It’s all about people … and the cars, of course!

 In Academies and Foundations, Education, News, Portuguese diaspora, Think Tanks

Diaspora Labs! Talent as a common denominator for development

Text: Chris Graeme Photo: Supplied

The venue for a debate held by Diaspora Prime® – Portugal – an independent non political consortium, a true think tank for creative thinking – was certainly an authentic and colourful one.

A small stage and scores of chairs are set for a relaxed discussion in the unusual and atmospheric setting of a garage. Although the smell of multi-purpose grease, oil, turpentine and engine fuel lace the air, this is no ordinary garage.

This garage, close to the centre of Cascais, is filled with classic cars and pickup trucks from the early 20th century to the 1970s, including Michael Fassbender’s Ferrari (The garage owner and the Irish actor are good friends), a 1938 Ford 1/2 tonne pickup, a late 1940s Mercedes, and an iconic early 1970s yellow Ford Escort Mark 2. But not just! Its walls are lined with Rugby photographs and memorabilia, lines of pinball machines, a 1960s cigarette machine, framed sports shirts, and of course the essential bar serving alcoholic drinks, beverages and snacks.

Tim’s Garage is a multifunctional space hired out for parties and events that has gathered some of the most iconic cars from the last century which belong to classic car enthusiast, educationalist, and Luso-South African hotel mogul Tim Vieira who many may remember as one of the entrepreneur ‘sharks’ on the US franchised business reality television show ‘Shark Tank Portugal’ which aired on SIC TV in 2015.

A brave new world of education

Tim Vieira has been back in Portugal for around 13 years, although he has various business interests in Angola and elsewhere as a serial entrepreneur. These days, however, Tim has rapidly made an name for himself in dynamic education through the Brave Generation Academy (BGA), an exciting and future-proof education model which has been taken up enthusiastically by parents and learners alike.

Tim, who plans to stand as an independent candidate in the 2026 presidential elections, is critical of traditional education models which he says struggle to cater to individual needs and adapt to modern challenges, which, he says, can limit personal growth and hinder happiness.

Not only that, the educationalist says that conventional schooling often struggles to adapt to real-world experience.

“We are changing education through innovative learning by elevating children’s educational experiences through personalised and dedicated mentorship by providing a flexible and engaging environment that fosters happiness and growth, ensuring that students thrive. We bridge the gap to equip children with adaptability, resilience, and real world experiences to navigate whatever their future holds,” he says.

Tim’s BGA offices in Portugal adjoin the garage. He explains that the beauty of BGA is that it combines digital access with physical co-working spaces (BGA Hubs) to ensure an individualised learning, an on-line/off-line balance, and a curriculum that encourages a child’s comprehensive development.

Tim points out that there is “no development without skills, and there is no economic and social development without valuing human capital”.

“These are the essential and probably the only pillars capable of ensuring the continuity of fair and truly democratic societies. It has become indispensable to bring the real lives of people and organisations, including all the actors and agents that co-exist within them, to the debate,” he adds.

Providing a more vocational approach to learning means tapping into each child’s innate strengths and talents since not everyone is suited to a traditional, formal and conservative style of teaching based on the outdated fusion of 18th and early 19th century Prussian and Napoleonic education systems still prevalent in Portugal.

But Tim is also committed to fostering closer links between young talent and entrepreneurs not only in Portugal, but also in the wider Portuguese diaspora overseas, which he believes has not been sufficiently harnessed until now.

And says: “It is important for everyone that we speak clearly, listen and cooperate in order to play our part in the processes that impact the lives of the Portuguese – those who are in Portugal, and the diaspora who have Portugal on their agenda.” (Both foreigners living and working in Portugal and the Portuguese and their descendants living overseas)

This informal debate Diaspora Labs ‘Talent as a common denominator for development’ had been organised by Diaspora Prime ® Portugal at Tim’s Garage on March 5 with Gonçalo Terenas and António Godinho, board members at Diaspora Prime Portugal, Tim Vieira (BGA) was the guest speaker and one of the Corporate Ambassadors at Diaspora Prime Portugal while the debate was moderated by CNN/TVI journalist José Gabriel Quaresma.

Quaresma is a strategic advisor and ambassador for DPP, and of course Tim Vieira is an example of an entrepreneur who has brought Portugality closer to the wider world, as well as being an investor in TUGA Innovations, which has developed a slimline electric vehicle that can weave in and out of traffic, and has the capacity to be adapted to a drone for eventual urban flight.

The central theme of the debate was the importance of harnessing young talent, fostering its development, and the role of education. These are denominating factors to economic and social development. Equally important is the positive notion of hope.

“I am 54 years old, and there is not one night when I lie down and don’t have something to achieve the next day. I always have a dream, and this capacity to hope and have dream, and realise that dream, is a message we have to impart to young people,” says Quaresma, adding that Diaspora Prime ® Portugal will create a “memory bank” for the future through its education labs being concentrated and operated “without filters” to become a reality by the end of 2024.

A question of mindset

Tim Vieira points out that good things happen in garages (after all the BGA nerve centre operates next to his garage) from Apple and Microsoft, both of which started out in garages.

As an entrepreneur in “good times and bad”, he says he always sees opportunities when situations are different or challenging, and companies disappear and other appear. “In the midst of this there are so many positive things, and before we embark on more education courses we have to devote more time to changing mindsets to become more positive. Tim Vieira points out that the Portuguese have that particular talent to “desenrascar” or be resourceful and muddle through.”

The question, he says, is how to inculcate this positive mindset in the minds of politicians and CEOs because skills are changing. Vieira says instilling a positive mindset has to start young at school. “Whereas in the past it was all about knowledge, today everyone will be able to know a lot of things because of Artificial Intelligence and Chat GPT. Today’s YouTube bloggers are already armchair experts”, he says.

