Pedro Henriques, Founder and CEO of IPBN member company Bridge In, started his career in computer science as a developer, then as a software architect, and moved on to become a European consultant for tech projects both large and small, the last being for AstraZeneca. The main focus of his career to date has been to set up tech and engineering teams both onsite and multi-site as he did in Austin, Texas for a private equity firm. Henriques tells the IPBN that’s where he got the vision to create BridgeIn, a company that helps other companies open an office in Portugal and recruit talent here.
In anticipation of his conversation with the IPBN on Friday, April 30 at 10h, we sat down with the mastermind behind Bridge In for an in-depth look at hiring tech talent and his views on setting up shop in Portugal, both for himself and for the companies he assists to that avail.
Building tech teams can be challenging, especially when deciding whether to have one clustered onsite or decentralized and spread across the globe. Henriques sees both value and drawbacks in both situations. “The ideal organization, especially when companies start growing is to have a more resilient and decentralized strategy. On IT infrastructure, you shouldn't have all your servers in the same building, because if something happens to connectivity or power it all gets shut down. Same for teams. I also don’t believe that everyone should be on a massive campus in a fully centralized team.”
Neither does Henriques believe being completely remote is the answer for everyone. He says, “It's not a good idea to be fully distributed either because although you might be able to hire top individual contributors, it will be much more difficult to build a cohesive highly-effective team, for instance, you don’t have the ability to coach junior members. It is also harder to permeate company culture because you’re not working next to each other, and might never even meet face to face” All in all, a hybrid approach is best according to Henriques. “The ideal setup is not totally decentralized, but somewhere in the middle,” he says.
Bridge In's core value is to help companies develop their teams smartly. Henriques says that lots of different companies in Portugal are building momentum using their approach. Portugal is a logical choice to establish operations or a customer support team. It's an ex-pat haven, very friendly, part of a booming startup scene, has access to top talent, and still accepts cost-effective wages as the cost of living here is relatively low. These three items alone are making it a popular pick among VCs, founders, and employees alike.
Navigating business in the EU isn't easy from afar, however, so Bridge In is filling the gap by helping foreign companies open their operations here and recruiting the very desirable tech talent located here. And it's an aggressive recruitment process, according to Henriques.
Portugal has about 100-120K professional developers, which comprises roughly 1% of the population, and many more are trained in STEM (science, engineering, technology, and math to the layman), ranking Portugal 6th in Europe for STEM graduates per capita. According to Henriques but BridgeIn reports that Portugal saw the highest rise of tech jobs that are classified as "hard-to-fill" during COVID. Hard-to-fill jobs are those classified as those that have remained advertised for more than sixty days. Henriques explains that these jobs were listed for so long because either there was a "lack of skill in the market, or the job was one of high-level seniority but with a poor salary...Average salaries are lower in Portugal because the cost of living and the GDP is among the lowest in Western Europe, but tech salaries are progressively increasing and becoming aligned with other international hubs."
The Portuguese culture is to take a problem and solve it. “As a people, we might sometimes be bad at planning, but we excel at figuring out how to make things work.” Coupled with excellent language skills (and not just in English), it's fairly easy, if you budget accordingly, to find people to take call center, shared-service, and tech hub jobs.
As Portuguese policies continue to support companies – both big and small– and the education system keeps on churning out highly qualified tech professionals, Portugal is well-posed to be a dynamo of a unified European startup ecosystem, according to the company in this article. Henriques says, "Although the European startup ecosystem has less money available compared to North America, it is built ontop of better fundamentals: like better data protection and sustainable goals in line with the work of the EU Council, for example. We have the talent on this continent, now the only thing we are lacking is the money and more success stories."
Register here to hear more from Henriques at the IPBN 's Investing and Hiring in Portugal webinar on April 28 and 30.