When we think of the Greek economy, it is easy to think of news images of protests, mass unemployment and hardship. But Greece’s technology sector is helping to boost the country’s economic morale.
Plagued by one of the worst economic environments since the Great Depression, political uncertainty and capital controls which have stopped almost all international payments in and out of the country, Greek mobile and technology companies have been through it all. Some of these companies not only survived but grew their businesses throughout Greece’s six-year financial crisis, a testament to the resilience of the country’s growing mobile technology community.
The good news lies in an emerging ecosystem of incubators, venture capitalists and university entrepreneurship programs. There are more than 1,000 startups in Greece, more than half of which are in the technology sector across a wide range of industries, from aerospace and biotechnology to tourism and mobile applications. The business creation rate has increased twelvefold since 2010.
A large potential workforce for Greek technology
The technology sector is booming, with a workforce of highly skilled engineers and developers – many of whom have master’s degrees or higher – according to Thanos Ganas, board member of the Hellenic Startup Association. They include both young graduates and those laid off elsewhere due to the economic crisis.
With them comes a huge startup community of hubs and coworking spaces, including Coho in Thessaloniki and Colab, The cube, Impact Hub Athens in Athens. Business incubators and shared workspaces have sprung up across Greece, and conferences and forums on entrepreneurship and innovation abound alongside innovation hubs like Corallie, Start-up Greece And Endeavor Greece and organizations like Hellenic Association of Mobile Application Companies (HAMAC).
Many involve international support – such as Orange grove, a workspace for young entrepreneurs launched by the Dutch Embassy in Athens, in collaboration with a number of corporate sponsors from the Dutch and Greek technology sector, charitable foundations and universities. Its objective is to fight against the “brain drain” and youth unemployment in Greece. It welcomes startup creators under 40 years old.
Orange Grove hosts local and international speakers each week – often from the Netherlands and the United States – who share their experience and expertise on a wide variety of topics. They focus on entrepreneurship, fundraising, personal skills, branding and marketing and topics often include sales, legal issues, public relations, logistics and human resources.
I spoke to some of the Greek mobile and app startups represented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. From smartphone makers to marketing and payments, participating companies represented the country’s entire innovation and technology ecosystem.
Spyros Karababas Soft Weba company specializing in the development Web – mobile applications and delivery from meintegrated technology services, explains the attraction of international networking for Greek startups. “The economic crisis has made us look to the future and pushed us to establish international partnerships,” he says. “Four years ago, only one Greek company participated in the MWC. Now, this year, there are 25 and another 55 represented by the Hellenic Startup Association.”
I wanted to learn more about some of the challenges specific to startups in Greece. Karababas pointed out that many people had fled the country due to the inability to find work, particularly in the public sector, agriculture and manufacturing. He explained that his own business had humble beginnings
“We started in 2007, at a time when no one was talking about mobile technology in Greece. We were three people working in a garage and we are now a team of 20 people.
But Greek tech faces the same challenges as all Greek companies
He explained some of the particular challenges of running a business in Greece, particularly the capital controls which limit businesses registered in Greece to only transferring up to €500 out of the country per month. Naturally, this makes it difficult for anyone running an international business or using cloud services like web hosting or Paypal. However, he said tech startups essentially only needed an apartment and a laptop, unlike other sectors like manufacturing which were unable to operate effectively under the lockdown. capital.
Spiros highlighted that Greek tech entrepreneurs are an innovative group, many of whom collaborate and support each other through organizations such as the Hellenic Startup Association. He emphasized
“We found solutions, we created international accounts to support and teach others. Even if there are problems, we always find solutions.
One area of success is startups that focus on sectors already popular in Greece, such as tourism and hospitality. Tourism represents A quarter of the economy in Greece, and the country ranks first seventh most popular destination in the world. Soft Web has created many web-to-mobile applications in the tourism and hospitality industries and also has clients in the United States, London and the Netherlands.
I also spoke to Michalis Petrou, founder and creative director of Saintiagoand creator of NutrInsider, an all-in-one supermarket app, which organizes supermarket shopping with product lists and provides nutritional advice. It also helps manufacturers reach consumers with branded shopping offers, relevant recipes. and other useful information at the point of purchase. The app was named “App of the Year 2015” by Infocom Mobile World and received a Silver award at the CYTA Mobile Excellence Awards 2015. Petrou has a background in advertising and was well suited to work in retail technology .
Like everywhere else, the risk of failure is also high for startups in Greece. But the lack of other options for many people meant they were more likely to start their own businesses. “You literally have nothing to lose by starting a startup when there’s no work anyway,” says Petrou.
With an educated and innovative workforce, and great traction with angel investors through structures like EVEA Business Angels Network And Angels Group by the StartTech Ventures incubation fund, it is clear that the startup sector in Greece is healthy. With their growing reputation, we may soon see people emigrating has Greece will join the booming tech scene.