand what kind of startups and industries he is looking at, to talk about fundraising, Trump, Snapchat, and what, in his opinion, makes startups successful.

Read the whole interview below and make sure you register here for the Lisbon Investment Summit 2007, on June 6-7.

How are you looking at Venture Capital investments in 2017? Especially in the US, in 2016, you had some cuts in investment, fewer IPOs.

The reality is that from a startup fundraising situation, it’s a lot more challenging than it has been in a long time. But, when you look at the overall numbers, compared to even 4-5 years ago, the numbers are still relatively high. The reality is there was just a lot of money that came into the ecosystem, about 4-5 years ago, I would say probably particularly 4 years ago, so just a lot of stuff, frankly, that shouldn’t have been funded, a lot of stuff that didn’t have any metrics, a lot of stuff that didn’t make any sense, there was just overfunding you could argue. Right now, there is just a lot more rationality in the market at every single level, whether it is like at the billion dollar level to the one or two million dollar level. It’s just a very different environment and a much more rational environment, so that means that only the best companies and the best teams are being funded right now and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What do you think about Snapchats’ IPO?

I have lots of opinions. First of all, great, that’s a great signal. Whereas last year was really really terrible for tech IPOs. There are a lot of tech companies going public this year. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s probably a good thing for investors, but the reality for Snapchat is that you are seeing the engagement numbers go down. Instagram is trying to take a lot more market share from them right now, so who knows. And going public as a company, I just feel like they are going public way too early than I sort of expected. But I guess investors want their money out.

Do you think the same thing can happen to Snapchat, as we’ve seen with Twitter over the last couple of years?

That is not a great case study. Based on Snapchat’s revenue numbers I’m really surprised, their revenue numbers and the maturity of the organization in general. Going public is brutal because now you are under a glare and you are on a quarter to quarter basis, so it becomes really hard to manage a company. I’m just really surprised. For them to go public strikes me more as Twitter and less like Facebook.

And what are your predictions for the Trump Presidency? What do you think can happen in the tech industry?

No, it’s all bad. It’s just bad on all fronts. I mean, just what he is doing on the immigration front, what he is doing for the brand of America, it’s just all bad. The reality is that the tech industry is very much not in favor of this so, we hope the 4 years go by very quickly. Well, I can’t speak for the tech industry, I am speaking for myself. But, I don’t think it’s a good thing.

You’ve been at 500 Startups for more than 3 years now. Which companies have impressed you the most?

The first batch I ran here, I came across Shippo, a startup co-founded by Simon and Laura. Like super young founders but, super successful. Now, they’ve recently raised a Series A, and they are growing tremendously. So, for it was Shippo, which is an API for shipping companies, mainly for e-commerce companies. They’re just an awesome team, awesome business and just good people to work with.

At 500 Startups you’ve invested in companies from all around the world, and you have a huge portfolio. Do you keep in touch with the startups that you fund? How do you manage that relationship?

Yeah, it’s really determined by them. We expect at least a quarterly report from them, but typically, our engagement is determined by them. Some founders I talk to on a regular basis, other founders I never hear from and most founders fall right in the middle. I don’t hear from them regularly, but when they need something, they want advice, they want to talk about fundraising, they have some sales issue, whatever it is, that’s typically when they reach out and that’s the time I engage with them.

During the 500 Startups program, you focus a lot on growth, marketing, and sales. Why is that, why don’t you focus on product instead?

The reality is that most companies fail, not because they have a bad product. In my opinion, in our opinion, in the firm’s opinion, the main reason companies fail is because they don’t get customers or they don’t know how to get customers. That is actually the main reason, and that’s a huge gap. There’s too much of this bullshit cult of product, like build it and they will come right, all you need is a good product, and it is patently wrong.

How exactly do you help startups to grow?

We have a lot of staff, I have 10 full-time/part-time entrepreneurs in residence, so these are all ex-founders. We also have a team of 15 full-time/part-time online marketing and business to business sales experts that work with our companies, help them with metrics, help them basically with figuring out what their growth channels are.

Have you been looking at any particular industry?

I can only speak for my team. We do a lot of Fintech and Digital Health, a lot of marketplace businesses a lot of enterprise sales and SaaS. So those are probably our forte.

Quite recently you had a Portuguese startup there, from Lisbon Challenge, Infraspeak. Can you tell us how you got in touch with them and how that worked?

I was at the Lisbon Investment Summit last year, so I met the Infraspeak team and got to spend some time with them and really liked what they’re doing, so, asked them to join the program. I’m really glad it worked out.

Were you there at 500 when TalkDesk, another Portuguese startup, was there?

Tiago Paiva, the founder of Talkdesk, is a good friend of mine, but unfortunately, that was probably 5 years ago, so way before my time. But he’s a friend actually.

Richard Werbe, CEO of Studypool, says that to get funded by 500 Startups it all comes down to the numbers. “Know your Metrics (KPIs, growth rates, CPA, LTV). Be able to speak analytically about your business at a high level. If you don’t have major revenue and hockey stick growth – don’t apply. 500 looks for traction based startups.” Do you agree? Do you have any tips for startups that want to join 500 startups?

Yeah, I would strongly agree with that.

At 500 you’ve invested in companies from all around the world. Why? How do you find these startups?

