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Expanding to Portugal - Insights from Marcus and his company QueensLab

27 December 2022

QueensLab entered to the world in 2017 in a small apartment on Drottninggatan (Queens street) in Göteborg, Sweden. Since the beginning, QueensLab has had the purpose of helping organizations to take their next digital step, and today, the company offers a range of digital services such as software solutions, digital products, and UI/UX design. 

So, why have they entered Portugal? Get inspired in our interview with one of the founders!

QueensLab has rather unique and strong corporate values which might be one of the reasons behind their success and growth since 2017. As of today, the company has three offices, almost 100 employees and its eyes set on further expansion (however not exceeding 50 employees per office!).  

We have sat down with one of the founders, Marcus Nordquist, to hear about their decision to open up an office here in Lisbon. CLS and QueensLab hope that this interview can inform and inspire other Swedish enterprises who has Portugal in mind for their move or expansion.  

Hello Marcus, how are you today? 
Terrific, as always, thank you!

We will jump straight to the point. Why was it that you took the decision to expand to Lisboa, Portugal? 
Since we are a tech company, we were primarily looking at European tech hubs. For example Paris, Berlin, London and so on. Then we fixated on Lisboa based on the approach that we wanted to take into account the whole experience, not just base our decision on potential turnover. Naturally, some places were ruled out because they were too expensive, but we also considered for example the bureaucratic process of starting up a business there, and language/ English proficiency. 
We saw that Portugal is a country not too dissimilar from Sweden. It is a small and relatively safe country, politically stable and located in a corner of Europe. Many people speak English here, the inflow of workers with tech/IT competences from Brazil is high and Web Summit in Lisboa was actually quite luring. Then absolutely not least, Portugal is a beautiful country in many ways, where the quality of life is high and simply a place where you want to live.  
Could you tell us a little bit about what your process has involved?  
We started with hiring two-three people who could help us with the process. Then naturally we did a market search, juridical examination and looked for a suitable office space.  

My experience and belief are that it is important that the entrepreneur is highly involved in the process and not the least physically present at the site. For me as the CEO, I want to make sure that my company´s vision comes through, be involved in the building up of our new team and put the personal touch on the project already from the beginning. A good example is that I happened to meet one of our employees on the airport on the way here and another one at a Comedy standup bar.  

Then naturally our process also involved some surprises along the way. There were for example some taxes and hidden expenses that we did not know about from the beginning. Also, we encountered some obstacles with our accounting firm and felt that we didn’t have the same amount of control as we do at home. But as said – it’s a part of the process. However, my advice for anyone thinking of doing something similar is just to go with it, you cannot get all knowledge in advance, and you will conquer obstacles at hand when they arise.  
Do you think there are some specific aspects that entrepreneurs should know about running a business in Portugal before starting up / relocating here? 
Well, I can give you tips about a few things that we encountered: 

  • Accounting in Portugal is controlled to a rather wide extent, and you will need an invoicing/accounting software that is approved by the Portuguese state.  
  • To start a business here is relatively easy but to start subsidiaries is another question. The latter can be quite challenging and involves an extensive bureaucratic process according to me. So, as said earlier, it is custom here to have lawyers to help you.  
  • Do NOT forget to write the legal company name or NIF/NIPC number on your receipts and invoices. If those are missing, you risk not being able to deduct such costs if being audited. 
  • In Portugal it is required by law to pay your employees a specific lunch salary (måltidsersättning).  
  • In my opinion, the bureaucracy has not been too overwhelming. However, things do take a bit longer timewise and it is not always clear what is applied regarding national vs. European law. For example, the national ID card is not approved everywhere even though it should be according to EU legislation.  

Do you have any tips for fellow entrepreneurs wanting to start up their business in Portugal? 
Take into consideration that you will need a lawyer to help with the relocation- and proceeding process. Plan for this when you create your budget. It will not be enough to consult on your own with Bolagsverket in this case.  
Another hack that we learned unexpectedly during the process is that it can be very smart to start out in a co-working space. We did so and it gave us a small network here to start with, we could discuss and ask questions to people that were in the same situation as us or had already gone through it.  
How would you describe the job-market here in Portugal? 
We work with development and design and the talent in this sector have a good international market outlook, they often seek their way abroad or to big international entities. Hence, the majority of our team is not of Portuguese nationality. Furthermore, I think Swedish companies in general has a quite good reputation, both regarding salaries and culture, and we seem to be an attractive employer.  
Compared to Sweden, the supply of talent is bigger here. In Sweden the demand for IT competence is high whilst the supply does not measure up which inflates the salaries. Here the competence pool is large and the inflow of IT talent from e.g., Brazil is significant. More so, we have noticed that people here find our open company culture, with pretty much no hierarchies, attractive.  
What has been the best thing about opening up in Portugal? 
I must say it is that I love this place. I want to be, work and live here.  
Another very positive surprise is related to building a team of many nationalities which we have done here. I find it somewhat easier to build a strong dynamic team with people who were also relatively new to a country. In a sense they are looking for a new social context and we are all encountering new experiences together which I think is a good foundation for creating strong bonds to each other.  

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