From Philip Morris to Starting His Own Startup – Meet the New Program Manager of Lisbon Challenge

His story will literally knock your socks off and you’re about to know why. It’s time for you to meet Gualberto Pastor, the new Program Manager of Lisbon Challenge.

One of the very few memories Gualberto has from his childhood is having a crib in his father’s office and walking around the factory that his grandmother and father started.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs”, he told me as he talked about how his grandmother first started sewing socks at home and then how that small production turned into a huge factory in the north of Portugal.

However, Gualberto wanted to do something different besides sticking with the family business. So, he went on to medical school, which he never finished, pretty much because business got in the way.

He left medical school in his 6th year to manage a whole property in Lisbon and rent it out to postgraduate students and young workers (he now owns that property).

He later started working for Philip Morris International in the sales department of Marlboro. “Working for a big corporate was a completely different experience and working in an industry which has lots of restrictions was also very demanding”, he said. Gualberto moved from working on closed events of the brand to working on a specific product by Philip Morris. That product was the innovative IQOS, a smokeless cigarette device that uses real tobacco refills, but instead of burning it, it heats it to produce tobacco-flavored vapor.

However, 1 year and a half ago, tables have turned once again and Gualberto decided to start his own startup. The plan was to create a platform where people would have online appointments with psychologists. They started off in Lisbon but quickly expanded and we’re invited to join Startup Bootcamp in Berlin.

“Those 3 months in Berlin were the happiest 3 months of my life”. Going through Startup Bootcamp was definitely challenging but according to Gualberto all those sleepless nights and long hours of work paid off. “Through the program, we really focused on understanding our customers better and then developing a solution that would target those needs, and to me, that is one of the key factors when you’re building a startup”.

But, once the program ended, the 4 co-founders realised that they had very different visions for the company and Gualberto decided it was time to leave. “It was a very difficult decision but I often think that when things are not working out we should just let it go, and now that I look back I know that was the best decision”.

He took the time to travel around the world, to Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and Japan, to really disconnect from a workaholic kind of life.

At the time Gualberto came back to Lisbon, Beta-i was looking for a program manager for Lisbon Challenge. “When I came back, I felt like doing something I was passionate about, something I believed in, something meaningful, and Lisbon Challenge to me was all that”, said Gualberto.

Now that Lisbon Challenge has moved on to invest in startups (10K for 10 weeks), it’s with high expectations that Gualberto embraces this challenge. “Our main goal is to offer a fair deal to the startups. You have lots of accelerators in Europe but we are the ones who offer the best deal in terms of investment, equity and learning”.

And what is Lisbon Challenge looking for?

“We’re looking for talented teams that are willing to validate all the hypotheses they have for their product, learn from their customers, and understand their market”. Once the program finishes the Lisbon Challenge team will only focus on helping the startups to fundraise and grow.

Any tips for those that are now applying to Lisbon Challenge?

“You have to be ambitious and determined. We’ll share with you the knowledge and help you in any way we can but at the of the day, it’s entirely up to you to keep it going and to work as hard as you can. We’re looking for people that are willing to be criticized in order to improve their products, and not everyone has what it takes to go through an intensive program such as ours. I have high expectations for it”.

Lisbon Challenge has open applications for this year’s edition (you have 3 days left). 

Apply now and get 10K to build your product in Lisbon for 10 weeks.

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