First money in, last partner out

November 21, 2017

As an accelerator, we view our path as similar to a startup’s path. We have a hypothesis of how we should run things, we test it, measure it, see room for improvements, and re-launch it. This has been our routine for the past 8 editions. Now, as we are kicking off the 9th edition, we know we’re on the right track.

The past editions have given us four key learnings; four good reasons to be part of Lisbon Challenge 18′ Edition.

Learning N.1: it’s all about the money. Or is it?

We used to think that for startups, it was all about the money, but now we know it really isn’t. Founders value us way beyond the funding, and in fact, the 10K is really only meant to help founders survive financially during the 10 weeks of the program. The additional 50K which we award to the top startups on the final Investors Day (which in this edition will take place at the Lisbon Investment Summit, if you don’t know what it is, you NEED to check it out!), is the remaining funding to help startups solidify their roadmap until a proper seed round. We fund 10K for 1.5% at the start of the program, and then an additional 50K for 5.5% at the end, giving a decent starting valuation. But we also do much more than that. 

Learning N.2: pushing concrete milestones is key for the success of the startups (and the program)

We collect startup feedback after every workshop, talk, mentoring session and at the end of each phase of the program (the program has 4 phases: Validation, Product, Launch, Investment). Not only does this keep us on our toes, but it measures exactly how much we are literally impacting on the startup’s progress. And the results have been mind blowing. Currently, we have a satisfaction rate of 95% and we set specific milestones at the end of each phase, really pushing execution to the limit. The main message here is that we only progress if the startups progress, and sometimes life in an accelerator seems tough, but nothing is designed to make you waste time.

Learning N.3: In mentors, less is more

A majority of our effort, I would say 70%, is bringing or connecting mentors to the program. Our biggest learning is that less is more when it comes to mentors. In the past, we put a lot of effort in bringing as many mentors as possible, from the most diverse backgrounds, because serendipity plays a huge role in the life of a startup. But nowadays we prefer to have less, with higher relevance. We are strong believers that in the very initial stages of building a startup, founders should be exposed to other founders that have already gone through the challenge of building a startup, to learn as much as possible and obtain feedback, guidance, best practices, and mistakes to avoid. As the program continues and startups become more confident in their validation and in the direction to pursue, less general feedback is needed but more specialized expertise help is needed, where we aim to bring industry experts to break down specific problems you will have.

In this edition only, we had the pleasure of bringing some of these mentors:

Cristina Fonseca – Co-founder @ Talksdesk & investor

David Rowan – Editor at large of WIRED & investor

Felix Peteresen – Serial entrepreneur, MD Europe @ Samsung NEXT

Vasco Pedro – CEO @ Unbabel, a YC startup & PHD Language Technologies

Moritz Seidel – Founder @ Webfair & Serial entrepreneur & investor

Miguel Ribeiro – Head of Growth Europe @ Zomato

Learning N.4: selecting the right startups is hard!

There is no other way of saying it. Selecting the right startups is really hard. There are so many factors to consider. Often we have rejected startups, not because they weren’t amazing, but because we knew we are not the right partner to help them in the long run. In the end, we try to select the startups we know we can build a long-lasting relationship with, because we want to be the first money in, but the last partner out. Four years in since the first Lisbon Challenge, and we still keep a close relationship with some of the startups and help them out as much as possible. And this really defines how we outline the selection process.


Let’s keep the learnings coming. Apply to Lisbon Challenge by January 25th if you want to be a part of this journey with us!