I was at the South Summit in Madrid last week on a mission to explore this innovation platform. I can say it was interesting, impacting and at the same time, consuming.
Here are my personal takeaways from the event:
The spanish innovation ecosystem is booming, and it’s reaching out to the world
South Summit is, however you want to spin it, a very spanish event. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, quite on the contrary! The startup scene in Spain is becoming very mature. Madrid and Barcelona are true European innovation hotspots and surprising local ecosystems are arising in Andaluzia, Galicia, Asturias and Basque Country. But this is also an event that is attracting startups from all over the world (and not only the usual suspects from Europe and Latin America).
Collaboration is the name of the game – Corporates <3 Startups <3 Corporates
Innovation is more and more becoming a space for collaboration between different stakeholders, and big corporates are more than ever interested in working with startups in new solutions and testing disruptive technologies in their operations and businesses. Most of the corporates represented in South Summit already have some kind of structured approach to deal with startups and some already have acceleration and open innovation programs.
Let’s talk about talks! It’s all about networking…
Just between you and me… what’s the thing about these events and the non-ending agenda of talks about the same topics, all over again, where the content ends up being… let’s say it… not really interesting. OK, I do suffer from FOMO everytime I go to these events and end up watching a few talks on topics that I’m interested in. But more times than not I end up being utterly disappointed. But then, the real value of events like this is the networking and the possibility of meeting in the same place amazing startups and innovators. Come for the talks and stay for the networking…
AI in the front seat, Data in the engine
We are finally seeing big companies apply AI in real use cases and not only doing pilots and small controlled experiments. But AI runs on data, and we still need to work on issues like data sharing frameworks, information architecture, stakeholders collaboration and… privacy. The GDPR trauma is long gone but companies are still finding ways to integrate data protection in their data strategies.
Health startups are coming, and Mobility is here
Of the many hot topics in South Summit my eyes went to Healthcare and Mobility. On healthcare new solutions are arising in diagnostics and devices, and you should take a look at Mentalab, one of the amazing startups that accelerated with Data Pitch. Also take a look at the winner of this track – 2eyesvision. And mobility is booming with solutions ranging from drones, logistics, shared mobility and of course, MaaS solutions like iomob, the winner of this track.
Also AWS Chief Evangelist, he praised Feedzai and many other startups while sharing his vision on cloud computing
On September 11, we had the pleasure of hosting JeffBarr, VP and Chief Evangelist from Amazon Web Services (AWS), at Beta-i headquarters. Our hub was the place for a special AWS Lisbon User Group talk led by Barr, and also open to our clients, about the major transformations of digital business brought about by cloud solutions.
This was an opportunity for Beta-i customers and the community to enjoy a moment of knowledge exchange and interaction with one of the leading corporate names in the digital economy, right at the moment that AWS invests in Portugal through a support office and a new Amazon CloudFront location. Owner of a very active blog, Barr gave this exclusive interview to Beta-i via email as he continued his ongoing worldwide sessions.
Your talk here in Lisbon summarizes the “double shift” of digital transformation provided by cloud computing: “from simply centralized computing and storage, operated on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go basis, to the industry-wide locus of innovation, host to a multitude of services”. What is AWS’s vision and ambition to take the lead in this gigantic universe?
Our vision is always the same: focus on customers and innovate on their behalf. To date, AWS has millions of active customers every month and the reasons why customers are turning to AWS is because it has a lot more functionality, the largest and most vibrant community of customers and partners, the most proven operational and security expertise, and the business is innovating at a faster clip – especially in new areas such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Serverless Computing.
That being said, there is another reason why customers are choosing AWS: customers have come to really appreciate that the AWS culture is really different. If a startup, enterprise, or government agency is going to partner with a cloud provider, it’s typically a long-term decision they’re making, and they really want to understand what’s unique about the culture, or the partner that they are choosing. As a matter of fact, 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters, and the other 10% are things we hear from customers where they may not articulate exactly what they want, but we try to read between the lines and invent on their behalf.
