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Last updated · 19 February 2024

Significa history

Kids, I'm gonna tell you an incredible story, the story of how …” we all met Significa. Sit back, and relax, it’s not going to take 10 seasons.

Significa, before it was legally formed and named Significa, was founded by Pedro Brandão in 2014.

André Resendes was the first one to join in. At that time, with both members fresh out of Fine Arts University, Significa provided a range of design services including graphic design, branding, web design, and WordPress development. Spoiler alert: along the way, we dropped WordPress altogether.

Rui Sereno, who had attended university with Pedro and André, joined not so late after. He brought along a few clients he had inherited from another company he had worked for (and couldn’t handle all by himself). Similarly, Pedro and André were also juggling multiple projects, working overtime way too often.

Funny enough, these three re-met at a friend’s birthday party, where they chatted about the status of their careers and the possibility of joining forces over a few beers.

Yeap, you read it right. Significa was born from chance, even though we now leave none of our work to it. Funny how these things go, uh?

Around this time, Pedro, André, and Rui had a meeting that changed Significa's course: they decided to focus on Interface Design exclusively, dropping all other design services from the list. We’ve always wanted to be extremely good at what we do, and offering such a varied list of services didn't allow us to focus on perfecting any of them. This was when point 1 in our Playbook came to be: “Excellence shall always be our driving factor”.

Until this point, Significa was just three friends, working in their boxer shorts and putting on a t-shirt to attend meetings with clients. Things were going well for such a young company. Having taken on one too many projects, Significa needed to grow.

That's when Mariana — who is still with us today — was hired. At that point, the three gentlemen had to put on trousers and formalise things a bit.

This brings us to this point: Significa was legally founded with Pedro, Rui, and André as Partners in 2016. Mariana is the first Significa team member.

Another key moment of Significa was getting that so-desired Dribbble invite everyone was after. Once we got it, we posted our work, and the leads skyrocketed. Our need for more people arose, and this was when we established point 5 in our Playbook: “We shall always remain financially sustainable” with a minimum runway of 6 months.

We hired Fred — who is also still with us today — and Pedro Teixeira, who attended university with the three partners and whose birthday party triggered all this.

Being six people working in an attic without a proper toilet or a kitchen, triggered the need for a new office where clients could be welcomed and everyone would feel more comfortable.

Besides the overflow of leads, clients were also asking us for Front-end Development services. Pedro could do some, mostly WordPress at the time, but that wasn't enough. We needed more wingspan (pun intended, obviously). In hindsight, we closed projects we didn't have nearly the development capacity or expertise to take on. We faked it until we made it, but oh boy, it could have gone so wrong.

One of those times when things could have gone sideways was with Oopsie, our first full-fledged product. They needed a team of designers, Front-end developers, iOS developers, Android developers, and Back-end developers, not to mention product management, of which we had absolutely none. We were in trouble, we absolutely were, but…

Hold up! Flashback to before Significa: our first client was Mailcube. You may be wondering how this is relevant now. It is. Very much so. Thanks to Mailcube, we went to Web Summit and had a chat with André Silva, an Informatics Engineer working for Mailcube as a Swift developer. He told us about a friend of his who worked in Switzerland and was looking to found a software development agency in Portugal and currently looking for office space. This guy was Tiago Duarte, and the company he was eager to start was Coletiv.

This was luck playing the dice. Tiago was a developer himself, knowledgeable in product management, and he had a Back-end and an Android engineer ready to start. André Silva, from Mailcube, was also looking for a change and was waiting for the opportunity to join Coletiv. This was it! Suddenly, we had an entire team on deck to deal with Oopsie. As Tiago was looking for office space, and our new office was big enough for all of us, we invited them to come along. They did.

From there onwards, we grew, collaborated on many projects, and did a few retreats together. Both companies hired more people, and our culture was unified. The office suddenly became too small for us, and together, we built our current one on Rua da Torrinha, 154.

This was when the Egg, which is now at the core of our brand, came to be. The architect who designed our office had the (random) idea of creating an egg-shaped auditorium in the centre of the office. From thereon, the jokes flowed. “We might as well paint the floor egg-shaped, too.” Or, “Let's paint it in yellow!”. Even though the auditorium never saw the daylight, the egg idea stuck with us. It became our brand, and our office became our nest.

