The Ecosystems of Startups with Alexandre Mendes


Alexandre Mendes, Head of Ventures & Strategy at Subvisual in Portugal, discusses how he combines psychology, business, and technology to develop skills and help founders build and grow startup companies.

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Alexandre Mendes

Alexandre Mendes is an entrepreneur, psychologist, and prolific autodidact. Currently, he is Head of Ventures & Strategy at Subvisual. From working in HR departments to designing knowledge transfer interfaces, Alexandre has done it all. He shares his experience by giving business lectures, mentoring, and coaching to help everyone from young graduates to CEOs fulfil their business aims. He is deeply committed to helping Portugal maximise its potential through projects that provide advice on how to start a business.

Alexandre Mendes

Alexandre Mendes is an entrepreneur, psychologist, and prolific autodidact. Currently, he is Head of Ventures & Strategy at Subvisual. From working in HR departments to designing knowledge transfer interfaces, Alexandre has done it all. He shares his experience by giving business lectures, mentoring, and coaching to help everyone from young graduates to CEOs fulfil their business aims. He is deeply committed to helping Portugal maximise its potential through projects that provide advice on how to start a business.


[00:46] About Portugal’s business ecosystem and Alexandre’s passion for seeing entrepreneurs become effective

[23:34] Becoming the next revolutionary in entrepreneurship

[28:23] How to be a wise decision-maker in the noisy world

[42:10] How to set limits and boundaries in what you do


Content Warning: Nonconventional Show is created for adult audiences only. Our show notes include content references and other helpful info. Note: this episode contains discussions of existential thought and new, unregulated financial methods. No talk related to these methods should be taken as professional advice. Listener discretion is advised.

Alexandre Mendes is an entrepreneur, psychologist, and prolific autodidact. Currently, he is Head of Ventures & Strategy at Subvisual. From working in HR departments to designing knowledge transfer interfaces, Alexandre has done it all.
He shares his experience by giving business lectures, mentoring, and coaching to help everyone from young graduates to CEOs fulfil their business aims. He is deeply committed to helping Portugal maximise its potential through projects that provide advice on how to start a business.



Alexandre Mendes and Ela Crain

Ela Crain 00:00 

Welcome to Nonconventional. This is Ela Crain. Today, I have Alexandre Mendes with me.

Alex is the Head of Ventures and Strategy at Subvisual. He co-authored a book called, "The Soul of Business, a Practical Guide to Entrepreneurs in Portugal and he volunteered as Talent Manager at the Movimento tech4COVID19 movement. He has experience in working in HR and designing experience to transfer knowledge between universities and companies and he's been mentoring and coaching from recent graduates to CEOs. Welcome, Alex.

Alexandre Mendes 00:39 

Thank you for the invitation. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ela Crain 00:42 

Thank you. My first question is, so you're the Head of Ventures and Strategy at Subvisual. What exactly do you do? If you were talking to your mother and she said, what is it that you do my son? How would you describe your job?

Alexandre Mendes 00:56 

So, this is a recurrent conversation with my mother, because usually, she never understands what I do. But mostly, what I try to do at Subvisual is to help entrepreneurs be effective. So, I've been working with several acceleration programmes with hundreds of start-ups in Portugal, obviously, but across Europe, mostly and there's this saying in the start-ups plan, that's one in 10 work. So, I actually get very frustrated with that, because there are mistakes, there are patterns that you can tackle and that's what we are trying to do at Subvisual. So, pretty much we are like an engineering team that gathers with entrepreneurs, founders, and we try to help them thrive, regardless of being about the product building or gathering efforts to hire the best team and train the team with the right skills to make that effective. So, we've been helping more than 30 products being launched worldwide in very specific industries, like FinTech and crypto and so I've been working a lot in that space.

Ela Crain 02:05 

And at Subvisual do you provide coaching and mentoring only, or do you also provide technical help?

 Alexandre Mendes 02:11 

We have technical help, and we have a technical team that both mentors and also develop the product if you need it. We try to tailor our value proposition to the needs of founders, but we also coach and mentor and also, create an ecosystem where we try to put more experienced founders from our network to coach other new founders, like a new started start-up.


Ela Crain 02:40 

Does that create a cycle then where a new founder joins Subvisual and as they become experienced, they can guide others?

Alexandre Mendes 02:48 

Yes, fortunately, yes. Since we are now working with start-ups that are the third venture of the same founder. Some of them exited their start-ups, some of them are now investors, and we try to again, tailor our approach to their needs once they are in our ecosystem, we try to keep them and grow with them.

Ela Crain 03:12 

And what exactly is your role?

