Raquel Magalhães: “About 80% of the Earth is disconnected and we want to solve this from space”

Raquel Magalhães OOO

Raquel Magalhães co-founded a startup with a simple purpose: to connect the entire world. Easy? Well, if it were easy, anyone would do it, but it is from UPTEC Mar, right next to the Atlantic Ocean, that Connected intends to revolutionize the way people and companies can stay connected, transmit data and small messages, even in the most remote areas of our planet. From the balloons of Cappadocia to satellites in space, from cattle in Brazil to snowboarders, navigate through the history of adventure whose connection to the Douro River, and to water sports, arose through the unbreakable connection to family and friends.

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What is Connected?

Connected is a Portuguese startup created in January 2023, which aims to develop NB-IoT (low bandwidth for the Internet of Things) connectivity solutions, sending and receiving small volumes of data, that is, small messages, anywhere on the planet, using space infrastructure. We aim for our service to be global, accessible and standard. This is our genesis, it is what we want.

And where did its name come from?

It’s almost intuitive, Connected to connect everything and everyone, everywhere.

Connected was created by whom?

It was created by our Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tiago Rebelo, by myself, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), by André Guerra, who is the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), and by Hélder Oliveira, our Chief Technology Officer. We are the four founders of Connected.

And how did you meet?

We worked together in the past, but I had known Tiago for a long time. We studied at University together, Aeronautical Engineering, so I’ve known him for over 15 years; we worked together for ten years at our old job, and now we’ve decided to move on to this adventure.

And how do you divide tasks within Connected?

This is the part we do most naturally. When we formed the company, in a challenge launched by Tiago, the strengths of each of us were already considered. In my case, I have an Engineering background, but I have always been closely linked to the management side, what I do is related to the day-to-day running of the company and the management of people, projects and products. Then we divide ourselves between “space” and “ground” – for the “space” component we have André, who took the Aerospace Engineering course, he is in charge of that area, and we have Hélder, who is an Electrical Engineer, and is in charge of the “ground”. Tiago, obviously, is the face of the company, and he is the one who drives the company, being very outward-looking towards the projection of Connected.

How did the connection to UPTEC come about?

We already knew Francisca Eiriz, the point of contact and connection at UPTEC. Naturally, we had to explain what our idea was, why Connected had to exist, and then it was very natural, they believed in the project, and we were incubated in the UPTEC ecosystem.

“ The companies around us exude entrepreneurship”

What are the main benefits you were able to reap from this ecosystem?

We are not just here, we are also at Instituto Pedro Nunes, in Coimbra, and these two places are a means where the companies around us exude entrepreneurship, and we take advantage of sharing ideas. After being linked to UPTEC, we benefited from several initiatives, contacts and partnerships. If we were isolated in an office, we wouldn’t benefit as much. And we also have this fantastic location – in front of Leça beach. But the truth is that we’ve only been here for a short time, we only arrived in January, so we’re still making ourselves known to the rest of the ecosystem.

What problem does your idea aim to solve?

When we look at our planet, around 80% of the Earth’s surface, whether land or sea, has no terrestrial cellular network coverage, is disconnected, there is no communication, and we want to solve this problem from space.

And can it be adapted to other business ideas?

Our solution can be applied to multiple business ideas. We want to expand the type of connectivity we currently have on land, due to the limited existing terrestrial cellular network infrastructure, and expand to non-terrestrial networks. Basically, it is as if we placed a “communications tower” on board a satellite in space, and with this, generate a non-terrestrial communications service, which will allow us to leverage and develop new business models, making use of this new service.

Such as?

We talk about several applications, for example, monitoring parameters, such as soil temperature in agricultural fields, located in off-grid, remote areas, where if we use our connectivity solution, we can aggregate and process the data from these sensors locally, using edge-computing, to provide this information to companies, they will be able to increase their performance, through alarming, which will influence their timely decision-making, in this example it would mean “increase in temperature in a certain area, then turn on the irrigation in that area.” This solution may already exist, but we want to expand its application to remote and off-grid areas, regions not covered by terrestrial networks. We talk about agriculture, logistics, transportation, energy, and many other applications, use cases and markets. Another example is that in Brazil, huge heads of cattle are lost because they are in vast areas, in a huge country, with consequent financial loss for producers, which is also an application of our solution. We have to test them, understand the priority applications, and where we will invest while developing the technology.

And for the common user, is there any advantage in applying your solution?

Many times, we have all been in areas without a network, and having the comfort of being able, in an emergency situation, to quickly press a button and send our location to pre-defined contacts is something that Connected wants to make available.

What phase of implementation are you at?

