José Neves: The Other Side

Words: Ilídia Pinto
Photo: Frederico Martins for DSECTION

Just over a year ago, José Neves, the leader of Farfetch, announced the foundation that bears his name. He allocated two-thirds of his fortune to this project, with the aim of transforming Portugal into a high-development society by enhancing the skills of Portuguese workers for the new digital economy. José Neves, with this initiative, became the first Portuguese signatory of “The Giving Pledge”, the movement created by Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. This movement includes more than 200 of the richest personalities in the world from more than twenty nations, who are willing to donate part of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.

The José Neves Foundation began with an initial budget of five million euros, with the intention of awarding 1,500 scholarships to the same number of students. This project works on a revenue-sharing basis, with the signing of income share agreements (ISA). The programme is valid for various types of courses, from master’s degrees, MBAs and post-graduate courses to vocational and professional courses and boot camps. It is specifically aimed at the following areas: digital, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, information systems or technologies, economics, management, architecture, design and social sciences.

The programme pays the tuition fees of each student who is chosen for the FJN ISA, and the amount in question will be paid back, in instalments, when the beneficiaries have achieved an income above the minimum amount established in the contract. The Foundation emphasizes that each Isa is different, calculated according to the course, the skills and the expected income.

In its first year of activity, the FJN distributed one million euros in refundable grants. 150 of the various beneficiaries have already entered the labour market following their training and are starting the reimbursement process.

However, the strategy of the José Neves Foundation is not only based on scholarships. Its activity is, in fact, based on four distinct pillars. Promoting the democratisation of learning focused on skills for the future is the first, for which the ISA contracts were launched. Soon after starting up, the Foundation raised awareness of its “Brighter Future” research and analysis tool that explores and compares information on employability.

This is a digital tool that presents labour market trends, identifies employers’ needs and indicates courses, training, professions and skills that answer the demand for talent. “Brighter Future” is part of the second pillar, which aims to help develop future skills based on data, enabling fact-based career management.

Designing the education of the future and awakening personal and individual/inner development are the other two pillars of the Foundation’s mission. It was with the mental health of Portuguese people in mind that the 29K FJN app was recently launched. It provides free personal development courses in video format, audio meditations and exercises that aim to help improve resilience, promoting well-being and emotional balance. Several thousand Portuguese people already use the app, including personalities such as presenters Catarina Furtado and Fátima Lopes, entrepreneurs Luís Portela of the Bial Foundation and Paula Amorim of the Amorim group, not to mention José Neves and Carlos Oliveira, his “right-hand man” and chief executive of the Foundation.

Farfetch, founded in 2007, is the world’s leading platform for the online luxury fashion market. Based in London, it has branches in Portugal (Porto, Braga, Guimarães and Lisbon), the USA (New York and Los Angeles), Japan (Tokyo), China (Shanghai) and Brazil (São Paulo). It was the first Portuguese unicorn, a classification reserved for companies with a stock market valuation of more than one billion dollars. This year, it was included on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential companies in 2021.

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