In Focus: Government policies, schemes, and initiatives for women entrepreneurs in Portugal
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In the vibrant landscape of Portugal’s startup ecosystem, a silent revolution is on the way, and it is led by dynamic women entrepreneurs. While the startup scene in Portugal is relatively young, its impact is unquestionable, and it’s contributing over 1% to the country’s GDP. Against the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese Government has recognized the pivotal role of startups and, in response, has introduced targeted relief measures.
What is the government support for startups? Portugal’s commitment to fostering innovation is reflected in the government’s dedicated relief fund for startups, aimed at alleviating the pandemic’s impact. This initiative supplements the broader relief package designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), where startups find their place. The cumulative support, reaching up to 270 million euros, signifies a significant investment in the 2500-plus companies that are pioneering solutions from Portugal.
As we delve into the world of women entrepreneurship in Portugal against this backdrop of support and innovation, we uncover narratives of resilience, creativity, and trailblazing spirit that define the women shaping the future of Portugal’s startup haven.
Here are some government policies, schemes, and initiatives for women entrepreneurs in Portugal.
> Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)
AWE is a program that promotes women entrepreneurship by providing applicants the knowledge, tools and networks that are essential to create and grow their businesses. Incidentally, the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is back in 2023 (after two successful editions).
AWE’s main objective is to give women worldwide the chance to improve their entrepreneurial skills and build their business model through an online learning program; and specially, AWE enables women to develop their entrepreneurial ideas.
Since 2021 many have seen their business plans turn into reality. This year, their mission is to support Ukrainian women that wish to start their business in Portugal after being displaced to Portugal.
Tracing the background, Portugal is part of the global network of AWE through the United States Embassy in Portugal. Drive Impact is responsible for the implementation of the program.
> Startup RH Covid19
This is a program primarily meant to assist startups retain their talent and to prevent layoffs. This is a €8 million fund, that can help up to 10 employees per company.
Startup Voucher extension for 3 months
Startup Voucher is one of the key initiatives for entrepreneurship promotion in Portugal. It aims to reduce the risks youngsters take by venturing and creating a company, by granting a scholarship of €700 per entrepreneur (up to 3 per project), incubation and mentorship. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this goes far in making sure these people can still work with new products and solutions; and this is of the utmost importance.
Incubation Voucher Covid19
The Incubation Voucher is a programme created by the Portuguese government. This aims to support startups to acquire incubation services – be it office space, mentorship, and other services provided by incubators and accelerators. Based on the original program, the government created its Covid19 counterpart, set to help startups acquiring these services.
Mezzanine funding for Startups
This is designed to protect startups who have benefited from investment, the Mezzanine fund will issue loan tickets of between €50k and €100k that can be converted into equity. It’s meant to ensure startups have cash flow and a strategic route to survive the ongoing crisis.
Covid-19 Portugal Ventures’ call
Portugal Venture’s is a key venture capital player in the Portuguese startup ecosystem. This is designed to invest in startups with bridge financing and can be used to complement an ongoing investment round.
Other financing solutions are also available. In total, the Portuguese Government has made available more than €300M in support for startups – €25M of which are exclusively for startups and designed to provide cash flow. Fuel to make these innovative businesses power through the ensuing crisis startup with the COVID-19 outbreak.
> National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE)
National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) is very visible. It is an association, of private law and of public utility, which promotes entrepreneurship and supports entrepreneurs through a series of initiatives like –
· Entrepreneur’s Store
· WE’ BIZ – Entrepreneurship Magazine, financed by the Competitiveness and Internationalization Operational Programme (COMPETE 2020);
· Entrepreneurs Academy – Among the projects developed by the Entrepreneurs Academy, the following ones are highlighted: The Young Entrepreneur Award, the Entrepreneur Fair, the Competition of Ideas and the Entrepreneurship in Motion roadshows.
An Enterprising Portugal
Another service of ANJE is – An Enterprising Portugal (Portugal Empreendedor). This is a portal for entrepreneurship and incubation, whose mission is to promote qualified entrepreneurship, especially in two specific target audiences: the female and the young.
The portal is the product of a project that involves the following entities: ANJE, the Union of Business Associations of the Northern Region (UERN) and the Central Business Council (CEC/CCIC)/Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Centre, in the scope of an application to COMPETE – Support System for Collective Actions (SIAC).
Beside the role of non-governmental organizations, the promoting programmes & initiatives of youth entrepreneurship mainly work at a regional level.
Regionally, the Portuguese Business and Innovation Centres Associations (BICS) are structures for promotion and development of entrepreneurial activities. The Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), also known as European Business and Innovation Centres (CEEI), is incorporated in the European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN) of the European Commission.
At a regional level, it also merits to highlight the role of local public administration: many municipalities developed programmes and measures in partnership with non- governmental organizations and private companies – in order to promote young entrepreneurship.
Access to capital
The main sources of public funding to support youth entrepreneurship are incorporated in different programmes/measures that are promoted through public strategic plans at a national level, or by non-governmental organizations with national or European public co-financing.
Under the National Strategy for Entrepreneurship, the XVI Constitutional Government of the Portuguese Republic launched the StartUp Portugal programme. The programme is structured in three lines of action: ecosystem, financing and internationalization, consisting of a set of 15 measures to support entrepreneurship. The objective is – to encourage entrepreneurial spirit and to support entrepreneurs and companies, by promoting their longevity and capacity for job creation.
Training For Entrepreneurs
Training courses for entrepreneurs and their staff, 90% reimbursed through COMPETE funds. This measure will allow to increase the training offer of the incubators and respond to the needs identified by the entrepreneurs, enabling them to face the demanding challenges related to the development of a startup.
> Women Business Angels
Women Business Angels had an impact on Portugal’s thriving Start-Up scene in 2022. Angel investors provide financial backing for – small start-ups and are usually their primary source of funding. The support of Business Angels is fundamental for the creation of Start-Ups and SMEs; and it also leads to the development of innovative products and services that have an impact on economic growth.
Understanding the term ‘Business Angels’ it was coined when describing wealthy patrons who invested in Broadway theaters. The term was first used in a study by William Wetzel, the founder of the Centre for Venture Research, on how entrepreneurs obtained capital.
Currently, angel investing has grown in Portugal; and the field has attracted female talent that was recognized by several organizations such as EU-Startups.