The Future of Entrepreneurship in Greece
The startup scene in Greece is flourishing, but what comes next?
As you may already know, the 2008 recession had an enormous impact on the Greek economy, with unemployment percentages soaring to the high twenties. For youth this rate was even lower, with more than 50% unemployed. In the end, the Greek Depression set the record for the longest recession ever endured by a modern capitalist society, even beating the American Great Depression. Although the Greek economy experienced utter devastation and multiple bankruptcies, the stage was set for a revival of hope and growth through entrepreneurship amongst a population of hardworking risk-takers who prefer to be their own bosses. Greece was finally ready to host a startup community of its own.
In 2016, the Greek Government partnered with the European Investment Fund to create EquiFund — a €300 million fund for early stage startups — enabling illustrious growth for the companies they have invested in. In total, up to €500 million will be invested in the Greek economy through EquiFund.
This influx of capital, combined with the enormous surplus of labor capacity due to the recession has brewed the perfect storm for entrepreneurship in Greece, and I believe the effects will soon be recognized in Athens and beyond.
Startups to watch
They say necessity is the mother of invention, so it is no wonder that the highest funded startup in Greece, with more than $84 million invested, is Workable — a job recruitment platform.
Founded in 2012 by Nikos Moraitakis and Spyros Magiatis in Athens, the startup has since expanded to offices in Boston, London, and New York.
Owiwi is another startup seeking to streamline the human resources department, once again demonstrating the necessity of improving labor management during the recession. By gamifying psychometric testing, human resources can analyze the soft skills of employees or prospective candidates, enabling more efficient training and talent acquisition.
Moving on to the apartment rental segment, a sector devastated by the recession, Blueground is a startup offering fully furnished apartment rentals in cities around the world, hassle-free. The platform is available in nine cities from Dubai to Los Angeles and hosts more than 1,800 apartments.
Although Athens has the potential to be a competitive startup hub in the world economy, the environment may not currently be ready. Firstly, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) must overcome the hurdle of gaining the trust of foreign investors, as Greece’s reputation suffered during the sovereign debt crisis. In addition, many European cities offer tax incentives to small business to spur growth and limit risk, but Greece lacks in this regard. Currently, the tax code is far too complex and costly to provide a competitive atmosphere, and there is rising pushback from entrepreneurs and investors. The Greek Startup Manifesto was written to express the discontent of entrepreneurs and desire to reform tax structures for SMEs, and organizations such as EquiFund are working to put more pressure on politicians.
In the meantime, successful Greek entrepreneur Marina Hatsopoulos writes extensively on the growing startup scene in Greece, and other accomplished entrepreneurs can raise awareness for the desperately needed tax reform. On the other hand, some argue that the burdensome tax structures actually help eliminate the weaker startups, leaving only the resilient. Regardless, restructuring the Greek tax system could prove to be very effective not only for entrepreneurs, but also the economy as a whole.
The next decade could mark the true comeback of the Greek economy. With the help of large institutional investments and accelerator programs, Greece could realistically become a startup hub competing with the likes of London, Barcelona, and Berlin.