Reaktor’s road to Lisbon - Learnings from opening a new office abroad
From our blog / Article
Lisbon. An ambitious and talented tech community, easy access to both Central Europe and the United States, and a competitive international business scene. The perfect next chapter in Reaktor’s story. Launching a new location is seldom a pushover. We started our Lisbon exploration in 2019, and two years later we have finally grounded our feet in the new home. Now we have a few learnings to share.
1. Respect your priorities
When choosing a new location to expand international footprint, company priorities must be considered carefully. For us, our business is our people.
Prioritising our talents’ standard of living is vitally important to us. While things like quality of life, universal language skills, and level of university education are all hygiene factors when an international company expands its influence, the main thing to note is this: We were looking for a vibe. A place in which all of these things come together. Lisbon ticked all the boxes.
2. Get to know the scene
We had a rough idea Portugal with its rising tech scene could be for us. To validate our thinking, we went to the 2019 Web summit in Lisbon, with about 50 000 others. We knew we were onto something. We’re not the only ones with a growing tech presence in the city.
In the first two weeks there, we came to notice that the Portuguese tech scene seemed to be lacking a consultancy with people-first-perspective and strong maker-culture. Also, the talent in Portugal was amazing. We spent our time meeting local techies and interviewing three candidates a day. It was exhausting but exhilarating.
After only a couple of visits to the Portuguese capital, we were excited and ready to take the next step in setting up a permanent new home here.
3. Find your differentiators
What’s in it for devs, then? To our tech competence in Lisbon, we concluded to differentiate in two things: developing a tight community and setting up a system for advancing our tech skills.
Lisbon is exactly the kind of environment in which the core values of Reaktor flourish: an international, get-things-done mindset, endless curiosity towards the unknown, and not being afraid of putting a bit of extra effort in when going gets tough. Needless to say, finding the right soil to grow our metaphorical roots in isn’t only about what we want, but what the market needs, as well.
Reaktor teams work in an autonomous setting, have no hierarchy, and do bigger things than complete individual Jira tasks. We take on projects with real-life impact. CI/CD and functional programming are hygiene at Reaktor: what comes next is our thing.
We realised we need to tell the story of our culture through day-to-day anecdotes and stories of past projects when talking to developers. We need to emphasise transparency, which is why we have chosen to share both epic wins and painful memories. Candidates need to be given the opportunity to reverse interview us on each of the three rounds (attitude, tech, and closing) of interviews.
4. Collaborate with local partners
This was not the first time opening new offices abroad. Yet, we knew it would be difficult to do everything ourselves.
We chose to work with local experts. For example, we partnered up with a local human resources consultant to ensure we meet labour law requirements and take in consideration mandatory insurances, understand employee benefit expectations, create employment agreement templates and so on. Also, most official documents were in the local language, which is why partnering up with a local expert made working with authorities a lot easier. Absolutely gold-worthy.
Also, we came to learn that it was easier to discuss and agree on things when meeting people face-to-face. Hence the tip; build strong local networks. As a foreigner, it can be difficult to get things rolling, which is why having people who can give you recommendations and help building relationships with locals was a true accelerator.
5. Be prepared for setbacks
Having a time buffer and flexibility in schedules is a must. Finding a perfect office location, doing all paperwork with authorities and setting up must-have practicalities such as opening a bank account can take time. Additionally, unpredictable surprises always come along the way.
For us, a major setback was the pandemic. As we all know, investments and ambitious initiatives all around the world came to a grinding halt. At Reaktor, we were equally scared and confused.
As an agile tech company, our ways of working adapt to a situation like this more so than many other businesses. Going fully remote was new to us as well, but every cloud has a silver lining. As a result, our dream of borderless software projects started to come true. Having teams in Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Helsinki all working for a German client became a realistic dream.
So, the setback did not stop us. After the pandemic eased its grip on Europe and on Portugal, we were back in Lisbon with masks on, talking to people, hunting for offices, feeling the vibe.
6. Celebrate achievements
We had two essential goals on our journey:
- Have an office up and running by December 22nd
- Throw an unforgettable opening party at the new hub
We found an office we loved in Rossio in 2021. We sent out the first cultural ambassadors from the Helsinki and Amsterdam offices the same year in December. Now we are on to the second goal – the party.
7. Look forward
We know we’ve succeeded when project delivery, talent growth, onboarding, and a training schedule all function seamlessly. Our humble quest for the future is to become the best possible place for developers to learn from other equally passionate professionals, grow in their profession, and have a damn good time doing it.
That’s what we intend to do here, anyway.
Written together with Sanni Ojalammi and Joni Kanerva from Reaktor.
Read more about the topic:
About the Author
Riikka drives investments and development at Fusion Ecosystem. She has management consulting background in the tech industry, and in her current role she drives co-founding, funding and entrepreneurial growth support in the ecosystem. Besides her work, Riikka pursues a PhD in business agility and risk management at the University of Tampere.
Want to know more?
Connect with us.