Welcome to the first SYU interview series! Our main goal with these interview series is to share experiences, success factors, tips and best practices from entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, or anyone we can learn from. We will discuss both successful and unsuccessful businesses because we believe there is much learning from both scenarios.
Our first guest at SYU Interview Series is Diogo Alves de Oliveira, Managing Director at Landing.Jobs. On this series, we will share some highlights about his personal and professional journey as a bold, optimistic and pragmatic human being and professional. Besides discussing what could be the future of work and how is Lisbon becoming such an attractive startup hub in Europe, we talked about strategies entrepreneurs can leverage to navigate and maximize their probability of succeeding in the startup world.
“The world has changed completely in the past few months, and so did we”
Despite all the external factors that have affected us as individuals and as professionals, humans are used to quickly adapt in order to thrive in a new context. Diogo mentions some of the changes Landing.jobs performed in the past months: “if we are in the human talent space, we need to lead by example. We quickly adjusted our remote work policy to provide the necessary flexibility for our employees, we launched new products to allow our clients to hire in bulk for specific assignments, and focused more on contracting roles instead of permanent roles”.
Now, as much as solving current challenges may be a necessity, we ought to look at the future and plan ahead. Trends such as the Future of Work are something we should discuss today to make sure we use it as an enabler of people’s productivity, growth and well-being.
_FUTURE OF WORK
“From my perspective, the Future of Work is all about flexibility and the focus on the employee”
Considering 92% of Millennials, who are the next generation of leaders, identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting, it is natural that this will not only be a nice to have but eventually become the industry standard.
Adding to this, Diogo states that “we need to evolve to a future of work which is data-driven, so that we can measure things like mental health, well-being and productivity. Unfortunately many companies are still collecting the wrong type of metrics, such as working hours”. Switching from a global vision to the evolution of a specific tech ecosystem, we dig deeper into what are the advantages and disadvantages of starting a business in Lisbon.
“The Lisbon ecosystem offers highly qualified talent at an affordable cost”
The Portuguese education system is building extremely skilled graduates, with a particularly strong focus on tech skills. The country is generating a remarkably high number of engineers per capita, as thousands of qualified professionals graduate in institutions such as the Faculdade de Engenharia – UBI, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, or Instituto Superior Técnico.
Accessing this pool of talent at a reasonable cost is one of the main reasons why we have seen big players such as Mercedes-Benz, Google, Amazon, BMW or Cisco opening up centers and setting up teams to support their global operations. Web Summit is another good example, as it is considered one of the biggest tech conferences in the world and has attracted 80,000 attendees to Lisbon in the 2019’s edition.
The first generation of startups that appeared five to ten years ago were able to perfect their products amidst a tough recession and a grim outlook for the economy. Some examples are Unbabel, Talkdesk, Uniplaces, Codacy or Heptasense, alongside 7264 other companies that were founded until 2018 – 743 of which focused on high tech sectors. They had to think international from day one in order to grow and overcome the cultural and legal hurdles associated with international expansion in Europe. International expansion can be very attractive strategy for some businesses, especially since “the Lisbon ecosystem may limit some growth opportunities due to its size”.
For entrepreneurs, there are several incentives and initiatives to found new businesses in this sunny capital. For instance, non-EU residents who want to launch their tech business can apply for a golden visa or startup visa. Also, in 2018 the Portuguese government created a €200 million venture capital fund to boost foreign investment in startups.
So now that you have created your business, how can you succeed at it?
_SUCCEEDING AS ENTREPRENEUR
“Although it may seem as a cliché, the critical success factor is people”
For Diogo it is essential to “get the right people, with the right cultural fit and the right chemistry to make things happen”, since he considers the most difficult part of succeeding at any business lies on its execution. The discussion of having the needed skills versus a flexible mindset is another critical discussion, as it is easier to hire someone with the right mindset and later teach specific skills instead of the opposite.
When it comes to his personal success factors, he mentions “the key factors are to remain curious and humble, to continuously learn and polish my skills, to respect others and, of course, a sprinkle of ambition”.
“We, as entrepreneurs, get a lot of social pressure to grow fast”
If we think of the typical process a startup undergoes, it includes a pitch to an investor, getting a seed, then a series A, expanding to other countries and scaling fast. The major problem with this is that many companies go abroad without well-established internal processes and organizational structure. Diogo’s recommendation is to “move away from that startup development formula which is very capital intensive, being costly not only to the startup but also to the founder’s health, leading to anxiety and burnouts”. It is important to mention that each business and entrepreneur should find its own ideal path and pace. It is up to them to figure out when is the best time to start their business, learn the appropriate set of skills and adopt the most adequate growth strategies and techniques depending on the personal and professional goals, preferred way of working and external factors.
“I have a hard time believing entrepreneurs are born”
When discussing whether entrepreneurs are born versus made, Diogo states that “there are some skills you need to natively have, but most of them you can learn as you go and you should use the skills you gained from a corporate experience, for instance, to apply them on your startup”. In fact, the Founders Institute highlight three foundational DNA pillars that could be behind entrepreneur success: high fluid intelligence, high openness and moderate agreeableness. Nevertheless, even if a person is born with all the necessary entrepreneurship-related traits, they need to apply those traits in the right way and in the right space to become a successful entrepreneur.
At the end of the day, “it is mostly about sweat, blood and tears. Moreover, it is key to invest in the right skills, while being pragmatic, patient and, above all, resilient”.