Even though Velo started as UK and US company, Brexit forced us to treat Europe as a separate market. Combined with our need to grow a dedicated European office would need to address two requirements: a place to expand our workforce, and a physical and legal presence in Europe for legal, compliance and KYB.
The two requirements didn’t mean both places had to be in the same place in the EU, so we started looking for a new location to expand our engineering capabilities first. We casted a wide net of possible locations:
Kiev, Vilnius, Kraków, Coimbra, Sofia, Bucharest, Istanbul, Athens, Casablanca, and Belgrade.
I’d had experience working with technical teams in Kiev in the past and had visited the other cities for customer visits and throughout the years speaking at technical conferences, I was confident that these were the right locations to find the technical talent we wanted. We also wanted good flight access for our existing engineering teams in the UK. Supportive employment laws and a good level of English proficiency were also high on our wish list.
For several reasons, we narrowed down our search to Casablanca, Lisbon, and Kraków. Along the way, COVID hit all of us with yet another wave and Morocco was quick to ban flights from the UK; sadly that ruled them out. The cold winter put Portugal at the top and we started contacting recruiters for engineers, saving Poland as a secondary option should Portugal stumble.
Finding a recruitment agency in Portugal was harder than we expected, but the Portuguese legal and accounting firms were excellent. Our recruiting plan was to find a strong technical lead first, then work with them to fill out their team. Through the recruiting process we found excellent senior candidates, one in Lisbon and another in Porto. We flew out for final interviews to determine who would be Velo’s new Portugal engineering lead. Both were perfect—so we hired both! To our delight, one of the new leads was able to recruit several of his colleagues to join us.
It took us a month or so to create the new legal entity and setup a new corporate banking relationship. Again, this was made more complex due to the new realities of Brexit.
After a few delays, I’m proud to say Velo is up and running smoothly in Portugal. We fly team members back and forth regularly. Some of our UK team can get to Portugal as quickly and cheaply as getting to London, I’m writing this from a café in Lisbon. Adding new team members has been a big energy boost to our technical team and for the company.