Alexandre Mendes 03:16 

We are now a portfolio of 16 companies and my first responsibility is to ensure that those companies grow and that they actually perform. So, I'm trying to help the CEOs hire, grow as CEOs and leaders, find the right customers and get the right technical path so that they can build up to the vision that they were promising. That is my first responsibility. My second responsibility is to find new opportunities and to decide where to invest. and the third one is to make all this work.

Ela Crain 03:56 

And how do companies or CEOs apply to be a part of Subvisual?

Alexandre Mendes 04:01 

Usually, they don't apply. They reach us on WhatsApp or on Telegram or at an event. Fortunately, we have a very good network in that space and fortunately, too, we have a very good network of investors that come to us because they are the first ones to understand how vulnerable a new venture is and how lucky they might be when they have, let's say a senior team used to build products that work side by side with those founders. So, usually, it's a word-of-mouth process and usually, we have a reference, someone that leads that new venture to us.

Ela Crain 04:42 

And how do you select when people reach out to you, or do you accept anyone?

Alexandre Mendes 04:46 

No, we don't accept because more than anything, we are a very small team. So, we need to focus and right now we have a very dedicated focus to Web 3 companies. So, we are mostly dedicated to that pace and that is related to our size and also our technical expertise. So, we've worked with blockchain since 2012. We've done quite a lot in the European Space and blockchain and the crypto economy. So, more than anything else, I would say that this is a key criterion, but it's not exclusive. So, I also want to invite any entrepreneur that is watching us to reach us, because if not with Subvisual, we are sure that we can help you find the right partner to do it.

Ela Crain 05:38 

And can you name some of the projects or companies you helped in the crypto space?

Alexandre Mendes 05:42 

Yes. Utrust is perhaps the most significant one, is about to announce very remarkable news at the Web Summit and there are several others like BetProtocol, Filecoin Protocol Labs, several, quite significantly. broad scope, let's say.

Ela Crain 06:01 

Yeah, and 2012 is quite early times for the crypto space, right?

Alexandre Mendes 06:05 

It was. We didn't start in the crypto space, we started pretty much experimenting with blockchain. Then in 2017, with the birth of Utrust, it was the most significant first job, I would say, and with the experience of Utrust because it was quite significant at the time at the European level. Many customers showed for the consulting side, and other founders looked at Subvisual as a partner to build up their start-ups.

Ela Crain 06:38 

I'm particularly interested in the crypto space because my husband has been in the crypto space since 2013 and he was my first guest at Nonconventional. I would like to know how you see the crypto space or the blockchain space change over the years since you've been involved in it for so many years?

Alexandre Mendes 06:59 

Last week, we had the Lisbon Blockchain Week here in Lisbon. It was amazing to understand that Portugal is a magnet to attract people that are dedicated to this space worldwide. But I feel that what we are doing on the crypto space is something that is still at the inception. So, we started by, let's say the money with the crypto-economics but more and more, there are very interesting projects arising where the tokenomics rationale is applied to other spaces where for instance, then NFT mechanics is also being experimented. So, there's a lot happening, I would say that there's some hype in some spaces but also, what is most captivating to me, is the mechanics behind it. And also, to be honest, the development of skills that enable teams to work on this space, because if the first idea doesn't work, it's okay.

We just need to make sure that people are developing the right skills to build up the second one. Fortunately, what I've seen so far is that we are aggregating a super nice community here. We are all in for building communities. That's a visual and actually, we launched last week, [08:21 inaudible] I'm sorry. [08:23 inaudible] is a community that we are aiming to create at a worldwide level, and we are having a series of parties pretty much, of meetups and afternoon drinks.


Ela Crain 08:39 


Alexandre Mendes 08:39 

In-person. Yeah.

Ela Crain 08:41 

That's great news.

Alexandre Mendes 08:42 

Fortunately, lastly, it was massive, because we had space for 80 people, and we had a waiting list of 600 people. So, this reveals some part of the attraction that is going on here and it goes from investors, serial entrepreneurs, tech people. So, I would say that we are still at the birth, very excited with the possibilities. Let's see how things evolve now. Also, very curious about the regulation side, which is less sexy, but I've got very used to it in the last years and we need to also help the entities, the government entities to keep up with the regulation so that we can still build things.

Ela Crain 09:26 

Alex, what makes Portugal so attractive?

 Alexandre Mendes 09:29 

It's sunny and it's November.

Ela Crain 09:32 

You're still wearing t-shirts. Yeah.

Alexandre Mendes 09:35 

Well, it's quite safe. People are nice. The food is good. I would say that prices are increasing but still, if you compare to international standards is pretty okay and we have this thing for building communities. So, I usually tend to think that we are good hosting people here, and definitely in the tech ecosystem, we are wanting people to move in. So, it's our intention to make this happen and we are really wanting to have more people here that, for instance, we are having now with the Web Summit. It's a pleasure and the joy and the commitment to host all these people and to build things about the intersection of different expertise and points of view. I would say that this will is something that is a huge magnet because if you're different if you have an idea, if you want to build it with a dedicated team, Portugal is actually a great place to be in.



