Sea of Opportunities
Érica Franco – Diário de Notícias da Madeira
The year 2020 gave Diogo, Pedro and André the chance to move to this paradise island and embrace a new professional challenge at Connecting Software, an international IT company that is growing in Madeira.
Diogo Pereira, 33 years old, was born in Funchal, and like so many other locals, he moved to Lisbon to go to college. For someone with ambition in the area of Information Technology (IT) and a natural aptitude for Communication, Madeira seemed “too small” 15 years ago.
I lived in Lisbon for about 14 years, and in the last year, I lived in Oporto. I left here to study and immediately started working. Then I married someone from there. It didn’t make any sense to return home after I already had a home and all my things there, and I was used to a certain pace of life.
Everything was going well for the young entrepreneur when, in May 2019, a serious motorcycle accident and a year-long recovery led him to change course.
“I had one of those accidents that is a shake. It was really serious (…) I had to learn to walk, sit, etc. again. It made me go down to the earth a little bit. Not everything is bought, not everything has to do with the career. No matter how many families there are, they weren’t the main ones and the time is too short for us not to be with them. I came here in July  and said to my parents: ‘If it was up to me I would leave right now. Here I have everything I want, what I need”.
At this point, his history intersects with that of Connecting Software, an international software integration company based in Austria that, in 2017, decided to open a branch in the Region, thanks to a partnership with the University of Madeira.
“I spoke with Carlos Lopes Soares from Start-up Madeira, through LinkedIn, and told him that I would love to come back, but I didn’t know what opportunities existed. To which he replied: “You have many opportunities here.” I was surprised. I didn’t know that there were so many IT companies, or companies like Connecting Software that worked with customers abroad (…) “It is good to go out and be able to come back and value Madeira. When we are here, we think everything is small, when we go out we realize that it is not like that after all and that everything is here”.
The same happened with Pedro Noronha, 28 years old. He left Madeira to study Mechanical Engineering in Porto, since the course does not exist here. After graduation, he had several jobs related to the industrial environment and ended up moving from Oporto to Lisbon, where he settled with joy. Returning to Madeira was not part of the plans, until the pandemic of the new Coronavirus hit and the confinement in the capital made his love for the sea and nature speak louder.
“When everyone was locked up in quarantine at home, what my girlfriend and I realized was that what we missed was not the possibility of going to Spain by car. We missed going to the beach or for a hike in the mountains and all that exists in Madeira (…), so this opportunity arose, and I decided to go back”.
André Rafael’s journey was not exactly the same, as he is from the Leiria area. They were, however, like roots made by his girlfriend that made him embrace this new challenge. The change, he confesses, “was complicated”, because it happened in a very short time and with some restrictions “given the context in which we live. The adaptation was” relatively simple “.
“The lifestyle here is completely different: it is much calmer, the contact with nature is much greater, there is not so much that city location and everything is close. All of this contributes to a better quality of life “, of course.
Diogo, Pedro and André are three of the recent hires from Connecting Software, which currently employs 18 people in Madeira, in a team with an average age of 30 years. The objective – the CEO of the company said to the DIÁRIO – is to have 20 workers “soon” and “to reach 40 employees perhaps already next year”.
“Initially when I came here it was because I didn’t find qualified personnel in Austria and Slovakia and, accidentally, I discovered that this small university exists here. I made good first contacts and had a chance to meet people. It’s going better and better. We just want to research here, we are not interested in investing anywhere else “, affirms Thomas Berndorfer.
“Madeira is a fantastic place to live”, says the indication: “It is close to the European continent, the weather is great all year round, the food is good, the people are friendly, we have the Euro, we have Social Security… and really a perfect place “.
For the IT sector, the potential is even greater. “I usually joke and say that we are at “Silicon Madeira”. We have the potential to create thousands of jobs here (…) The IT sector is perfect. People want to live in a pleasant place, we don’t need large industries or transport of goods- because that is one of the problems on the island – we only need a computer and a good Internet connection (and the Internet here is very good). So many people would be willing to come to Madeira to live”, he insists.
The year 2020 gave Diogo, Pedro and André the chance to move to the “paradise island” and embrace a new professional challenge at Connecting Software, an international company in the area of Technologies that wants to grow in Madeira. All of this in the middle of a pandemic
On the other hand, he highlights that the fact that the island offers tax benefits is also an asset to attract more international companies. “It is a good concept because it is aimed at the most fragile areas of the European community. Madeira is not connected to the continent, which makes it a natural disadvantage to be far from the center [of Europe]. The Free Trade Zone allows to ‘balance’ the competitive market”.
For all this, Thomas Berndorfer suggests to the government that “stop putting all the money in the hotels” and invest in the IT sector. “All the money is invested in promoting tourism and now we have a problem: tourism and hotels are closing, and it was never thought to look around and realize that other businesses can be brought to Madeira”, he maintains.
In the uncertain scenario in which we live, companies like Connecting Software appear as a “breath of fresh air” in an economic contraction phase for the market. It shows what Madeira has to offer and “give something in return to the island”.
“We want to give something in exchange for the island (…) we intend to hire people from outside who are tired of living in big cities or the cold of Northern Europe, but above all we want to give the qualified Madeirans the opportunity to return to the island” shoots Thomas Berndorfer.