We have two paths in mind. First, we want to implement our service; that is the critical thing, our connectivity service, which will be divided into three phases. The first will be the launch of the In-Orbit Demonstration (IoD), which is the moment in which we will place our communications system on board a satellite and we will prove the technology that we have been developing, it is scheduled for December 2024. Then we started working on the pilot phase, in which we plan to have around 16 to 20 payloads from our Non-Terrestrial Integrated Communication Management System (NT. ICMS) in orbit, by 2027. Then, by 2029, we want to have our fully operational service with global coverage, which will require a few dozen assets in space.

And the second way?

In parallel to everything I said before, we must prove that our solution product fits the market and that potential customers are willing to pay for it. We believe so, but we have to do our job. To do this, we will use satellite communication services from third parties, already operational, with whom we have been establishing partnerships, and look for the first partners/potential customers to prove our concept, emulating our future offering creatively and innovatively.

How many companies and businesses will be able to use your solution?

There is no limit to the number of companies. What limits is the infrastructure, that is, the number of assets in space and the uplink and downlink capacity, and this capacity, of course, is limited.

In less than a year, they have already won several awards. A good omen?

We gain a lot, but it seems so little because we always want more, don’t we…? Since we were incubated here at UPTEC, we have already changed offices twice because the team has grown in the meantime. We entered the ESA BIC program of the European Space Agency (ESA), where we were incubated at the Pedro Nunes Institute. As a result, we won the SUNSAT project, part of the SPARK 4 Business program, also under ESA. These are very short projects, but they are essential to gain traction. We also received the PRR voucher, which helped us create the company. In terms of programs, we were accepted into the ALPHA program at the Web Summit, where we will be in November, and we were accepted into the VISTA programme in Dubai and were also present at the Dubai Airshow. We were also accepted into Techstars Berlin, but the conditions were different from what we wanted, and we ended up not accepting to join, but it was still very good. We were also accepted as members of a large consortium at the European level that intends to develop a mega-constellation for secure communications… with more news coming soon (laughs). We have made many partnerships and contacts, which are extremely important for what we are developing, have already made us acquire some intellectual property, and have catapulted us to a much further stage. We are cutting our way, which is excellent. We have already contacted companies from four different continents, and these contacts have been essential in accelerating our journey.

“Technology can be used to improve our daily lives here on Earth”

What is Connected's main achievement so far?

The most important thing was that we managed to build such a solid team in such a short time. There are ten of us, but we also have a part-time freelancer, ten and a half, so (laughs).

Next steps?

The company is Portuguese, we are using Portuguese engineering, we are developing the technology here, but looking at Portugal, even due to the scope of coverage it has, which covers practically the entire land territory, we will have to work and find partnerships to reach the market abroad, in a truly global sector, despite the gigantic “Portuguese Atlantic” which also contains a massive set of opportunities. In any case, we want to carry out our IoD in 2024 and validate the market, test our products and have the first pilots, the first proofs of concept; that is the main objective. Technology can be used to improve our daily lives here on Earth.


Life has taken her through many places. From her first steps in the quiet village of Pinheiro da Bemposta to Torreira, from Covilhã, where she studied Aeronautical Engineering, to the various trips she has made worldwide, the entrepreneur now calls Porto home. The Douro River greatly influences Raquel's past and present, and she says she is prepared for all future stages thanks to her support system.

Where were you born?

I was born in Pinheiro da Bemposta, where I grew up, it is a small village that belongs to Oliveira de Azeméis, everyone knows each other, and there is a very strong notion of community. I also spent much of my youth in Torreira, on the beach.

And what was it like as a student?

As a student, there are several phases of Raquel (laughs). I always tried to be a good student to get into the course I wanted. Then Raquel from the University tried to balance her studies with her social life; she did Erasmus, she wanted to go abroad, she wanted to meet people, she wanted to see the world.

And at any specific moment, did you feel you had a vocation for entrepreneurship?

I don’t think there’s a moment when we say, “Okay, now I’m going to be an entrepreneur or I want to innovate.” It was a consequence of the various decisions I made, the course I attended, and my professional career; all of this was a consequence that led me here.

Did you already know you wanted to go into this area in high school?

No, I never knew what I wanted to be until I had to decide, maybe in 11th or 12th grade; it was until the last one (laughs). I knew I didn’t want anything to do with health; I didn’t have an artistic streak, so I opted for science and technology, the most general, and then in the 12th grade, I chose Engineering. And it was there in Covilhã that I met Tiago.

A connection that has never been lost...

Yes, he then “ran away” because he went to do Space Master, but then we met again and worked together and from then on, we were always very close.

What is your day-to-day life like?