Ela Crain 10:43 

And what do you think the role of NHR is in attractive start-up communities to Portugal or maybe what is NHR first for the ones who don't know about it? If you could give us what you know. I know, you're not a tax advisor but...

Alexandre Mendes 10:59 

No, I'm not. The best thing that I can say about that topic is that we are working. The best thing about Portugal is this dimension thing. It's small. So, every time that we build something here in Portugal, we are aware that we need to travel and actually we are, say two hours away from any big city in Europe and it's easy to get there.

Ela Crain 11:25 


Alexandre Mendes 11:25 

And we are five hours away from New York. So, pretty good. Being in Portugal enables us to have direct conversations with those that make the decisions, with those that make the regulation, and this is something that I have never seen in other in any other country, especially in Europe. So, I'm pretty sure that if we gather an issue if we organise ourselves, and decide to present it to say, the Ministry of the Economy, or the Prime Minister, that it's feasible and that is possible. I already did that in the past, and they listened to us.

Ela Crain 12:09 

That's impressive.

Alexandre Mendes 12:10 

And that's quite interesting here. So, it's not a perfect country but we are hoping to learn fast and to improve fast.

Ela Crain 12:19 

Now you've written a book about this, your guide for entrepreneurs in Portugal, but it's in Portuguese. For the English-speaking community could you give us a few tips from your book? If an entrepreneur is thinking about moving to Portugal or already is in Portugal what are the things to watch out for or things to do or not to do?

Alexandre Mendes 12:41 

If you're thinking to move to Portugal, I would say that every Portuguese has 30 minutes to listen to you. So, that is an underlying commitment of any of us. So, we would like to welcome you and please ping us on LinkedIn, a social network, an email and we are happy to help. In the tech community, we are quite tight and there's a lot of commitment and intent in what we are building here. For those that come from abroad, I would say that, well, we need to be aware of these differences of pace and times. The pandemic was quite severe in Portugal, so this had an impact in how institutions work. So, we need some empathy here, let's say but things are improving, actually.

So, my first tip would be to talk with someone that is local, assess the best place to be in to locate, and be mindful of Portugal culturally. Lisbon is a huge, say melting pot, quite interesting, with many people that still are under the radar, let's say. Then we have the north with Coimbra, Aveiro, Porto, Braga, and several other cities that are really significant in what comes to technology development or company building. We usually use, let's say, Lisbon, to showcase our projects internationally because it's a huge melting pot again, and we embrace those differences so that the North can be the place where we live, where we create our families where we get education also, and we have many of the research and scientific institutions based. So, understanding how the Portuguese landscape is, is quite important so that you understand that you can be based in Lisbon, but you'll have to move...

Ela Crain 14:47 


Alexandre Mendes 14:47 

...or we will have to move to meet you. And it's quite easy for me that I live in Braga up in the north to come to Lisbon.

Ela Crain 14:55 


Alexandre Mendes 14:57 

Well, it happens weekly at least and that is also very important. So, getting to understand how Portugal is organised, it's quite interesting. I also would say that the regulation side is improving. It's becoming more friendly but eventually, it still needs to evolve. I think and feel that the government is trying to step forward on that side, but I also acknowledged that there's some room for improvement in what comes to taxation and all that. But that is an open discussion that we should address with intent and nowadays, I would say it's quite easier than it was in 2010 for instance, when we started doing all sorts of things in the entrepreneurship scene, since we have now hundreds of incubators across the country, many tech companies, many investors, and it's quite easy to understand the ecosystem. If you go to Google and start looking for the tech ecosystem in Portugal, there's a map. You get to know who the stakeholders are, and you get to know who the right people to talk with are also. The second part of my answer will be related to your intent here. If you're trying to build a team, if you're trying to do business, that's quite different than let's say, we can tailor the response.

Ela Crain 16:31 

And there are a lot of co-working spaces opening right, especially in Lisbon. There's full node Lisbon now. It's smaller than the one in Berlin, but it's already full I heard, and I heard about Factory Lisbon opening so there's a lot happening.

Alexandre Mendes 16:46 

Yeah. For sure co-working spaces have a huge role in this since they are like magnets to connect people and it's not really about the real estate, but about the community that they build there. And the coworking spaces in Portugal and in Lisbon, obviously, were super important when we first started in say 2009. So, Cowork Lisboa was like a huge anchor, to start feeding the restlessness.

Ela Crain 17:21 


Alexandre Mendes 17:22 

In all of us that were somehow digital workers or aiming to become digital workers and the same happened with us up in Braga. It all started with a coworking space that opened amazing space, really beautiful architecture.

Ela Crain 17:39 

Are you talking about Startup Braga?