However, he warns: “We won’t be able to become experts if we are not good human beings, and it is here that we need to focus on our young people to help them to develop the talents to be the best possible human beings. We have to ask our youth what do they want to become when they are older, rather than what they want to be, since no one knows the future at that age.”

One person who sees the value of harnessing young talent of Portuguese descendants, particularly third generation luso descendants in the United States, is Angela Simões, a PR & communications consultant in the automotive, transportation and mobility sectors. Based in San Francisco, Angela is an active member of PALCUS (Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States), a non-partisan, non-profit organisation founded in 1991 by a group of successful, forward-thinking Portuguese-Americans with the purpose of providing a singular national voice that would advocate for the interests of Portuguese-Americans in the United States.

At the centre of their vision was to establish and maintain channels of communication between the Portuguese government, via the Embassy of Portugal to Washington, D.C., and the US. congressional delegation representing Portuguese-American communities.

Now in its 30th year, PALCUS has created and expanded youth leadership oriented programmes, activities and events in areas such as education, Portuguese language, culture, community outreach and recognition of the Portuguese community’s success in the US.

Through PALCUS’s Heritage Portugal programme second and third generation Portuguese descendants are returning to Portugal or discovering Portugal for the very first time to study, work or even start up or expand a business.

“We conduct the only national research about the Portuguese community that exists with reach of around 40,000 within the Portuguese-American community,” says Angela Simões.

Simões explains that its Heritage Programme aims to cultivate the 18-35 age group and help them to continue the Portuguese heritage into the next generation. “We are discovering that there are fourth and even fifth generations that have an inkling of their Portuguese roots, but have not been so connected, and this is a way to become connected and carry on our heritage, creating a spirit of belonging with this national group.”

Diaspora Prime®  Portugal

Bringing Portugal closer to the world

Diaspora Prime® Portugal (DPP) is a project that has resulted from a certain awareness about the real status that Portugal as a brand has overseas and its consequent contextualisation in different international markets.

The dynamic action ‘think-tank’ aims to enhance, value, and elevate the authenticity, skills sets, innovation and excellence of Portuguese speaking talent across different lusophone countries, and those where Luso descendants now live, from Macau and South Africa, to Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Brazil, the United States, Canada and many countries in Europe with a large Portuguese diaspora.

One of the driving forces behind this relatively new independent international entity – an overseas consortium that aims to leverage the intellectual and entrepreneurial ‘softpower’ that characterises the Portuguese who have long been viewed as the perfect international deal brokers, crisis managers and diplomats on the world stage – is Gonçalo Terenas, Head of International & Corporate Business at TUGA Innovations Inc., and Chief Developer Officer of the Human Health Education and Research Foundation.

“In essence DPP is more than a think tank, this is a project based on the concept of shared leadership that aims to be casual, pragmatic, practical, and use a language terminology that all can understand, particularly young talent who are our target group. We had to convey a message that is understandable and aligned with talented young people – we with them and they with us – by developing networking and other activities that will enhance their skills”, says Terenas.

TUGA Innovations

One prime project that’s bringing Portugal closer to the world is TUGA Innovations that combines a forward-looking approach to urban mobility with digital technology by introducing a new class of vehicle to a new class of driver.

The TUGA is a class of vehicles being designed to deliver the perfect solution with safety features, function and style to satisfy demand around the world.

It consists of a stylish, efficient urban commuter vehicle built on a flexible, modular platform that can configured for the commuter, delivery, taxi, rental and ride share markets. It has a 140 km per hour top speed that is fast enough for the highway and a 160Km range well beyond the average daily driving distance of 83 km.

César Barbosa, Vice President of Tuga Innovations INC, was at the Diaspora Prime®  Portugal event at Tim’s Garage to explain this Portuguese DNA mobility innovation against the backdrop of examples of what were in their day cutting-edge automotive innovations spanning over a century, explained that the car is narrow enough to weave in and out of traffic jams like a motorbike while also having enough space for the driver and one passenger in a design influenced by the motorbike and side car concept.

Moreover, plans are already envisaged to adapt the vehicle to clip onto drones, thereby creating a flying vehicle for use within the metropolitan space in years to come.

“The eight million electric vehicles on the road internationally in 2019 are expected to increase to €50 million by 2025 and almost 140 vehicles by 2023, while EV sales are expected to reach almost 14 million vehicles in 2025 and 25 million vehicles in 2030, so there is already considerable demand now,” he said.

The Brave Generation Academy

The Brave Generation Academy provides a new and innovative education method. Last year it set up its latest education hub in the Portuguese town of Tábua to offer a new learning method to children and young people in the region where “the pupils are front and centre and provided with individual tailor-made education in line with the aptitudes, likes and preferences of each.

Brave Generation Academy has created 40 hubs in six countries in just two years since it was founded in 2021. In Portugal it already has hubs in several towns like Cascais, Braga and Fundão, which are aimed at children between 12 and 18, where learning is digital platform based and allows pupils to acquire specific skills and knowledge according to their interests and abilities.

“The problem with mass education systems today is that it is very often a one-size-fits-all approach which doesn’t suit everybody. Our goal is to prepare them for the demands of the work market because the world is constantly changing,” says the founding entrepreneur and educationalist.

Tim says that the goal must be to “prepare them now for the current changes and for that to happen you have to have an open mindset. Brave Generation Academy, through its multi-disciplined and vocational approach helps pupils to discover their own individual vocations and believes that enjoying what you’re learning and doing is a recipe for happiness in life. Currently, the project in Portugal involves 150 professionals and 1,200 students while internationally it has 61 hubs in 12 countries.

Photo: Entrepreneur and educationalist Tim Vieira who will stand as an independent candidate in the 2026 presidential elections.