My daily routine is usually a lot of work-home, home-work and the weekend is divided between friends and family. I try to be with both of them as often as I can. As work consumes most of the day during the week, I only have time to run to the gym and run when it’s sunny, and I feel like it; I’m not a big fan, I confess (laughs).

And when you have a little more time, what do you like to do?

I really like snowboarding, but I can’t practice here, it’s seasonal. I can only do it in winter and outside the country, but I don’t give it up. During the summer, mainly due to my father’s influence, and for leisure, we like to take a ride in the canoe, my father wants us to accompany him in sailing and try different sports, such as standup paddle… All this in Torreira. A good day with the family is waking up, at the beach or in the river, taking the board, the canoe, going to the “cricos”, the famous cockles, all this with the family.

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Is it a balance that is necessary?

I’ve been more organized lately, I try to be disciplined and do sports regularly. It’s very important that and not having a network on the cell phone also helps (laughs).

So when your solution is fully implemented, it will be more complicated... (laughs).

It’s true, but it will be handy for situations like snowboarding, where sometimes we don’t have a network and must stay connected (laughs).

Many people won't be able to use that excuse because of you (laughs)...

The benefit will be much greater (laughs).

“Worse than trying and failing is not even trying”

Undoubtedly! You seem to be an adventurous person, is it something you apply in the world of work?

I’m not a pro at any of these hobbies, but I’m not afraid to try and take risks because, as I usually say, you only live once. If I don’t enjoy it now, I don’t want it anymore, and I draw a parallel with the moment when I decided to say goodbye, and together, we created Connected. It was a very natural, clear decision because worse than trying and failing is not even trying.

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A decision of risk and courage...

It depends on the stage of life we are in and the support we have. It depends on several factors. I was at a stage where I had already worked for a few years, had already done some things that I liked to do, and thought it was time to take a risk; the time was right. Having the support of Luís, my husband, who also has his own business, helped a lot; he always encouraged me to take risks.

You love to travel. Is there a place that has marked you the most?

There are so many places I want to go, and if I could, I would spend my whole life travelling! Cappadocia has made a big impression on me of the ones I’ve done. I loved the trip to the Philippines, I really liked Machu Picchu, there are so many places…

What do you like to do most on these trips?

It gives me immense pleasure to travel, it is one of the things that I talk about with the most passion and desire. The experiences and what we bring from people and places are really enriching. I like Portugal; it has fantastic places, but travelling abroad is excellent.

One of those fantastic places we have is where we are, overlooking the Douro and the Atlantic. Is this a special place for you?

It is for three reasons. Lately, I’ve been coming here [ANJE Restaurant] to have dinner with friends, an essential part of my life. The place itself supports entrepreneurs, and this view of the Douro is lovely, it’s really worth it.

Although you are not from Porto, do you already have a solid connection to the Douro?

The Douro is the Heart of Porto, but I’m not from Porto. Now, I’m a borrower from Porto because I live here, and the Douro meant little to me until some events made it special. I was proposed to in the Douro and got married in the Douro.

What is most indispensable for you today?

I think that, unfortunately, or fortunately, the mobile phone is essential, because, nowadays, we pay with the mobile phone, we work with the mobile phone; I can’t go by car without the mobile phone’s GPS otherwise I get lost (laughs). On vacation or in my free time, I like to read, I always have a book with me.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Five years will fly by! I see myself in the same position at Connected, with a bigger team and more challenges.

And what will the world look like five years from now?

I don’t want to believe that the world will be worse off in five years, I want to think that we will be in a more stable period.

What is your greatest virtue?

I’m a very practical person, very focused, and straight to the point, this helps a lot in my life.

Is it a defect?

My waking up (laughs.) I have a bad temper when it comes to waking up, which I have to work on (laughs).

Do you have a favourite word?

I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite because I don’t use it very often, but I really like the charge that the word “universe” conveys, and in all the issues that are associated, the fact that it is infinite becomes a word with a hefty load.

Any date that is engraved in your memory?

The personal dates in my life have been remarkable, of course, but professionally, the creation of Connected. It was an exciting day, we tried to close all the documentation with our lawyer, and then we went to eat a francesinha and drink a beer (laughs). We went to celebrate the four of us, it was a perfect moment, we were there a little bananas, but that’s how we celebrated the creation of Connected, with a francesinha and a beer.

Finally, tell me three things you would like to do in your life.

Possible or impossible?

Impossible too, because what is impossible today, tomorrow may be possible.

It’s true. I would like to start a family, to be a mother, obviously, I would like to travel a lot and visit several countries, and I would like to go to space, as long as they pay for the ticket, which is very expensive (laughs).

October 26th 2023
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