Alexandre Mendes 17:40 

No, I'm talking in this case about Factory Braga...

Ela Crain 17:43 

Okay, Factory Braga.

Alexandre Mendes 17:44 

...and later with Startup Braga. So, suddenly we have a physical playground. No one came actually.

Ela Crain 17:51 

At the beginning.

Alexandre Mendes 17:52 

Yeah, and when my friends started this business, and no one came, we all were aware that we needed to do some stuff. And I always say that the entrepreneurship scene in Portugal started because institutions started creating incentives, but also because there were a very significant group of idiots trying to do also stuff because we shared the vision, and we wanted to have an impact in the country, yeah.

Ela Crain 18:21 



Alexandre Mendes 18:22 

But we didn't have an agenda, to be honest.

Ela Crain  18:25 

So, how did you fill those empty spaces?

Alexandre Mendes 18:28 

With a lot of creativity.

Ela Crain 18:30 


Alexandre Mendes 18:31 

I'm happy to say that some of the people that attended our events at the time are now very well in what comes to financial, conditions because we organised the first Bitcoin meetup, perhaps in 2012, 2013. There were only eight people attending but as far as I know, many of them are very happy to have attended events at the time. In those years, with their events every day, to try to build a community again, to try to unfreeze the ecosystem. It's really important to have this in mind. It was a very severe crisis in Portugal. Everybody was leaving the country and it was really hard to tell people stay here.

Ela Crain 19:26 


Alexandre Mendes 19:26 

We are going to do a great country to live in and that was a dream, and also somehow, perhaps irresponsible, but we were very committed and passionate to try to have an impact. And eventually, we started doing events to shake the job market, and also to foster this entrepreneurship ecosystem being built in Portugal, and that was it. Yeah. It was about building a community of people that somehow shared the same vision that we had and that was pretty much how we started.

Ela Crain 20:05 

And I know a lot of people moving to Portugal from Switzerland, Germany, the UK. Do you think with this influx, there might be some pressure on Portugal later on from the EU countries? Because Portugal is offering a lot and it's kind of going a bit competitive compared to some other countries.

Alexandre Mendes 20:28 

Yeah. Well, the European community can skip Portugal. We have our own assets, and we need to play the game. Otherwise, we would be condemned to be living under a spiral of poverty that will have a huge impact in Portugal. Actually, my personal commitment is not to generate wealth for myself, but to build the next generation of this country.

 Ela Crain 21:01 

That's beautiful.

Alexandre Mendes 21:03 

Well, this is not phoney.

Ela Crain 21:06 

Also, not a one-man's job, you know, but the intention is beautiful.

Alexandre Mendes 21:10 

But I understood that it's too early for the Portuguese ecosystem. It takes time. Fortunately, it's amazing what we did in five years, even better in 10 years but it's still early, and we need to acknowledge that. It's okay. But now we need to play the game for the next level.

Ela Crain 21:33 


Alexandre Mendes 21:34 

And having so many people coming from abroad is actually something that fulfils me because it brings variety, experience network, know-how, and it's amazing and suddenly, that will create tension in the country, not only in the European Union but in the country that I don't fear at all. I think that from the tension, only good things can arise. As for the European Union, I would say that it's time to play the game as a union.

Ela Crain 22:14 


Alexandre Mendes 22:16 

So, this is really small. It's not only Portugal that is small and we are really good at mingling so we should have this idea of being European and playing the game at the European level and not only country by country. If you go to the Web Summit, you realise how the innovation became a geopolitics matter and it has to do with drafting a plan and committing to long-term bets. That is still poor in what comes to European planning. But I would say that for now, the several countries are trying to tackle this lack of planning, lack of shared commitment with individual bets in what comes to being competitive, the next step will be doing shared bets for our shared future.

Ela Crain 23:18 

 For someone who has such a high goal of creating or contributing to this creation of the next generation of entrepreneurs who are wealthy and healthy and successful, how do you measure your progress, when you have such big goals?

Alexandre Mendes 23:34 

With frustration. It's never enough. We still have a lot to do but it's happening. We need to acknowledge that it's happening and fortunately, there are 1000s of jobs that were created with start-ups that we met when we were doing acceleration programmes and it was just two founders, trying to figure out if that idea would work. And we had a very humble contribution to that. But eventually, we were the first witnesses of that effort. So, it's never enough, we have hit the first step, like in a staircase and now we need to prepare for the second step, which is way too hard, and we need to acknowledge this. So, we need to be consistent now. And not be a pop-up ecosystem.

Ela Crain 24:26 


Alexandre Mendes 24:26 

And we need to reinforce our bet and education and make sure that we have an alignment of people that have the skills that these companies need, that have a proper level of English to have the services that these companies or teams will benefit from. There's a lot to be learned, and on the other hand, it's still very interesting how many people are away from this. And being more inclusive is something that people in companies, to be clear, being more inclusive is something that I'm trying to understand how we can leverage.

