By the time the Web Summit, one of the world’s largest tech conferences, second only to Austin Texas’ SXSW, was ending its seven-year tenure in Dublin, the city recorded Europe’s highest real estate prices. The event organizer, Paddy Cosgrave, moved the event to Lisbon in November 2016 to host some 50,000 techies, finding Lisbon attractive for its cheap rents, enviable lifestyle in the sun, and affordable and highly qualified talent pool. While most of the Portuguese capital’s attributes remain unchanged, the cost of real estate is no longer one of them, with prices rapidly catching up with the rest of Europe.
The Web Summit returns to Lisbon for the 5th time from November 1 - 4 with an expected 40,000 attendees from around the world descending upon Lisbon’s Altice Arena. 1,000 speakers and some 1,250 start-ups will pitch and fundraise, network, and generally take over the capital’s beaches, bustling nightlife, and airport.
On September 29th, Portugal reached the milestone of being the country with the most double-vaccinated people in the world with a staggering 84% of the population having had two doses of the vaccination. Even with restrictions fully lifted by the Portuguese government as of October 1st, enabling nightclubs to re-open for the first time since March 2020, and people to dine indoors without restrictions, from Lisbon to the countryside, many Portuguese still wear their masks indoors and out. The organisers decided it was safe to bring the Web Summit back to an in-person event having gone digital for their 2020 edition that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic with over 100,000 people tuning in across the globe.
For the Portuguese, the worry was that the mass arrival of digital nomads and techies would increase house prices to then see them move onto the next best place, leaving the country with inflated house prices in their wake and little else to show for their time spent in country. Having been the paupers in Europe in modern history, and even more so after the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Portuguese are now paupers in their own country, feeling the pinch as they struggle to continue to live in the neighbourhoods in which they grew up as Lisbon’s popularity soars.
But two things challenge the theory that UHNWIs in the tech scene might leave Portugal worse off than they found it. The first being that it is hard to imagine a better place in which to live, anywhere in Europe, with many staying on long beyond the Web Summit or tax incentives, having invested and accustomed themselves to the tranquil yet fun lifestyle. The second is that the Portuguese government is doing everything in their power to attract and retain the UHNWIs by offering startup visas and Non-Habitual Resident’s programme, a residency-by-investment programme that gives investors a flat rate of 20% income tax which is proving particularly popular with heavily taxed Europeans. As long as pro-business government programmes continue, the sun shines and Portuguese universities excel, real estate will continue on its upward trajectory, techies will invest and create new start-up and tech hubs in parts of Lisbon that were underdeveloped.
We wish the Web Summit a warm welcome back to Lisbon!