We’re also trying to build relationships and a business that lasts longer than all of us in this room. And you do that by doing right by customers over a long period of time. An example that ties this all together is a capability in our support function called AWS Trusted Advisor. We’ll look at customers’ utilization of our resources, and if they’re low or idle, we’ll reach out to them and say, maybe you don’t want to spend this money right now. Over the last couple of years, we’ve used AWS Trusted Advisor to tell customers how to spend less money with us, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for our customers every year.
In your experience, does physical proximity still increase the number of business leads and connections? For how long?
We look at physical proximity as a way for our teams to better help our customers and support them in their cloud journey. In fact, our decision to invest in Portugal last year by opening an AWS office in Lisbon is in direct response to our Portuguese customers’ requests and our determination to support them in an even better way. It also follows many years of supporting a growing customer base in the country with their cloud adoption. AWS counts some of Portugal’s fastest-growing and most well-known businesses as customers including, Energias de Portugal, Feedzai, Federação Portuguesa de Futebol, Globalvia, Grupo Impresa, Jumia, Lusiaves, Miniclip, Prodsmart, OutSystems, Unbabel, and Uniplaces, as well as Public Sector organisations such as the City of Cascais and the City of Porto. We have seen there is a real appetite from organisations across Portugal looking to get started with AWS in order to innovate, lower their IT costs, and grow their organisations around the world.
More recently on September 5, 2019, we continued our investment in the country by launching a new Amazon CloudFront location. This new Edge location will offer all organizations in the country faster content delivery and added cybersecurity protection. Located in Lisbon, the new Edge location brings the full suite of services provided by Amazon CloudFront, including integration with computing, networking, and security services like AWS Lambda@Edge, Amazon Route53, Amazon S3 Transfer Acceleration, AWS Shield, and AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF).
We look forward to fostering the country’s pioneering spirit alongside our customers and helping them accelerate their digital transformation and deliver innovative new products and services.
Is it possible to assess the first repercussions of AWS CloudFront Point of Presence (PoP) set up in Portugal, or is it still too early?
AWS is committed to investing in Portugal and similar to our office opening, the launch of the first Amazon CloudFront location in Portugal follows feedback of our customers, so reception is very positive. Adding this Amazon CloudFront Edge location will help Portuguese organizations achieve lower latency while delivering the same levels of security that they have come to expect from AWS Cloud, ultimately resulting in a better overall experience for their end-users.
How would you describe AWS’s relationship with startups today? Which preferred model does Amazon use to connect to new external solutions?
Startups in Portugal and around the globe turn to AWS so they can innovate faster. They can focus their highly valuable resources on developing and marketing applications that differentiate their business and transform customer experiences instead of the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing infrastructure and data centres. Because startups can very quickly develop and roll out new applications, it means they can experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently and if an experiment fails, they can always de-provision those resources without risk.
You only need to look at the number of successful startups from Portugal, such as Miniclip, Feedzai, Unibabel, Uniplaces, and Prodsmart who have launched their businesses globally. These customers are using AWS to drive innovation, accelerate time to market, and expand their businesses. For many years AWS has been supporting the Portuguese startup and technology community by bringing programs like AWS Activate to the country. AWS Activate provides startups with the resources they need to get started on AWS – including up to $100,000 (USD) in credits, training, support, as well as contact with incubators, accelerators and venture capital firms, such as Beta-i. Tens of thousands of startups take advantage of these benefits each year. In 2018, more than $500 million in AWS credits were given to help startups accelerate their growth and development as they build their businesses.
Which startups / new projects have caught your attention recently, and why?
One particular startup in Portugal that caught my eye is Feedzai. Feedzai is a Lisbon-based startup that detects financial fraud at scale. The company uses real-time machine learning & artificial intelligence AWS’s services such as Amazon Sagemaker to analyze transactions data through deep historical and behavioural analysis to identify fraudulent payment transactions and minimize risk in the financial industry. With more than 5 billion dollars of transactions processed daily, Feedzai enables major financial institutions worldwide (such as Lloyd’s Bank) to fight fraud effectively.