Ela Crain 25:10 

And what do you mean? How many people are away from this exactly?

Alexandre Mendes 25:14 

40% of Portuguese companies still don't have any presence at all online.

Ela Crain 25:22 

Okay, 40%.

Alexandre Mendes 25:23 

40%. So, a moment of silence for this. We still have a lot to be done and the regular citizen let's say, still have a pattern of digital behaviour that is perhaps too innocent in some sense, and also ignorant of some of the tools that might leverage their career and wealth. So, during the quarantine, many young people started to do their own investments and getting educated about well, investment and financial education. That was massive but we should now deliver it with intent, and make sure that we are being inclusive. So, for me, it's okay, when a tribe is leading the way and finding out the way also. But to make it really good, we have to be broad and bring more people on board.

Ela Crain 26:28 

How can that tribe of people turn ideas into an action plan that will result to a successful outcome in a way?

Alexandre Mendes 26:40 

Okay, that's really hard. Well, my experience is nothing better than a leader to do it and being a role model. So, someone has to take the lead and a good leader will open up ways so that any other people can join. Then there's a magical secret that we are not really taught about, which is about when to be led, and when to join other leaders that are already doing it. So, sometimes we have too much of this alpha male of leadership speech and that is not interesting for me. I'm more into how you figure out which movement to join because leaving is quite often draining and you need to decide when to leave, and when to be led. So, a good leader will save you years of work, years of effort. Understanding how to, and when to join a movement is really important. Nowadays, to be honest, splitting honesty from noise, because everybody's trying to sell something to people and there are different intentions about that, and you have to be really good in splitting noise and putting signals and understanding who's who.

Ela Crain 28:19 

How can you be good at that?

Alexandre Mendes 28:21 

That's quite a challenge.

Ela Crain 28:23 

Because there's so much information sometimes you don't know what to believe or what to read even.

Alexandre Mendes 28:28 

Yeah. That is a skill that we should educate people because we live in an era which is the economy of attention. So, the things that you dedicate attention to pretty much help you understand where are you leading? How your life is going to be? If you pay some attention to your habits and routines, you have a better sense about your future than if you go for astrology, let's say. And my point here is I think we need to teach people how to thin slice knowledge, how to figure out what is a proper source of knowledge, and also to do this triage. Because sometimes you can listen to someone who doesn't have say, a technical background, saying a great thing and providing great advice that is wonderful. But we need to make sure that people get the time for themselves to reflect on things that we listen to or read, and we draw our own conclusions. Nowadays because of the internet and social networks, we tend to be very impulsive in the way that we reason and the way how we react, and this again, it's restraints our control about our life and puts us in directions that are not always the best ones.

Ela Crain 30:05 

And how can we slow down so that our reactions are not that impulsive?


Alexandre Mendes 30:10 

My personal experience that I can share, I'm not sure if it's a great recipe. But what I've been doing is controlling the time that I'm online, controlling the sources that I fed with, and making time, clear a space so that I can think. Then, I started developing this sort of prejudice, actually, which is, I always go back to classics, and try to find some comfort in a classic, like books, and even scientific publications. That is, so far, my recipe combined with having free space so that I can actually reflect on things. Every now and then I have some, say peer group or more close friends with whom I talk about some topics and this dual brainstorm about the topic from people that I trust. In-person conversations help me figure out if I'm going in a good direction, or a bad direction.

Ela Crain 31:21 

And when you go back to these classics and then look at the world of today, do you see any things about the business world in general not changing or running a company? Are there rules, are there things that actually still remain the same?

Alexandre Mendes 31:38 

Human psychology is still pretty much the same in what comes needs and also in what comes to your personal evolution, but on a different setting, which sometimes resembles that the psychology is changing, and perhaps it is, but it's still early to figure out. So, we are still trying to figure out the impact of being remote, and actually, we are still trying to figure out the impact of being under a quarantine...

Ela Crain 32:11 


 Alexandre Mendes 32:12 

...and this generalised panic attack of a pandemic in the 21st century that we thought it was already ascetic, in this part of the world, at least. So, that is something that led me to work actually in technology, because my educational background is in psychology. So, when I started working with technologies, everybody thought it was too weird because they were all engineers or say, managers somehow. I was quite interested in the topic how people adapt innovation. Nowadays, there's this broad sense of knowledge that captures my imagination and curiosity. On the other end, there are several technological topics that are so intellectually interesting that I am not sure. I have no idea how it will go. Actually, I came on the train here and I was thinking, it would be amazing to have a book written with several contributions of people trying to guess what the future will be like in these kinds of organisations. I'm referring here to the creation of decentralised organisations, which is an amazing concept, but we are not aware how things will actually play a role. So, that's quite interesting to try to forecast the future. Even though I don't spend that much time doing it I find it intellectually very amusing.

