Madeira: The Atlantic's Rising Startup Hotspot

Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage, is rapidly emerging as an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world, drawn to its unique blend of opportunity, community, and lifestyle.

Strategic location and incentives

Madeira's strategic positioning between multiple continents, coupled with its connectivity and time zone alignment on GMT, presents a unique advantage for businesses seeking global market access. Offering 50+ flights per day to various European destinations and direct connections to major cities in the United States, Africa, and other regions, further enhances its global reach.

Madeira's renowned status as an International Business Centre (IBC) further strengthens its appeal, offering a highly competitive corporate tax rate of just 5%, creating an advantageous environment for business growth and profitability.

As Nuno Coelho of Mad.intax notes: "Entrepreneurs can start as a small business at the low rate of 14.7% tax and once established growth is proven, move to the beneficial 5% IBC regime." While the IBC entails slightly larger administrative costs, it is highly beneficial for those who meet the criteria, providing substantial long-term benefits for qualifying businesses.

Business-friendly atmosphere

Madeira offers a business-friendly environment and has attracted numerous entrepreneurs, including Benni and Svetlana of Kamui Cosplay, a design and content studio with over 1.2 million YouTube followers. The couple recently relocated their studio to the island, citing the streamlined processes as a significant advantage. "Madeira's efficient bureaucratic systems allow us to focus on our core design and content creation activities, rather than getting bogged down by the arduous administrative tasks that often burden our counterparts in other parts of Europe."

Work-life balance

Madeira isn't just for work, but to unwind with its mild winters and long summers, it benefits from a Goldilocks climate. After hustling, entrepreneurs enjoy Poncha, the signature local citrus and sugarcane spirit drink, or sip on a cold local craft beer which famously proclaims: "Our winter is better than your summer." Its stunning landscapes, which are the setting for the upcoming Star Wars film, coexist with sustainable, welcoming communities that uphold long-standing traditions through near-monthly seasonal festivals.

Communities like Madeira Friends, Digital Nomads Madeira, and Gone Girl International help newcomers connect with the local community and add to the lively social scene. These groups offer a range of activities, from community hikes and housing options to book clubs and coffee work meet-ups, providing opportunities to socialise and network both in and outside of work.

The beating heart of Madeira’s startup scene

At the core of Madeira's entrepreneurial ecosystem lies Startup Madeira, an organisation dedicated to nurturing and supporting early-stage companies. Under the leadership of Carlos Soares Lopes and project management of Micaela Vieira, Startup Madeira has successfully incubated startups across various sectors, from tech and gaming to sustainability and tourism.

Vieira shares: "We run ideation, acceleration, and bootcamp programmes in Madeira, for the local and international community, focusing on sectors that add value to the island with both local and international entrepreneurs from over 30 countries.”

Aligned with local growth these efforts combined have yielded impressive results, with the ICT sector alone experiencing a staggering 300% growth in turnover and employment between 2019 and 2022.

A tight-knit community of innovators

One of the key elements setting Madeira apart is its close-knit community, reminiscent of the early days of Singapore's startup scene. Collaboration and support are woven into the fabric of the island's entrepreneurial spirit, with digital nomads, retirees, and local entrepreneurs coming together to exchange ideas, share resources, and forge meaningful connections.

The University of Madeira plays a crucial role in fostering this spirit by nurturing local talent and providing a platform for innovation through its courses and research programmes, often in partnership with Startup Madeira and local and international businesses.

The island's strong focus on sustainability and green technology has attracted startups in the cleantech, agritech, and blue economy sectors, positioning Madeira as a leader in these emerging fields. In contrast to the bustling startup scenes of cities like London, Paris, New York, and Hong Kong, Madeira offers a more focused and streamlined environment. With a population of just 250,000, it is easy to cut through the noise and make meaningful connections both in and outside work for those living on the island and those travelling through. As noted by Amanda, founder of UK-based Virtupro, Madeira's entrepreneurial spirit, diverse community, and global reach mirror Shoreditch's vibrancy, making it an attractive destination whilst offering a more balanced lifestyle for entrepreneurs.

Former London consultant Nadia Sergejuk, now a Web3 and AI founder, who moved to the island during the pandemic, found that it has the most important ingredients for a startup hub, namely "strong internet, amazing environment for outdoor pursuits and most importantly a vibrant community of like-minded individuals into startups, tech and finances."

Homegrown success stories

Madeira's entrepreneurial landscape is dotted with inspiring success stories, such as that of Lígia Gonçalves, the Founder of Mobile Solution Games and WalkMe App. With the support of Startup Madeira, Gonçalves created the island's first app, helping tourists and locals navigate Madeira's iconic levada trails that wind through lush rainforests and picturesque banana farms. Her gaming business, staffed by University of Madeira graduates, boasts over 40 million downloads. Gonçalves now mentors aspiring entrepreneurs and sits on the national Gaming Concertorium.

Another success is Pedro Camacho, who returned to Madeira after working abroad to found Nearsoft, a Fintech employing over 50 engineers developing digital products for global banks. Camacho reflects: "You have the quality of life, security, the ability to do things you've wanted."

Meanwhile, entrepreneur and interior designer Susana Silva's, Stay Madeira and MyScooter companies grew 13-fold since launching pre-pandemic by welcoming visitors to restored, locally-developed living spaces for holidaymakers and entrepreneurs.

A magnet for international talent

The island offers visa options like the Startup, Digital Nomad, and Golden Visas, attracting entrepreneurs worldwide to base themselves in this supportive environment.

Mauricio Marques, a Madeiran serial entrepreneur and founder of Yacooba Labs, received Europe's first blockchain grant and seized the opportunity to invite 18 skilled blockchain engineers to the island during the pandemic. All 18 engineers have chosen to remain on the island, reflecting what Marques describes as "a more common trend in immigration to the island."

Beyond the Tech sector, Madeira has also attracted entrepreneurs from various other industries. One such example is Hanna Jonko, the founder of Veganaria Madeira. After travelling the world since 2013, Jonko found her home in Madeira, drawn to the island she found it had a "super supportive community and low-risk entry" for new businesses. She established Veganaria Madeira, introducing locally-made, plant-based cheese alternatives to the island's culinary scene.

Silvia Lobo Teixeira, who splits her time between Madeira and San Francisco, encapsulates the island's appeal: "It's about preserving what drew people initially while also implementing initiatives to maintain and grow our culture together." And it's this harmonious approach and balance that makes Madeira a truly unique and inspiring destination for innovators and entrepreneurs alike.


As Madeira continues to make its mark on the global startup scene, its entrepreneurial ecosystem is steadily gaining momentum, developing and attracting talent and investment. This archipelago undoubtedly possesses a unique blend of qualities, and its future as a leading startup hub looks promising.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe