RedBridge Lisbon event sees four startups in ‘pitch’ battle

 In News, RedBridge Lisboa, Start-Up

Gil Azevedo, the Executive Director of Startup lisboa and Lisbon’s Unicorn Factory was the guest speaker and judge for a ‘rumble’ where four promising startups had to fight it out for top prizes and membership of Lisbon’s most exciting and dynamic association and club RedBridge Lisbon.

Usually called a ‘pitch’ this event (or ‘rumble’ meaning ‘fight’) was far more informal, less chaotic and more fun than the usual ‘pitches’ Lisbon is accustomed to at Web Summit where startups battle for funding, and which incidentally runs between November 13 and 16 at the Parque das Nações exhibitions venues SIL/MEO Arena.

This, RedBridge’s fifth packed event, was held at the co-working space IDEA Spaces in Lisbon’s São Sebastião district, with the startups, Musiversal, Criam, and presenting their ‘big hairy problem’ (i.e., an issue their companies aim to solve in a fight to be the evening’s champions). The four were scouted out of 60 companies.

The host and presenter of the event, at which the four startups battled it out, was Jonathan Littman, co-founder of RedBridge, who along with Hugo Antonello (FunnyHow), Nathan Hadlock (Pela Terra Farmland Fund), Lisbon-based lawyer Filipa Pinto de Carvalho, and serial entrepreneur Paulo Gaspar set up the club and San Francisco-Lisbon cross-border community in 2022. It is based at the Palácio in Chiado in Rua Vítor Cordon. In the meantime, however, the community has now expanded to include international members and startups, and Portuguese from further afield.

Since it was founded, RedBridge has tripled its membership, mainly over the past 12 months, and will be closing its first circle membership at the end of October. Membership offers access to its Mastermind Business and Personal Growth programme. A fresh category of membership will be opened in November.

The champion of the evening was Musiversal, founded by Xavier Jameson who won RedBridge First Circle Membership and its privileges, and one week in San Francisco with introductions to Californian entrepreneurs and investors, plus boxing lessons from Ricardo Bernardo and Lisa Vireilha who provided live entertainment in the interval while the judges were making their decisions.

The second runner-up was with founder Jenny Romano picking up First Circle Membership and connections to San Francisco’s VCs and investors.

The fourth and third runners up respectively won free hours of consulting and advice on applying for European projects and grants, and on how their startups can join European consortiums to access EU funding. Action Labs offered a pocket version of a Proof of Concept to design and test a new feature, and market entry, or brand positioning.

The four startups had to make an elevator pitch, which means a pitch that takes the same time as it does to ride to the top floor in an elevator, in which the startup founder(s) provide a short description of an idea, product, or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time. In this case 20 seconds per floor! Six floors or “rounds” to get to the top, “Show me the Money!”

Gil Azevedo made a short introduction about Startup Lisboa and Unicorn Lisboa that are the two main projects to support the startups ecosystem in Lisbon.

Startup Lisboa was founded just over 11 years ago and was born out of a citizens vox pop as the most-voted idea in the Lisbon Participative Budget, an initiative of the Municipality of Lisbon. Opened in 2012, it is a private nonprofit association.

“The most exciting thing that has happened over the past year has to do with numbers. We were typically accepting around 40-50 startups per year; this year alone we now have 127 new startups to date, or triple the number we usually had”, said Gil Azevedo.

“This shows the attractiveness and the huge and strong community that we are building in Lisbon and that the RedBridge community has been playing a very crucial role in that,” he added.

Gil Azevedo pointed out that there was now a balance between local and international startups. “For the first time we are about to reach 50% of international startups in our portfolio”. (47%)

In the summer the kick-off had been given for the new ‘Summer Batch’ initiating the incubation period at Startup Lisboa with 28 new startups in a community of over 180 startups.

Unicorn Factory Lisboa is an umbrella brand that is a spin off from Startup Lisboa and was launched in 2022 as one of Lisbon Mayor Carlos Moedas’s pet projects during his election campaign in September and October 2021.

It is a platform of programmes and hubs to support startups and scaleups, which encourages founders to look for what is best around the world to boost their growth, some off its members have teams abroad developing new markets, and some have participated in recognised accelerators like 500 Startups, TechStars and YCombinator.

The new startups are looking to accelerate their solutions, raise investment, seek new business partners, improve certain operational areas, and network. Of the new startups, 61% are International, 32% are founded by women, and 57% are already in the market and generating revenue according to its website.

“Within the Unicorn Factory the goal is to take local startups that are already at seed level but still at a local level and make them global”, said Azevedo.

IDEA São Sebastião where the ‘pitch’ event was held is one of the most centrally located co-working spaces in Lisbon, a stone’s throw away from the São Sebastião metro station on one of Lisbon’s most important avenues, and close to Marquês de Pombal and Parque Eduardo VII.

The four candidates were judged by Gil Azevedo, RedBridge cofounder, Filipa Pinto de Carvalho, co-founder of AGPC Investments, João Graça, RedBridge member, CTO of Unbabel, and YC Combinator Grad and Patricia Silva, RedBridge member, climate tech investor and carbon removal expert.

And while the judging was underway after the pitches were made, the 100 or so guests were entertained with a real boxing ‘rumble’ courtesy of Ricardo Bernardo and Lisa Vireilha.

The event was sponsored by Healthtec Lisboa, Unbabel, AGPC, 42 Lisboa, LBC, and Timur Sitdikov of World Talents.

About the startups: Founded by Jenny Romano and Pedro Henriques have developed an app to fight news misinformation and promote plurality online in a world of AI where 90% of on-line content will be AI generated. Neroes started as an idea developed by Pedro Pestana and Hugo Ferreira while working at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. It has developed a revolutionising neurotraining solution to help corporate employees and sports professionals reach their full potential.

Criam (Chemical Reaction and Image Analysis for Mobility): A Portuguese startup focused on developing a mobile medical device that can identify blood types in less than three minutes. It was founded in 2016 by Ana Ferraz, Filipe Quinaz, Vitor Crespo. It was presented at the event by Ljiljana Dukanovic, Chief Scientific Officer at Criam who points out that half of the world does not have access to basic diagnostics.

Musiversal: Founder Xavier Jameson. Musiversal offers unlimited remote recording sessions for a flat monthly fee allowing subscribers to transform their musical vision into reality. He says that 88% of musicians don’t earn a primary income from music. “We started this so any kid who grows up with dreams of becoming a musician, can”.

Photos: Marie Bacelar