Thinking about coming to Lisbon to work in a startup? The city is bustling and vibrant with entrepreneurial spirit, and is often called “the Berlin of the south” due to the boom in startups. We spoke to Rafic Daud, co-founder of UnDandy, to get to the bottom of what makes Lisbon such a great place for young businesses and what aspiring interns should know before they make the move to the city.
First of all – tell us a little bit about Undandy, what you do and what your mission is in the start-up sphere.
Undandy is a customisable, handcrafted men’s dress shoe brand created through an online 3D design platform with over 156 billion customization possibilities. All of our shoes are proudly handcrafted in Portugal and are delivered direct from the workshop floor to customer’s door in two weeks.
In the fast-paced, ever evolving, modern world it’s totally unpredictable where this company can end. Our vision is to become the reference for direct to customer, customisable brands in men’s footwear – maintaining the tradition of handcrafted shoes through modern technology. One step in the past, one step to the future.
Why did you decide to start this business in Lisbon?
I was born and raised in Lisbon so the city holds a special place in my heart – but if I wasn’t I would probably still choose to base Undandy here. The city has the ideal conditions for a start-up like Undandy- a phenomenal geographic location in Europe, the quality of labour, people extremely proficient in English and that’s before we even get started on the beautiful weather and breathtaking beaches just 30 minutes from the city centre. It’s really exciting to see the burgeoning activity of start-ups coming out of Lisbon right now. The incredible long-standing history of craftsmanship established here with skilled cobblers also makes Portugal the ideal location for us as an ecommerce site making handcrafted shoes.
As a start-up business based in Lisbon, how would you describe start-up culture in the city?
There’s a growing start-up scene in Lisbon and the city has many success stories to its name. I actually think we have ideal conditions for start-ups to thrive here and we’re starting to see more of the risk culture that is inherent to start-ups. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without Lisbon making it onto the list of the best cities in Europe to visit, move to etc. The city is gaining popularity for both tourists and expats looking for that perfect work life balance. After the 2008 financial crash it’s great to see the city thriving again – it’s the spirit of the Portuguese to keep adapting and exploring uncharted territory. We sailed from Praça do Comércio and went all the way to the Americas and Brazil without a GPS in the 1500s – without even a compass – so one could say it is in our cultural DNA!
Do you have any advice for students coming to Europe about working for start-up businesses – or perhaps creating their own?
When you’re working in a start-up you’ve got to be prepared to do anything – from carrying boxes and customer care to taking pictures. That for me is a true entrepreneurial mind set. If something needs to be done, get it done. You have to go all in.
Who would be your ideal intern?
As opposed to established organisations with clear objectives, tested methods and structure, a start-up is, in its very nature, a lot more chaotic. By definition a start-up needs to be flexible and adaptable. You need to recruit people that have this attitude. You need people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Each member of the team needs to be able to problem solve and have the ability to think in the abstract as well as work alongside each other to create flexible processes – but really, willingness overrides ability. As always those who have the drive and vision will often surpass those with the qualifications, and that is usually the case with entrepreneurs.
Do you think your company would benefit from hiring students from other countries?
I’m a great believer in diversity making a team (and a country for that matter) better. Not only in terms of market knowledge and language skills – an international and integrated team brings different cultural and career methodology.
Is there anything else you would like to add that you think is important?
Robert DeNiro once said, ‘If you don’t go, you’ll never know.’
Want to know more about what UnDandy do? Check out their website here.
Interested in taking part in an internship in Lisbon? Send an email with your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!