An interview with Alexandre Santos, Chief Investment Officer at Bright Pixel

May 127th, 2018
6 min read

In our efforts to connect our ecosystems with others around the world, SpinLab establishes an international exchange program. One of your partners is Bright Pixel, which are also part of Data Market Services.

Bright Pixel (BRPX) is a venture builder studio based in Lisbon, Portugal, working on the assumption that putting together industry partners, technology, incubation and investment contributes to launching better and more robust tech-based companies and products into the market.

Alexandre Santos, Chief Investment Officer at Bright Pixel

Could you please give me a short introduction to yourself? What does Bright Pixel stand for?

I’m Alexandre Santos, Co-founder & Chief Investment Officer at Bright Pixel – a company builder studio & investment vehicle jointly launched in partnership with Sonae IM, that is dedicated to promoting and investing in early-stage innovative projects, from pre-seed up to Series A, having the ability to actually build from scratch startups in close link with entrepreneurs.

To that extent, Bright Pixel has strong technological and business know-how to understand, create, test and validate new solutions in the market, and at the same time it has an experienced investment team that knows how to evaluate  early-stage projects, how to identify problems and think about the potential solutions, and is familiar with the barriers that entrepreneurs face when creating a business from scratch. It was the first entity to invest in Minimum Viable Products in Portugal from so early on and the only one giving opportunities to entrepreneurs with a lot of potential to create their own business even starting off without a team.

How does the Startup scene in Portugal look? Did it change in the past years?

The Portuguese entrepreneurial ecosystem is continuously growing for several reasons: because of the new breed of young entrepreneurs that are more prone to explore the route of launching their own projects in the market, the existence of huge landmark events like Web Summit that also helped to put Portugal in the startup global scene, the increasing investment of multinationals in Portuguese talent by opening local branches and an increasing governmental drive to support the startup ecosystem. Local key characteristics are also fundamental, namely the excellent quality of life and great universities.

Some people may think this ecosystem was born just four years ago, with the first edition of Web Summit in the country, but it’s not true. The decade that started with the financial crisis marked a shift and a new wave in the entrepreneurs’ mentality in our country. A generation, tired of struggling due to a severe financial crisis, started to take more risks, choosing a personal project over a “steady” job in a larger company.

But even before this decade, we already had an entrepreneurial spirit – entrepreneurs were called businessman and startups were called companies. Actually, the first Portuguese company to become a unicorn – evaluated above 1 billion dollars – was launched in 2007 and the second in 2001. So, for more than a decade, the Portuguese have been trying to stand out in the global tech market.

However, in the past recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of projects created in Portugal with a global ambition. Portugal is no longer seen only as a country with good quality of life and great climate, we are now recognized all over the world for the talent in engineering, coding, innovative solutions in different sectors and flexibility to adapt to international contexts.

What are the biggest hurdles for startups? What should be avoided?

Firstly, in comparison with most European countries, Portugal is geographically isolated. Some might see us as the entrance to Europe, but the majority still regard us as peripheral, located at the “tail” of the continent. Either way, a Portugal-based company wanting to succeed needs to do an extra effort to enter new markets. Reaching network effects is always a challenge and perhaps from Portugal to the World it’s a bit tougher, namely in the B2C segments due to the rather tiny natural market to begin with.

Moreover, although we have some of the best universities and talent in technological areas, we are still not considered in the first wave of innovation worldwide. This is something that should be overcome, with the expected increase of the “Made/developed in Portugal” brand value and the improvement of sales-related skills.

Also, our country is pretty small, representing a 10 million-people market. That is why, for instance, like I just referred, our B2B companies are more likely to succeed than B2C ones.

What are your expectations of the Data Market Services programme, especially from the entrepreneurial training?

We expect to help a lot of teams and projects to grow more rapidly and efficiently, by advising them about their investment, business and marketing strategies. Our privileged contact with the market and diversified experience allows us to anticipate some of the barriers that these startups and SMEs might face, so we believe that we’ll be able to provide them useful tools and valuable information.

We also look forward to identifying high-potential data solutions for the verticals we invest in, such as retail, cybersecurity, telco and some emergent technologies that we have been addressing lately (e.g. Blockchain, IoT, …).

Why should startups apply for the program?

By being a part of the Data Market Services program, data-centric startups and SMEs will be able to receive guidance from seasoned experts in fields such as fundraising, growth hacking, legal, IP, marketing, data skills and business development.

Apart from the access to thematic workshops and webinars, there will also be opportunities to promote connections with investors and other potential partners, access to top European events (like Pixels Camp and The Next Web Conference) and additional exposure in the media.

Another great advantage of this program supported by the European Commission is that all services are completely free-of-charge.

Thank you very much Alexandre!

About the author

After working for various startups in Leipzig where he focused on sales development and value selling, Dennis now supports the SpinLab. He studied Applied Media Science and wrote his bachelor thesis at IBM Germany about software based knowledge management and collaboration.