Meanwhile, we acquired 30% of Mishmash 's shares and sold them at a profit a few months later. Our first acquisition turned out lucrative.

With Coletiv, we talked a lot about merging our companies to align our operations on paper with how we already worked together. However, one day, unexpectedly for the rest of us, Tiago told us they wanted to part ways and pursue their independent path. He had conferenced with the team, and contrary to what we could see, some Coletiv folks weren't happy about this “two companies, one system” thing. It seems like they felt some cultural divergences couldn't be overcome.

This was a tough split, as you can imagine. Most projects were shared and we had to fight over who would keep them. Some clients were involved in the dispute which at times was borderline nasty.

Moving forward, with the absence of Coletiv, we had to hire people to replace the engineering and the project management capacity they offered. Fortunately, we managed to do so pretty well, and we were lucky enough to find competent people. Most of which still stick around.

This was 2020, and we were cracking on! The team grew to around 25 people to fill up our huge office space… and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit!

We had always been a company built around our office culture, proximity, and personal contact. COVID was hard to navigate, particularly from a social and operational standpoint given we were all forced to stay at home. Even though this was one of our best financial years, it took its toll on our team.

Considering we can't compete with the obscene salaries paid by venture-backed companies (quite a few team members left for this reason), our office culture contributes heavily to the happiness of the team, being one of the key contributors to their tenure. Without it, and with the rise and establishment of remote work, we went through tough times. We call it the “Great Flee.”

So, we had to reinvent ourselves and work harder on our Perks and benefits and Culture, finding ways to further compensate and engage our people.

Fortunately, COVID was gone, and, very anti-climatically, things went back to normal-ish. However, not all things became the same. Remote work came to stay, and poaching became a thing due to the standardised opportunities to work for companies overseas at much higher salaries.

This was when we realised how detrimental in-person work is for Significa and how important it would be to bring people back to our nest. It was around this time we implemented our Office-first policy. We knew this would piss some people off in the short term. Most had gotten accustomed to working from home, and forcing office attendance would be a friction point. However, thinking inside the box while everyone was pushing towards remote-only companies paid off, as proven in our CultureAmp survey results, available in Team satisfaction reports .

That's right, I said inside. Because while everyone is chasing each other outside, do you know what the box is? (Phil Dunphy taps his temple) Empty.”

We knew we had to put deliberate investment into nurturing our culture, so we decided to open a position dedicated to it: a Community Manager. Eventually filled, this position didn't last long, but we'll come back to how it set the ground for what we're doing better in the present day.

It was also at this time that we decided we didn't want to grow huge, engraving “Sizing up shall never be the priority” in our Playbook. In our beliefs, the pros of sizing up do not outweigh its cons.

All the while, and despite our differences, we kept regular contact with Coletiv. During the time we were apart, André Silva was made a Partner and C.E.O. at Coletiv, replacing Tiago in the latter position. One day, we called them to catch up and they told us they were considering selling the company. Things weren't going too well as COVID and stress had taken their toll, and they were already going through a Merger and Acquisition process with an American company.

Guess what? We invited them both to dinner and gave them an alternative: to merge with Significa, thus partnering up with us rather than a random company.

You can hear Ross Geller screaming: “WE WERE ON A BREAK”, can't you?

We'll spare you from the negotiation bits… Tiago and André took our offer, and we are now a slightly bigger family. How ironic life is, huh? We became five partners, and with the merger, Rui became co-C.E.O. with Pedro. In 2023, a new era of Significa started.

The sudden size-up of Significa brought about numerous challenges. We needed to care better for our processes, operations, team, and clients, and even though we were getting bigger, we still had to preserve our culture and our small studio mindset. As a result, instead of the previously mentioned Community Manager, we instated an Operations Manager position dedicated to all these matters.

As things stand, we are continuously improving our team's quality of life, cementing our processes, pushing to become a B Corp , and making it all public in this Handbook. We rely on data gathered from our Team Satisfaction Surveys on Culture Amp to measure the outcomes of our efforts — all the while standing faithful to our Mission and values.

Our team's dedication and expertise have garnered recognition from top design institutions worldwide — the likes of Red Dot, German Design, and Good Design, amongst others. They can all be perused on our services page.

Would you like to be a part of our history? Take a look at our careers page .