I often get questions about Sente Security’s ties to Portugal: Are you based in Portugal? Are the managing partners Portuguese? Why Portugal, anyway?
These are fair questions. Our website has a Portuguese translation at sentesecurity.pt and we have numerous associations with Portuguese-based startups and networks on LinkedIn. I live in Portugal. So what’s the deal with Sente Security and Portugal, anyway?
First, I should state that Sente Security, LLC is a US-based company. We’re a partnership based in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. We are not, as of today, incorporated in Portugal. All of our employees except me live in the continental United States.
So why am I in Portugal?
I usually respond to this question with, “Why not Portugal?”, but I’ll spare you the cheekiness and say that my family wanted a change of scenery and pace after the pandemic. We looked around us and realized that we wanted a new experience for ourselves, and we wanted to give our young daughter opportunities that we didn’t have growing up. My wife and I had never lived anywhere except the Southeastern United States, and we wanted a change. After many conversations with close colleagues from Europe and a lot of research, we settled on Lisbon, Portugal.
Portugal is a charming country that is often overlooked for qualities that are well-recognized in other countries in Europe. Although it’s a small country – especially for those who are accustomed to the vast expanses of the United States of America – there is a wealth of history and culture packed into its borders. The food is fantastic, as are the wines. The Portuguese love of bread easily rivals the French. Portuguese olives, cheese, and seafood can be found in abundance in any village across the country, and you are never more than an hour or so away from a pristine beach. The Portuguese are welcoming, and there is always a festa or celebration to be found – especially during the summer months. English is well-represented within the major cities. And although it is not without flaws (what isn’t?), Portugal boasts an excellent public education and national health system. It’s safe, and it’s a wonderful place to raise children.
What about Sente Security?
With all of the personal reasons I’ve given above it would be easy to overlook the excellent value propositions for having a business presence in Portugal. Great benefits to our business continue to emerge, and we’ve only just started.
Portugal is an excellent location for establishing ties in continental Europe, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, in addition to all of the quality-of-life benefits I listed above. From Portugal, you can easily travel to the rest of Europe to attend conferences, network with peers, and meet clients. But it’s also a short flight back to the United States, with several direct routes between Lisbon and the Northeastern U.S. With a 5-hour difference from the US Eastern seaboard, scheduling is generally fairly easy between the two countries, which reduces challenges for remote collaboration. Besides, dinner isn’t taken here until 9:00PM anyway.
But there’s something more interesting about Portugal and, specifically, its capital Lisbon: Portugal has a rapidly growing and innovative startup scene. In fact, just this year Sequoia Capital’s Atlas designated Lisbon “the number-one emerging source of engineering talent” in Europe and goes on to say that it has the “highest per-capita density of both application development and database specialists in Europe.” This hasn’t happened overnight, and it hasn’t happened without help – both the national and local governments have invested heavily in bootstrapping startups from Braga to Faro and everywhere in-between. Portugal has been an “in” place for digital nomads and startup founders long before I came here, but with a brand new digital nomad visa introduced in 2022 and recent national changes resulting in more favorable tax regimes for stock options in startups, Portugal’s rapidly expanding startup scene shows no sign of stopping and should indeed present strong competition as an incubator for startups. Not that startups are the only companies choosing Portugal – Cloudflare, Microsoft, Datadog, Mercedes-Benz, Cisco and other major brands have opened tech hubs or full-blown offices here due to Portugal’s desirability.
Finally, and although it is sometimes overlooked by those with very American-centric views on technology, there is a lot to learn about security and privacy from our friends across the pond. Europe has led the rest of the world in its recognition of the individual’s right to privacy and choice in how their data is used through regulation such as the GDPR. And Europe’s storied universities have long been producing experts in the fields of computer science and cryptography, often contributing their know-how and academic experiences to open source projects that are used in today’s most popular software stacks. It makes for an attractive place to recruit as a business expands. European technology experts have unique perspectives to offer on strategy, work-life balance, and technological innovation, and it can be easy to ignore those if you aren’t here.
But all of these gains come with a price. Portugal, like many other places, is facing a housing crisis brought on in part by expat tech workers raising rents in the major cities, pricing out native Portuguese on fixed or low incomes. And so far, the vast majority of young Portuguese engineering talent still largely moves away to Spain, France, or the United Kingdom to seek higher wages. It’s common to hear people grouse about these issues in television interviews and news articles, and the government has already taken some action by reducing the scope of the Golden Visa and declining to permit new AirBNB rentals in the major cities. But in my conversations with people – and perhaps my sampling is biased toward the tech-minded – there seems to be a willingness to grapple with these issues in the hopes that wages continue to increase and more young Portuguese people choose to stay and work in Portugal instead of immigrating elsewhere.
Eu sou português
Many digital nomads see Portugal as just another beautiful place to work from the beach with a cold beer or vinho branco in-hand, and while that picturesque image is certainly true of Portugal, I think the country offers a lot more to motivated technologists and business-minded people than just being a haven for remote tech workers. There’s a lot of potential here just beneath the surface, and I’m excited about the possibilities for Sente Security as I continue to grow our professional network in Portugal and beyond. I’m fortunate to have colleagues that see the value in my presence on the Iberian peninsula, and who understand that we stand to learn and benefit from closer ties with markets abroad. Building a professional network in a new country isn’t easy, but my presence here gives us a foothold in Europe and vastly expands our potential client base. I hope that Portugal’s vibrant collection of startups will find value in the decades of experience in security, privacy, and technology risk management that Sente Security can provide. There is nothing nomadic in my decision to relocate to Portugal, and I hope that some day Sente Security can confidently say “nós somos portuguêses.”