Earlier this week I was in Barcelona and was able to spend time with several fast-growing startups including Letgo, an online marketplace. They have been using AWS for over four years to support their rapid growth. I was impressed by their microservices architecture, and their ability to make use of a very wide variety of AWS services, including Amazon SageMaker and other machine learning services. One thing that I find interesting about this and other startups in the area is that the AWS cloud helps them to address global markets, regardless of the physical location of the company.
AWS’s re/Start projectis a welcome and win-win solution for people, the market, and AWS itself. Are there any concrete plans to bring this initiative to Portugal in the coming years?
Portugal is an important country for us and we will continue to grow our presence and programmes as we grow our customer base. We are strong believers in the power of education and do our best to support training and up-skilling for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they are.
Your career span from working in one of the first retail computer stores in the world to your current position at AWS, not to mention startups and other big corporates experiences. From your personal perspective, but without considering points such as “agility and simplicity in startups” or “budget and structure on corporates”, what were the differentiating features or culture that most seduced you along with these experiences?
I would have to say that it is the first Amazon Leadership Principle, Customer Obsession. I have always done my best to understand and meet the needs of my contacts and customers, and this principle resonated with me right away. Another Leadership Principle, Dive Deep, reinforces my desire to always know as much as I can about the topics and technologies that I write and speak about.
About to complete its third edition, the program will kick off the Module 3 on September 16, in Lisbon – welcome to all the participants!
Free Electrons is the first global energy startup accelerator program created to connect the world’s most promising energy startups with leading utility companies.
Free Electrons is a unique opportunity to bring global perspectives to local challenges via real, meaningful, face to face interactions.
The Module 3 will be the peak of the interactions that have been developing since the 19 edition has started.
During their days in Lisbon, the 15 startups and 10 utilities will meet to align and define the next steps of their possible commercial agreements, once the program is concluded. They will also deep dive into the work that has been performed over the program between participant startups and the partner utilities, the pilots.
By the end of Module 3, the startup winner is to be announced and awarded with the Free Electrons 19 World’s Best Energy Startup worth 200,000$.
The Shin Akimoto Award, initiated in 2017 in memory of Mr. Shin Akimoto, will also be handled to the candidate that best impersonates the values of this award:
is a Free Electrons Ambassador (has got the Free Electrons Spirit and pushes the program to succeed);
is proactive and innovative (presents an anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behaviour and embraces change and whether there is continuous improvement and innovation throughout the business);
is people driven (always ready to help and collaborate with others, lifts everyone’s spirit up and brings good energy to the group).
As a truly global program, focused on deal facilitation and pilot driven, the program has been addressing and solving real problems, namely generating business, investment and disruption within the energy sector.
In fact 2019 edition has originated a pipeline of 58 pilot projects so far, among the 15 startup finalists and the 10 partner utilities – all utilities have found several innovative solutions that can be adopted and integrated into their businesses.
Setting the grand finale in places like Maat and Academia das Ciências, the Free Electrons welcomes all the participants to Lisbon, and couldn’t be prouder of what the program has been accomplishing.
While visiting Lisbon to (among other things) talk to the Beta-i team, Lara gave this quick interview to share a little more context about her new project, which can be seen in detail (and receive your input about how to get involved) at www.boma.global.
The roots of the word “Boma” originate from Africa and are present in the languages spoken in the Great Lakes of Africa. The Boma was a circular venue for the community and its elders to gather together: a space for community meetings, meaningful discussions, and decision-making to define actions. It was this concept that Lara brought to the fore to position her new project as “a community without borders, identifying new ideas, innovations, and systems to design a more intelligent, intentional, and sustainable future.”
Here’s how our conversation with Lara went:
What motivated you to migrate from previous experiences like TEDx and Singularity to a new project?
