The Madeira Startup Retreat

By Terry Smith | Blog | 15 Jan 2020


I am attending the Madeira Startup Retreat, held in Madeira, Portugal.

Madeira is a beautiful island with a history dating back to around the early 1400s and has three mountains over 1800m, which as you can guess makes it quite steep. Houses are in the traditional Portuguese style perched on the steep hillside or mountainside depending on your perception of hills & mountains.

The Madeira Startup Retreat is in partnership with Tourism Portugal (Turismo De Portugal), Startup Madeira, Nova School of Business & Economics. Now in its third year, they had 44 tourism Startup companies apply from 28 countries, choosing 11 this year (normally there is 10 but this year was an exception). The program this year is focusing on growth which is why Pelagic Dive Travel made the decision to attend.

The finalists are  LocalCave, Localie, Loveit, Pelagic Dive Travel, Qwixi Tour, Sally, Snowpass, SpotAR, Tell the Hotel, Wanda Maps, You Travel.me

It was a big commitment from us to travel to the other side of the world for a “conference” but through the sponsorship, they provide a grant to each company to attend without an equity request of the company. Without this grant, we would not be able to attend.

The Sea Women of Melanesia at PADI graduation.

Picture: Terry Smith from Pelagic Dive Travel accepts the welcome to the Madeira Startup Retreat from Mrs Cristina Salsinha - Project Manager Turismo de Portugal & Mr Carlos Soares Lopes- CEO Startup Madeira

The Speaker - Mr Ricado Diniz

We are very lucky that we had an amazing motivational speaker in Mr Ricado Diniz. His life story to where he is today is motivation enough. From a young age, he had a passion for the ocean and his dream was to sail around the world solo. His first attempt ended with the vessel sinking as it hit a shipping container (which had been dumped by a ship). He spent the next 26 hours in the Atlantic Ocean before he was finally picked up by a passing cruise ship. (He did have a radio but was running out of battery before finally making contact with a passing cruise ship). That’s a long time to spend floating in the open ocean. The mental capacity to stay focused on the survival for that period is inspiring. What his story tells us is that, yes, you will have a period where you will fail ( it took many years & many “no’s” from potential sponsors before raising the funds and then setting sail), but if you remain committed, focused you shall achieve your goal. Mr Ricardo Diniz is a very inspiring motivational speaker and as a mentor. I am very lucky and honoured to have met him.

Local Managed Marine Areas logo

Picture: Mr Ricardo Diniz

As I write, we are into the third day of the first week. Our session today, led by Ricardo, was about why each company was there. Each person from each company shared their reasons, and it was a very deep dive. It wasn’t so much about the why of the company but more about the person behind the company, with the why. Everyone had personal emotional stories which showed each person is committed, passionate and driven to succeed.

Why does Pelagic Dive Travel Attend?

Why is Pelagic Dive Travel & me, Terry Smith attending this course? I was saddened by my last dive trip in Papua New Guinea. But I do need to say very pleased, as well.

When I say pleased, I was amazed that the coral life in the Milne Bay area is thriving. There is literally blankets of colourful corals of all types. What is sad is the amount of Pelagic Fish which is missing. I was part of the Sea Woman of Melanesia Program which was held by the Conflict Island Conservation Initiative (CICI) & the Coral Sea Foundation (CSF). I was privileged, more honoured, to have been able to teach several local PNG women how to scuba dive. After the dive training, Dr Andy Lewis of the CSF taught the ladies how to conduct coral and fish stock surveys. These skills are now being used on their local islands, helping their local communities to make informed decisions on sustainable fishing practices and overall conservation of the reefs.

It was through this attendance that I had the chance to ask several local community leaders (each a fisherman with a deep connection to the ocean as islanders) what the largest shark was they had seen lately. Their answered varied from one meter to three meters. I was stunned. No that can’t be right, in such a remote area the shark life should be thriving with Tiger Sharks well over 5 meters in length. I then asked what their fathers have experienced when they fished. They said that sharks were abundant and large…. Why has it changed? There are large shark finning fleets slowly encroaching into their fishing grounds and catching sharks purely for the fins. Also, there are dubious agents on land asking local fisherman to catch sharks for the fins. Now, this is illegal in PNG, but communities are poor so this idea of funds from shark fin is very appealing.

What will the outcome be?

We as scuba divers must do more! But if most scuba divers are like me, where do you find such opportunities to visit a local community, see the effort they are making in marine conservation through shark or turtle programs? This is the question, that Pelagic Dive Travel solves.

I am here in Madeira to look at how we can really drive Pelagic Dive Travel to be the go-to place for certified scuba divers, to find marine conservation organisations or initiatives, which need support through sustainable travel and programs. With exposure and promotion, to bring more divers to them, we create more awareness and more funding, for these organisations to continue their great work.

In the last three days, I have learnt but more importantly, it has re-invigorated my drive, passion, and commitment to marine conservation. I can’t wait for the next few weeks.

SWoM supporters Dr's Tony & Avril Ayling who traveled to the Conflict Islands