At its best, Greece is hard to beat. There’s gods and heroes, storied historical sites, sapphire-blue seas, the food and 227 inhabited islands to hop around.
And now, the country is starting to emerge on the international tech scene.
Some chewy exits over the past five years have fuelled excitement in tech circles but as in most fledgling scenes, while there’s plenty of entrepreneurs and companies, the numbers fall off sharply when you search for high-growth scaleups.
In a Sifted report published this week, founders and investors weighed in on ways to take Greece’s tech scene to the next level. Here’s some of the top ideas.
Fix the internet
The internet is occasionally “terrible”, depending on where you are in the country, says Nikos Drandakis, cofounder and CEO of Flyway, a proptech startup. Greece was jolted by Covid into providing more services online — but it still sits 25th among the 27 EU member countries in terms of digital transformation, according to a Brussels scoreboard.
Get some middle managers
A common call by the Greek tech crowd: we need an influx of experienced people with proven records — those who’ve walked the startup-to-scaleup path. “Right now we’re a bit like where India used to be — an outsource hotspot,” says Christos Tryfonas, cofounder and chief architect of automation software company Aisera.
The country boasts tech talent, with plenty of skilled engineers and developers to go around, and at a fraction of the cost of folk in London or Berlin. The visible but tentative, pandemic-related brain recovery to Greece after its decade-long crisis could eventually see the country move up a level, Tryfonas adds.
Dust off the Greek storyteller gene
Greek startups need better marketing mojo. “It’s not about the incentives or the jurisdiction, the main problem is always culture,” says Panos Papadopoulos, partner at Marathon VC. “We have a real lack of product managers and product marketers. We need the latter group because we can’t tell big stories: it’s not in our genes, we’re really bad at it. We need to sell ourselves better.”
Go to the root of the gender gap
Another issue for Greece to work on is opening up the startup scene to more women. Research by Found.ation, a management consultancy, finds that for every 10 startups that get funded in Greece, less than two are female-led.
“I’m a strong believer that it’s very important to start influencing women as early in the journey as possible,” says Rania Lamprou, cofounder and CEO of ecommerce checkout site Simpler. “For example, the UK has done a great job with bootcamps and programmes like Code First Girls that try to reduce the gender gap with free courses for women.”
Wanted: Greece’s Station F
There’s an appetite for more places for techies to hang together. “If you can centralise talent somewhere [in Athens], it could make a big difference,” says Sanne Goslinga, director of talent at Marathon Venture Capital.
“I want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with other startups,” agrees Haris Pylarinos, CEO of cybersecurity company Hack the Box. “In Shoreditch [London] you can bump into other founders when you step out for coffee. You don’t really have that in Athens.”
Get unis involved
Bringing startups and students together is another clear area for Greece to improve on. Drandakis talks about a “total disconnect between universities and the market”. There’s plenty of work to do.
The country has over 20 universities and technical colleges — with scores of citations in top journals between them — but only a handful of tech transfer offices, patents and university-linked products. “Commercialisation efforts are really only starting,” says Katerina Pramatari, partner and cofounder at Uni.Fund, a VC that backs spinouts.
Ignore the downturn: it’s go big or go Homer
As belts tighten, the future for many tech startups is uncertain, and yet the (likely) impending global recession doesn’t seem to faze many in Greece. “Our DNA is adversity — we always had to prove more with less,” says Apostolos Apostolakis, cofounder and partner at VentureFriends, a VC firm in Athens.
Greeks have not been dazzled by tech hype, he adds, and should just carry on what they’re doing. “We’re better positioned as a result to weather the storm, compared to founders who have operated in more forgiving ecosystems. Valuations never became hyped; our founders remained disciplined and they kept their sights on the right metrics.”
For more on Greece’s tech scene, including the top startups in the country to watch, take a look at Sifted’s new report, Greeking out, sponsored by Endeavor Greece