Ela Crain 33:55 

Are you questioning the societal level? If more and more companies are decentralised what will the world look like? Is that the question you have?

Alexandre Mendes 34:05 

I like to play the full game. So, I zoom out, okay, play the game, as a society and also on the most micro level that you can think of, I like to pay some attention. So, for instance, I've been thinking how can a person learn to work and behave in a decentralised organisation.

Ela Crain 34:26 


Alexandre Mendes 34:27 

Because this isn't taught.

Ela Crain 34:29 

Is there an answer to this?

Alexandre Mendes 34:31 

I'm not sure. I'm not sure. We are actually experimenting with a topic internally at visual and for sure that is on my agenda to understand how people can develop the right skills and also the right meaning to belong to these kinds of organisations...

Ela Crain 34:50 


Alexandre Mendes 34:51 

...because the attachment perhaps might be different. Also, your sense of contribution might be different. Several classes topics that people in organisational psychology study, but we still don't know here. Having said that, I tend to think that many of our psychological answers to things are actually based in the classics. So, it's always a good reference to read the classics and then jump to the new realities and try to understand it as a new reality.

Ela Crain 35:27 

Do you think we will struggle psychologically, with decentralised setups if they were more and more?

Alexandre Mendes 35:34 

I think we struggle psychologically.

Ela Crain 35:36 

Already yeah. 


Alexandre Mendes 35:38 

Regardless of the context, we struggle psychologically. But I have been tending to think actually that perhaps we overrate pain at times in life. Because if we think about crisis, personal crisis, usually they tend to be good regardless of suffering for a while which is actually not good, obviously. But I'm very optimistic about the overcoming of crisis and being pessimistic I'm quite optimistic about this topic. I know that this is weird, but I feel that people tend to cope and it's quite hard at the moment. We are talking about a very futuristic topic, but we are still trying to figure out if teams work remotely.

Ela Crain 36:27 


Alexandre Mendes 36:28 

We are still trying to figure out if regardless of working if it makes any sense for us that we are social creatures to be sitting at home like islands. So, there's still a lot to be figured out about the consequences of the pandemics but well, let's see.

Ela Crain 36:51 

Yeah, and talking about this individual level and the society level, we all want to grow at an individual level and at an organisational level, too. But not always, do we know about how to grow? How can we learn this? Is this something you provide at Subvisual? Should this be a part of the education system? Individually where can I go and learn how to grow, and as a founder, also, where can I go and learn how to grow my company?

Alexandre Mendes 37:23 

Okay, when we talk about growing companies it's way easier because you have metrics that you can leverage to understand that growth and the path. When you talk about grow as an individual, regardless of being more on the professional side, or on the personal side. It's at times, quite harder. Years ago, I did a project where we were trying to help unemployed graduates develop soft skills so that they could get back to the job market and it was really hard because developing soft skills is really hard. Well, you have a whole industry that sells to you to our workshop to learn how to be a leader and I went the opposite direction. It was a really immersive experience of three months where we connected the soft skills that those people needed to develop with the industry and the results were very good, actually and it was an amazing experience to me. So, how do we know that we are growing? Unfortunately, many times we only acknowledged that we are growing, when we look backwards.

Ela Crain 38:37 


Alexandre Mendes 38:38 

When we do that thing that Steve Jobs mentioned, connecting the dots, and we see, oh, I was there six months ago. Many times, the fortunate ones enjoy the thrill of growing and they are aware because they are exposed to this experience where they have this feel, this verge of developing something that they don't have at the time. At Subvisual actually we have several programmes that we are developing with a very dedicated bias. For instance, we invest in new ventures, we acknowledged that many of these founders typically have a very technical trait or experience as a CEO, regardless of the company, regardless of being a Dow or not, or an in-person team, you need to have other skills. So, we look to people as these T-shaped people where you have a very dedicated vertical axis and then this other column where you have other skills. Internally we call it Project Becoming because something that Beyoncé did. So, it's really about helping people become something.

Ela Crain 40:00 


Alexandre Mendes 40:01 

And we are doing that with several topics with the learning agenda and with individual coaching also...

Ela Crain 40:08 


Alexandre Mendes 40:08 

...with this combination of people from our universe of companies. So, you get peer reviews, you get peer feedback from your team and from, say, more senior profiles and that is something that we are experimenting with, an underlying condition at Subvisual that we are infinite learners.

Ela Crain 40:28 


Alexandre Mendes 40:28 

So, it's a core value of the company. You can't work at Subvisual if you don't demonstrate clear learning every period.

