An Insiders Perspective: José Damião

José (right), Director of Bolsa do Empreendedorismo, a program of the European Commission in Portugal, during the final Entrepreneurship Program Event alongside Jose Vale (IAPMEI) and João Mil-Homens (ANI).

José (right), Director of Bolsa do Empreendedorismo, a program of the European Commission in Portugal, during the final Entrepreneurship Program Event alongside Jose Vale (IAPMEI) and João Mil-Homens (ANI).

Home to numerous international occasions, Portugal is on the rise - and with it, the many different events.  Though the rise of events, particularly in the Portuguese capital has seen an influx of start-up and entrepreneurial events, José Damião is no foreigner to putting on an event that induces FOMO. 


Hi, José! So, we know a little about what you do, but we don't know the details. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do on a day-to-day basis when it comes to your involvement with events?

José: Basically, my day-to-day is split between managing an incubator at the University of Nova School of Business and Economics teaching classes in entrepreneurship and developing a lieu of networking and promotional events throughout entire Portugal in innovation, the start-up ecosystem, and entrepreneurship.

You’re in charge of events on behalf of the European Commission in Portugal: What kind of audiences do you serve and what makes them special?

José: For the Portuguese representation of the European Commission I namely manage the entrepreneurship program, which is called Bolsa de Empreendedorismo. Here we manage idea contests and a large number of other national events around entrepreneurship ecosystem support by the European Commission. The later is basically a roadshow that takes place during the first semester of the year that travels across the country. Here, we offer a range of workshops and different promotional events and it ends with a big event in October where we get together the entire Portuguese ecosystem with over than 100 partners. For these events we serve two kinds of audiences: one is the final client, which includes all the individuals and businesses that use incubators, accelerator programs and financial support to the launch their businesses. The second audience includes the promoters of these incubators, accelerator programs and financial supporters that use European Commission funds to develop these kinds of programs.

You’re also largely involved in the start-up scene in Portugal. What is your favorite part of working so closely with different smaller companies and different events?

Jose: I think the most amazing thing for me in this type of work is that I can have so many different layers of interaction. I work with so many different people, with different businesses and across different countries. Essentially, in the morning I can be talking about IoT technology with a researcher from the University of Nova School of Business and Economics, have lunch with someone involved in a technology for an app start-up and spend the afternoon visiting a farmer in rural Portugal that is using a new technology product. Every day I can expect to come across new people and topics! It keeps things exciting!

What’s your favorite application or service for marketing your events and why?

José: It’s not my favorite at all but I have to always use Facebook Events because it’s the easiest way to share what’s going on in my network – its easily accessible, shareable, and overall suits just about any audience I’m talking to.

What’s the largest event you’ve ever planned or helped plan?

José: In the earlier 90’s I planned the annual academic university week in Coimbra with more than 20,000 people so it is more like a logistic approach – since we didn’t have didn’t have internet. In the last years with EU Com. Events we normally have 500 attendees and more than 100 speakers with normally 50 stands so you need to use a lot of sharing platforms to manage in real time all the communication, timetables, and registration.

You must get some interesting guests at these events – any favorite stories to share? Any stories you can share?

José: Surprisingly, the most challenging guests or speakers or lecturers are the ones that have a good personality; they want to be very natural and true to themselves as a person. Although this is nice, they normally they break all the rules and protocols. Fortunately, you know that at the end of the day they will catch the soul of the people and truly engage. At the last event we had a keynote speaker that opened the event and where one of our guests of honor was the Portuguese ambassador. To prep for event, we met with the keynote speaker to set-up logistics, the time and of course the protocol. At the end of this meeting, he said quite simply that he loved the prep meeting but he couldn’t assure that he was going to follow it one to one. In the end he didn’t didn’t follow protocol, but what hit his speech on the head was when he finished the keynote with a Portuguese poem that caused the ambassador to tear up crying…so those are the moments you remember.

What is your biggest event nightmare?

José: I got pretty lucky at last years’ annual European Commission event. We had arranged a lunch for 150 people in June on a beautiful esplanade over the river in Lisbon. The day of the event we had the most beautiful weather – with the sun shining bright during lunch. Shortly after the event ended we noticed a blanket of clouds approaching. The lunch finished at 14:30 and torrential rain started shortly after at 14:45. And believe me when I said we checked the weather predictions multiple times and it was meant to be 30 degrees, sunny, as is usual for summer in Portugal…and it was, until the last minute. So, I think the biggest nightmares when it comes to events are things you cannot control – nature, guests, delays, etc.