This is a post by Josh McGhee, Co-founder and MD at Ion 14. Ion 14 takes an intelligent, creative and efficiency-focused approach to business IT.

It’s been just over two weeks since I arrived back in Glasgow following my four-day excursion to the inaugural Explorers Festival, Lisbon. It has taken this time to digest the buzz of activity and information which surrounded me during that half-week and really quantify what I’d learned.

Explorers Festival, organised by Portuguese startup advocacy NGO Beta-i, was intended to be a celebration and meeting of minds that seek to push the boundaries of knowledge, physical endeavour and business. It was clear that it was also to announce the arrival of the Lisbon startup scene on the world stage, and what an introduction it was.

The event kicked off with a weekend-long “Bootcamp”, involving an early-morning assault course given by the Portuguese Marines, though I missed out on that delightful experience and flew in just in time to catch the Explorers “Toolbox”.

The “Toolbox”, comprising two packed days of workshops, gave a rich overview of future leadership, design and technology. I attended some of the more technical two-hour sessions given by speakers as friendly as they were brilliant. The most notable of those being Ali Jeveh of Berlin “localised-cloud” startup Protonet and Luis Calado and Nuno Silva from Microsoft Portugal discussing the market transition from web to native apps. I have long considered Microsoft to contain some fantastic people, reputation tainted by poor upper-management, and those guys did nothing but support that opinion.

As well as the workshops, there were frequent networking breaks in the modern lounge area. This provided a welcome opportunity to discuss ideas with both the up-and-coming and established in Europe and beyond. What really struck me was the disconnect between the majority of self-titled “modern” startups and the capabilities of the latest technological advances. There were many people with fantastic ideas and fledgeling business models that could really benefit from a little technical creativity.

The highlight of my networking experience had to be meeting Sergio and Luis from Unono, a Madrid-based startup aiming to change the way universities manage their student projects to facilitate greater collaboration and visibility for the students involved. They pulled me aside for an enthusiastic discussion on the future of commercial computing infrastructure around lunch-time on the second day of the “Toolbox” which lasted late into the evening. We collectively explored many different avenues to future computing and they offered some much appreciated advice on my own ventures over dinner in the former port-district.

The final day was conference day. The main auditorium was standing room only for an impressive programme of speakers including Bjoern Lasse Herrmann of Compass, Dave Goldberg of Survey Monkey, astronaut Jean-François Clervoy and the ingenious Dr. Leslie Dewan of Transatomic Power. Of particular interest was Mark Leaver from the UK tech consultancy, Parameter. He demonstrated how the culture of exploration and innovation, particularly in technology, was rapidly crossing cultural and geographical barriers. With incubators and accelerators springing up from Tehran to Indonesia, it would be hard to disagree.

Unfortunately, my flight required me to leave before the end of the festival, though not before saying my goodbyes to those I’d met and thanking the man who had enabled my presence there, Petko Anchev, the Explorers social media coordinator and great guy.

Overall, the Explorers Festival was an outstanding success. Beta-i delivered with flair and precision in addition to showcasing the sense of community amongst startups that can be found there. The event really demonstrated how vibrant Lisbon is as a city, a startup ecosystem and as a home to explorers of all kinds.

The flight to London was one of reflection. As we in Glasgow look towards the future and drive to become a paragon of the technologically empowered city, we will necessarily rely on the innovation of startups to explore undiscovered uses for new and existing technologies.

There has been a definite shift in pace within the trace start-up community around Glasgow in recent years. If we are to capitalise on our own unique offering as an ecosystem and local government united in pursuit of an improved, more connected future then surely now is the time to do it. It’s inspiring to know that as we do, we’ll be doing so along-side our friends in Lisbon, Dublin and the rest of the world.

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