Ela Crain 40:37 


Alexandre Mendes 40:38 

And for me, personally, learning is the fountain of youth. So, I'm actually 80 but learning enables me to behave like a 20-year-old, something that I really enjoy, even though I'm quite often anxious about, oh, I don't know anything about that.



Ela Crain 40:57 

Yeah. There is a delusion of even if you're learning it feels as if you're not learning enough. So, I've been keeping journals all my life. Since the age of eight, I have had a journal for each year, and I have drawers that you can open and see the years like that. Then go back sometimes look at a journal from 13 years old, 17, 19, 25, whatever. Every year, I'm like, oh, wow, I was like that. It's incredible. I can appreciate the growth but every year, I also see that I said something like, oh, this year, I'm very different. I changed so much. Then next year, I look at the journal it says, oh, this year, I'm really grown up. It's just, I'm not the same person anymore, and then it makes me question, is there an end to this. It feels also some kind of restlessness that we have to grow in order to be here and have some kind of intrinsic value as an individual. I feel like sometimes I have to constantly grow and do things. So, if anyone is sharing this kind of anxiety, what is your advice? How can we keep this balance that we grow, but also, we are not anxious about, don't feel like having to grow?

Alexandre Mendes 42:11 

First of all, I'm jealous of that.

Ela Crain 42:13 

The journal.

Alexandre Mendes 42:14 

Journals, assets that you have. Great idea. That should be an inspiration for everyone.

Ela Crain 42:21 

Thank you.

Alexandre Mendes 42:23 

The second thing that I would like to say is you're good enough. We need to acknowledge that we are good enough, and being good enough means that we are finite and imperfect, and that's fine. Sometimes there are things that we can control and that will benefit our evolution. Sometimes we don't have that and that's okay and there's this climate of fear of not growing enough. That stops us to understand how grown we are and sometimes it freezes us in this space where we try to figure out what's the right answer? It's like existential perfectionism.

Ela Crain 43:20 


Alexandre Mendes 43:21 

That doesn't cope with reality. Done is better than perfect, for sure and I always say that and feel that the hardest place to be is Stuckland where you don't know where to head, where you feel stuck, where you feel somehow empty. Just leave your house and show up in coworking space.

Ela Crain 43:48 


Alexandre Mendes 43:49 

Every single time you'll meet another crazy person that will try to change the world. We don't know if it will work. It's fine but let's join forces.

Ela Crain 43:59 


Alexandre Mendes 43:59 

And why not? What do we have to lose? If we tend to develop this very perfectionist, existential framework of living, it will never be enough, and finding out how enough is perhaps the secret of life. So, if you don't have anyone making you feel that you're good enough, make sure that you're finding that person or that tribe ideally, I had a traumatic experience once that I was working in Norway, and I went to a university there, and they were doing a hackathon. So, students, 400 students were doing a hackathon to try to show society that they were good enough to live.

Ela Crain 44:56 


Alexandre Mendes 44:57 

And that was shocking to me.

Ela Crain 44:59 


Alexandre Mendes 45:00 

That’s really first-world problems, but they are not easier than any other problem. 

Ela Crain 45:06 


Alexandre Mendes 45:07 

And that is something that sometimes we are not friendly with also because many times we undervalue those circumstances and how hard it is to deal with these doubts because it's not really a problem. You're not starving. You have enough money, sometimes you have too much money.


Ela Crain 45:29 


Alexandre Mendes 45:30 

And people, actually not people. society tends to undervalue those circumstances.

Ela Crain 45:37 

Yeah, we see them as problems for spoiled people in a way, but then that's how we end up with, you know, cases like suicide or...

Alexandre Mendes 45:48 


Ela Crain 45:49 


Alexandre Mendes 45:49 


Ela Crain 45:49 

They don't come from starvation, they come from maybe lack of purpose and maybe lack of support.

Alexandre Mendes 45:55 

Yeah. We are also fed by meaning and purpose, for sure. So, the most luxurious life is a life where you feel your boundaries, that you're okay with your finitude. But you also have this seed of restlessness that keeps pushing you forward. But at the end of the day, it's just it and you just need to show up and keep up to the opportunity of living. Life is made of possibilities not of well, dead ends.

Ela Crain 46:35 

Yeah, I love the word finitude and you said something beautiful that I would like to share. It's very humbling. It's beautiful. It's poetic actually. You said, "To be human is to accept the permanent finitude before the time with them and the will of nature."

Alexandre Mendes 46:51 

Oh, I must have Googled that.

Ela Crain 46:54 

I found it for you. No, this is poetic. The time the rhythm and the will of nature.

Alexandre Mendes 47:01 

Yes. There was this thing that I did in my life that was St. James Way and I met this Dutch girl for 10 seconds. On the way, and I was really struggling with pains, and she went by, and she told me, "Ooh, where are you from? Alex, nice to meet you. Don't forget, keep your pace." And she went speeding, and I was like, keep your pace.