From our portfolio, we’ve invested in companies from all over the world. Why? The reason we do that is because we think that there is great talent in every corner across the world and the reality is that, and as long as you are solving a real problem, we think there are opportunities. I think, from a funding perspective in a lot of countries, I mean it depends on how you look at it. I would say half the international companies are focusing on a local problem, funding can be a little more challenging there, but we think that in the long-term that market is going to develop and there will be funding down the road for them, or at least you can help them get to some business model and some level of breakeven or profitability faster. So, that’s sort of our thesis, both supporting startups that are solving problems in local markets and solving problems for customers in local markets, as well as international companies which are solving problems for a global market. And we think both are valid and worth investing in, and I think the ones that are focusing on the global, I am definitely much more interested in because we can see the results much faster and we can be way more helpful in the earlier days. I think it’s a little bit more of a longer-term bet for the international companies who are focusing on local markets, but obviously, we think there’s an opportunity and a good arbitrage opportunity and we think that’s where the world is going anyway.

What do you think about the Lisbon Startup Scene? Do you think we will be seeing more startups from Portugal at 500 Startups?

Yeah, definitely. That’s the reason why I’ll be there in June, for the Lisbon Investment Summit, right. So, we’ve done some investments. Like, for example, there were 2 or 3 other Portuguese companies that I’ve been talking with, one ended up joining Techstars in Boulder, called Attentive (also from Lisbon Challenge), but we think there are awesome founders there so, I’m obviously going to be looking.

What would you recommend to an entrepreneur that wants to reach out to you at Lisbon Investment Summit?

Don’t pitch me from the beginning, I just want to get to know them. Don’t harass me, don’t pitch me because that just makes me angry.

I’ve read your short bio on 500 Startups website that you have a book buying addiction. Which books have you bought recently? What do you recommend to an entrepreneur?

It’s a huge issue. It’s so bad. That’s probably my biggest sort of like problem. But as problems go, it could be a lot worse. I’ve been recently reading a lot of science-fiction because I think that is highly relevant if you’re trying to get a pointer to where the world is going. I’ve been also reading, just because of the recent political stuff, I’ve been reading a lot of geopolitical things. There’s a new book I’m in the process of reading, it’s called The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen, which is really good. Another one, which is The Absent Superpower, these are all the geopolitical stuff, right. Another one I’m reading, which is called Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler, so it’s just like how we’re reaching this level in society where a lot of like, some of the latest cutting edge things, whether it’s through drugs, whether it’s your training, how people are able to reach peak performance. Another one I’ve been reading is called Hit Makers, it’s basically, the subtitle says signs of popularity in an age of distraction. So, how hits get made, that’s highly relevant for my business.   

Want to be the next startup to join 500 Startups? Apply to pitch at the Lisbon Investment Summit. Want to meet Marvin Liao? Make sure you register here and join us for another edition of the Lisbon Investment Summit this June 6-7.

SIBS PayForward: Meet the 25 Top Fintech Startups

SIBS PayForward: Meet the 25 Top Fintech Startups

A couple of weeks ago we started evaluating all the applications we had for SIBSPayForward, the first fintech accelerator in Portugal that we’re organizing in partnership with SIBS, one of Europe’s leading fintech companies.

We had more than 100 applications, from 31 different countries, and we were seriously impressed with the potential of these fintech startups. In the end, it was a pretty tough call.

The evaluation process involved SIBS Management Team, as well as Beta-i’s team. We had hundreds of Skype Calls with the founders of these fintech startups (Fábio Coelho, the Program Director of SIBSPayForward, actually lived for 2 weeks without ever taking his headphones off), and we finally came down to the top 25 that will join us for the Bootcamp.

After this, we’ll get to choose the top 10 startups that will join us for the accelerator.

Curious? Here are the top 25 startups that will be tested to the limit at our Bootcamp:


Area: Mobile Payments


Area: Cards Dematerialisation


Area: Robot Financial Advisory


Area: Mobile wallets


Area: Blockchain Technology


Area: Tokenisation

Fraud Dynamics

Area: Fraud detection and contention solutions

Polygon Innovation

Area: Client Authentication Mechanisms


Area: Loyalty Programs


Area: Mobile wallets

Area: Credit Scoring


Area: Robotic Process Automation

Papaya POS

Area: In-app payments/integration


Area: Client-Merchant Profitability


Area: Client behavioral analysis


Area: Fraud detection and contention solutions

Pagita S.R.L.

Area: Events


Area: Investment Tracking

Orange Bird

Area: Money transfers

SnapSwap International

Area: Money transfers


Area: Blockchain Technology


Area: Instant payments and its reachability


Area: Blockchain technology


Area: Client Authentication Mechanisms e.g. Biometrics


Area: Credit Scoring


From the 3rd of April until the 7th of April these startups will prove their value at our Bootcamp. Stay tuned to find out who will get to the top 10 🙂


JumpStart by Prio: Test Your Solution in Real Life with a Top Client

JumpStart by Prio: Test Your Solution in Real Life with a Top Client

10 years ago Prio was starting off as a startup. Today, it has grown into one of the most relevant players in the energy sector, providing energy all across Portugal.

However, just like Prio has empowered people’s lives through fuel, gas, and electric power, over the time, they’ll be fuelling and empowering the dreams and ideas of those who dare to think differently. Those who dare to start their business.

For this reason, together with Beta-i, Prio has launched Jump Start, a new startup Bootcamp, where we’ll be powering up new business ideas and ambitious entrepreneurs.

At Jump Start, we’ll take 10 promising startups for an intensive Bootcamp. During 3 days the startups will from learn from experienced entrepreneurs, reach out to potential customers, and prove they deserve the chance to test their solutions with Prio.

Once the Bootcamp is over, Prio will select the most interesting products for the pilot phase. So, the startups will actually get to test their solution with a top first client, in a blink of an eye.

But, just before you think this is just for energy startups, it’s actually much more than this. For Jump Start, Prio is looking for startups related to energy, mobility, distribution, customer service, efficient management or industrial production. Any product that could be used by Prio in their business, that you can test in real life, with real customers, and further develop.

Are you interested? Find out more at