Two German entrepreneurs living in crisis-hit Portugal explain why they think now is the perfect time to start their business and why they’ve turned to crowdfunding to get it off the ground.
By Judith Asamoah (Co-founder, Boleiaponto.com)
It all started in 2010. Sitting at the Guincho beach, one of the marvelous places just around the corner in Lisbon, my co-founder Stephanie and I had planned to do a ‘business brainstorming-afternoon.’
Knowing and loving Portugal for a while already, one could ‘smell’ the first signs of the upcoming crisis, which has brought hard austerity measures to the country.
Shops you used to pass by every day closed one by one — just all of a sudden. People started to mention the word ‘crisis’ whenever something didn’t work well in their daily lives. By the middle of each month people used public transport instead of their own cars to get to work every day in order to save money…
We were talking about the pros and contras of difficult times. There are two ways to behave: You either give up, hoping times will get better some day soon, or you reinvent yourself and try to make the best out of it. We chose the second option.
A Startup for Difficult Times?
We asked ourselves: What sort of business was still missing in this country? What kind of service would be useful for those needing to count their costs? Which business idea was smart, fresh and fun but would have a secure future on the other hand?
These where the main questions we were discussing while enjoying the sea breeze, and this is where the idea of Boleiaponto.com was born. We wanted to offer the first professional car-sharing service for the whole country. We thought it would offer both a contribution to the environment, plus the possibility for the Portuguese to save money in times of crisis.
We then decided to invest in professional market research since car sharing isn’t common in Portugal yet. The extremely positive result of this study encouraged us to go ahead and realize our dream of founding Boleiaponto.com.
Too Big or Too Small
We developed a highly sophisticated 24-hour online car-sharing service that includes every square inch of Portugal. Full of enthusiasm to start our business straight away we’ve begun bootstrapping along with efforts to get Boleiaponto.com financed, starting with friends and family, continuing with a large number of banks and a seemingly endless list of potential investors and seed investors.
Banks, investors, seed investors and friends and family had one answer for us: ‘Your business idea looks smart and fun and seems to come just at the right moment!’ But banks, family and friends added: ‘Your startup costs are too high.’ This is due to the extremely sophisticated programming of the web-portal.
Meanwhile, investors told use: ‘Your business is to small.’
This is the point when we finally decided to start a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to get our project going. We know it is worth the effort and we are willing to fight for it, but we do know as well that we’ll need the support of the real big crowd!
If we succeed we will be able to help the Portuguese people both to save money and to protect the environment.
Women 2.0 readers: Do you know of any other founders fighting to start up in crisis-rocked countries?
About the guest blogger: Judith studied politics, social sciences and educational studies at Hamburg University and has been working for several years as a coach advisor for teachers at German schools abroad. Having moved to Portugal in 2005 and following the political and economic developments in the country, Judith wanted a new challenge, so in 2010 she started her own company. Together with co-founder Stephanie Gérard she developed Boleiaponto.com, a tailor-made online web-portal for car-sharing.
Photo credit: pedrosimoes07 via Flickr.