Ela Crain 47:34 


Alexandre Mendes 47:35 

What? And this is actually, perhaps the best advice I got in my life.

Ela Crain 47:42 

Keep your pace.

Alexandre Mendes 47:42 

Because we are constantly comparing with everyone else.

Ela Crain 47:47 


Alexandre Mendes 47:48 

And figuring out your pace is wisdom because sometimes you'll speed up other times you'll slow down. You need to rest; you need to understand how you work so that you can keep your pace. So, keeping your pace is something that again, we should be taught how to do and how to be okay with. Sometimes for instance, in the entrepreneurship world, we tend to overvalue young kids that are doing the creating their start-ups and that's amazing. That's wonderful but it's okay to be a late bloomer...

Ela Crain 48:26 


Alexandre Mendes 48:27 

...trying to do stuff and come on. I have plans for when I'm 90, so I'll be a movie director.

Ela Crain 48:36 



Alexandre Mendes 48:38 

So, knowing the pace is something that we need to master.

Ela Crain 48:42 

Yeah, and one final thing I would like to touch. You also said that spirituality is the centre of what makes us walk. What do you mean with that exactly?

Alexandre Mendes 48:53 

Perhaps it's related with this idea of keeping your pace and being with yourself. Because, again, we need to really take some time to think about concepts nowadays and the concept of spirituality is something that we have almost totally related to religion, and sometimes it is related to religion. But spirituality is about being a living creature in an ecosystem and understanding how we will thrive. Spirituality is perhaps the pathway to understanding to cope with finitude and also to think thoroughly about the impact that we are trying to have without any other selfish or ego-driven motive. Spirituality is a consensus of bigger than us values that will enable our growth as an ecosystem, I really enjoy following people that will have a huge amount of money or success. But I'm pretty sure that that is not my role model because I want to be successful in an ecosystem. For me again, it only makes sense if we can create a generation.

Ela Crain 50:28 


Alexandre Mendes 50:29 

Because that generation will build a better future. It's scalable, and it's organic.

Ela Crain 50:38 


Alexandre Mendes 50:40 

So, that is really what I'm up to. Obviously, thinking short-term is always important, but playing the long game is something that I would like to do.

Ela Crain 50:52 

Okay, final, final question. I said final before I know, but I'm just curious. We talked about start-ups, Portugal, COVID, volunteering, spirituality, being a human, entrepreneurship success. How does Alex Mendes put all this together in his daily life? How do you find space for each of these?

Alexandre Mendes 51:15 

I like to listen to people, and people talk about different things? Actually, to be honest, I asked myself the opposite. How can people only know about one thing? But actually, I am fortunate to have a very broad scope of friends and some of them really trust me, which is amazing. They tell me their stories, regardless of professional or personal stories and I've grown up learning from their stories, and sometimes living their lives, throughout their stories.

Ela Crain 51:53 


Alexandre Mendes 51:53 

This puts me in a position where I know something about industry A, something about industry B, or the technological topic you can think of. Then later I started understanding that this was actually good because what we miss in Portugal is this cross-pollinating figure like a bee that, oh, I just met you, I know someone that you could talk with, and this will make a new venture blossom. This cross-pollination is actually an action that I really enjoy, and the third reason is, I feel that it makes me more creative because I know about several topics, and sometimes I'm faster combining those topics. So, I take the joy of knowing those different topics. What comes to the agenda, I would say that, first and foremost, talking with people and actually listening. Usually, I'm the interviewer, not the one speaking. Then I tend to read a lot and to ask questions on the internet.

Ela Crain 53:14 

Yeah, that's beautiful anyway, all these ideas, and the experiences you hear others tell you is like, a toolbox you're creating, because every problem they hit, every solution they find is something that you can learn and include in your list of solutions and list of experiences. When something comes up, you have this wide toolbox, from spirituality to business to success, the volunteering, everything that you can pick one that is relevant to solve that issue.

Alexandre Mendes 53:42 

Yeah, life is not isolated, and tech can't be isolated. For instance, I'm nowadays also very interested in the topic of ethics in technology and people need to be mindful of the impact of technology for the good and for the bad. So, the feeling I've seen this before in industry A or B, and my commitment to myself is always trying to be up to this standard of, I've seen this before. Again, life is not isolated. You're not only a CEO or a professional, you're also a human being. You're sometimes a mother or a father. Being a leader is a very folkloric topic but it's really harder than on the daily basis. Definitely, I enjoy listening about those experiences, because then I feel that perhaps I've learned something that I can share with someone else. With not those many details so that we can make up a secret, but yeah, I like that.

Ela Crain 54:56 

Yeah. Alex, thank you so much for joining us today and being an inspiration truly. Thank you so much for your time thanks for your openness.

Alexandre Mendes 55:04 

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure.


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