The understanding that we live in complicated times. Of social and political changes, which amplify the context of change. I have spent the last two years making global moves to drive change, and I realized that many countries have common challenges and desires, while sharing a will to maximize results while still having a wider impact. And that’s exactly what we want to maximize with the BOMA project: creating value impact from a human-centred approach.
Having worked in three major networks, I was looking for a model that would not divide the world, but rather add up. Something decentralized and collaborative, with a network of people who share the same vision. That’s why I think my obligation to BOMA is to bring these people together and make a model that works overtime – and that’s more intentional and intelligent about the future and the actions that this future requires us to take. I believe in a global system with local partners.
Can you comment a bit more on the idea of “being intentional about the future”?
I feel that the general mindset still focuses on ‘survival of fittest‘. We do not want to maximize this; we want to leverage collaboration, being a movement where people come together and get organized to help and act on concrete things. Doing so, we want to help design leaders able to answer the unavoidable ethical questions that lie before us. I believe people want these principles: to exchange experiences and knowledge for the world we want to have.
It seems that BOMA has more to do with the consequences of technology than the pursuit of technological innovation as a way to thrive. Does it make sense?
Tech is a key drive, everything is around that. But the complexity lies in its transformation: technology alone is not the point of action, but rather the good use of technology, how it is being applied to increase shareholder value and the consequences of it. These are very complicated questions to be pursued by ethics: the consequences of our actions in the name of a “good outcome”.
What are the main goals to be achieved by the platform in this first phase?
In the coming days, we’ll launch our editorial platform on the BOMA website, with bottom-up change and empowering communities content. We are only 6 months old and always revisiting our KPIs, but I would like to have up to 15 or 20 country partners in the coming years, with bottom-up community events and projects associated with our lines of work that can gradually be developed by the partners themselves in each country. This is a long-term project because talking and acting on systemic change takes time.
Portuguese startups seem to be everywhere in the media, and that’s no wonder – they are growing, getting invested and collecting awards – and they have raised over €485M in 2018.
Venture Capital in Portugal is definitely growing: the volume of transactions was 4.4x bigger in 2018 than it was in 2017, and business angels are rising up to VC level, mostly through co-investment.
During 2018, the total value was boosted by the investment of two portuguese unicorns: OutSystems and Talkdesk. Pedro Falcão, managing partner at LC Ventures, added “I believe Portugal will have more unicorns in the next few years – Feedzai might be next.”
While the market is clearly investing in early stage startups, as seed stage investments represent 83% of the total, venture capital still has an immense potential to grow – as it represents only 1% of the investment in portuguese companies.
You can download and read the whole updated report: Venture Capital in Portugal 2018-S12019, the most complete report on the portuguese venture capital market elaborated by LC Ventures and FNABA, and presented by Pedro Falcão at Lisbon Investment Summit.
Lisbon Investment Summit happened over two weeks ago now, but for us, it is still going: through all the things that we learned, the moments we treasured and the relationships we started.
It’s all about community
The most important thing we learned at #LIS19 is something that we at Beta-i have always believed: it’s all about community. Innovation is only possible when different stakeholders join forces together and collaborate to thrive – and #LIS19 is the perfect melting pot that joins entrepreneurs, corporate innovators, investors and decision makers in one place.
Humanity Will Fix the Future
Andrew Keen, the best-selling author of How To Fix the Future and the headliner at #LIS19, spoke about the unfulfilled promises of technology – the promise that it would bring equality, boost democracy and create bridges between people. To overcome these challenges, we must take action through regulation, innovation and citizen engagement. The “fixing” of the future does not rest on more technology – it rests solely on our shoulders.
Investment in Portugal
Pedro Falcão, Managing Partner of LC Ventures, gave #LIS19 attendees an overview of the investment landscape in Portugal. You can download the report here:
Lisbon Investment Summit would not be the same without our amazing pitch competition, sponsored by GROW, which was one of the highlights of these two days – 12 amazing startups pitched on stage but there can only be one winner. The prize went to Musiversal, represented by founder André Miranda (and a Lisbon Challenge alumnus).
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