When you think of Europe’s biggest startup hubs, it is London, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam that tend to spring to mind. But now, investment and innovation in startups is seeing both Istanbul and Lisbon––itself already a top destination for tech workers come to the fore. Here’s why.
Bridging Europe and Asia and the largest city in Turkiye, Istanbul has a young population with a strong engineering culture, feeding into success in the areas of ecommerce, gaming and global delivery applications. It has emerged as a player in the gaming industry, ranking second in Europe in terms of securing game deals, and fourth in the world.
In 2022, startups in Turkiye attracted nearly $1.69bn in investment, a record total. Getir, the homegrown grocery-delivery pioneer, accounted for a major portion of that investment, while 54% of total investments were made in the areas of gaming and fintech. One in every five transactions had a foreign investor involved.
Last year, Spike Games raised $55m in seed investment, further advancing its ability to join fellow Turkish billion-dollar games startups Peak and Dream Games in the unicorn ranks.
And last December saw the launch of the Turcorn 100 Program, an acceleration program supporting Turkish startups’ ability to achieve a billion-dollar evaluation. At the program’s launch, Damla Turan, head of the Technology Entrepreneurship Department at the Ministry of Industry and Technology said that while not every startup would be expected to achieve unicorn status, the “club structure” of the program would benefit every participating enterprise.
In July, Istanbul-based Papara became Turkiye’s first fintech unicorn.
In 2022, Lisbon-based start-ups were estimated to be worth €21bn, with investment having grown in the area by 30% every year since 2016.
In common with Istanbul, the Portuguese capital has a young population with high levels of qualification in engineering, while government visas and incentives for foreign entrepreneurs have also helped to attract tech talent.
Lisbon can claim more unicorns than its neighbours Greece, Italy and Spain combined, including Farfetch, Talkdesk and Anchorage Digital. A sense of the city as a European rival to San Francisco is boosted by a supportive tech environment, tech events, including the annual Web Summit, the largest of its kind in the world.
Launched in October 2022, Unicorn Factory Lisboa is a startup accelerator for already established enterprises to achieve next-level success. As it steadily continues to attract entrepreneurs and digital global nomads,
In both European locations, a city life that’s rich in history and culture with a thriving and vital startup ecosystem, Lisbon and Istanbul increasingly appeal to the international millennial digital nomad community.
Future growth and stability within startups in both cities will also require input from senior tech hires, however, described by Jungle AI founder Tim Kock who relocated from Amsterdam to Lisbon in 2016 as “people who have experience building companies from 50 up to 500 people.”
In terms of lifestyle, both Lisbon and Istanbul offer sunshine, a waterside setting and city life rich in history but firmly looking to the future.