A pitch for Greek startups

During the long and deep crisis in Greece some businesses have done well. Tourism as a whole grew, and so did several segments of food and beverage. In other industries, a few isolated companies were successful, especially if they already had a foothold in foreign markets. And, to the surprise of many, technology startups did well.

The startup ecosystem is small, but growing. A handful of ventures have reached good exits. There are dozens of promising companies, and their number is increasing rapidly. One reason why they have been vibrant in the midst of a depressed economy is that there was some new capital available for startups, in the form of four early-stage venture capital Funds that were established in 2012.

These Funds are almost fully invested now. So new ones must be raised within the year, or the ecosystem will grind to a halt, and the most ambitious founders will emigrate to be able to start a business. My partners and I will be on the fundraising trail soon. We anticipate that international investors will be asking us: Why invest in technology in Greece, of all places, at this time? Here is what we will be saying. Continue reading

Global reach for start-ups

 Will 2013 be the year of the startup here in Greece? There are reasons to hope so. After years of events, discussions, brainstorming and prototyping, many teams seem to be on the cusp of starting real businesses. The funding bottleneck for IT-based ventures has now been removed, as four new early-stage funds are at last ready to start investing.

All of these funds, naturally, are looking for one thing: global potential. We will not be funding copycat businesses targeted to the Greek market, however good the execution; not even copycats aimed to the broader Balkan market. Market size is too small, and exit possibilities are very limited. 

The name of the game is global reach, out of a Greek base. So how can we plan for that, how can we educate ourselves, what type on networking do we need, what kind of partnerships abroad? By “we” I mean the founders and employees in the ventures, but also investors and advisors. 

Here is a way to think about these issues. There seem to be three generic strategies to expand out of Greece. Continue reading

ALBA Graduation Speech 2012

I had the honour to be the guest speaker this year at the Graduation Ceremony of ALBA (the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration). This is the video, and the text follows.

Today is a day of celebration for you, but it is also, I suspect, a day of reflection. Because you will be going out to find work, or to start businesses, or perhaps to return to your jobs, in the most difficult economic environment we have seen for many many years.

It is a cliche, of course, that in the crisis there are opportunities. And it is a cliche that I will repeat today. But before that, let me give you another, even more obvious cliche: in the crisis, there are difficulties and dangers.

Now, in the course of your study at ALBA you have learned about key factors of success for a business, and how it will be gobbled up by competitors if it does not build those factors. You have learned about opportunties and threats. The literature and the case studies are very useful.

But maybe you have not had time in the classroom to discuss some of the threats that are most important in Greece today, and in countries like Greece (I mean other countries with weak institutions, from which some of our graduates today have come). Neither, perhaps, have you discussed some of the opportunities that arise specifically in such countries, especially in this crisis.

So before you go back into the dangerous and exciting world of real business, here are a few words of advice. Continue reading

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Lecture: Aristos Doxiadis

This is the video of my lecture at Yale on 5th December 2011, titled Greeks Behaving Badly? The micro-origins of crisis and revival.

Stathis Kalyvas has an interesting introduction, on how modern Greece has been often been a forerunner or exemplar of global developments, even before the current crisis (starting at 6′ 00″). The lecture starts at 16′ 35″.  There is thirty minutes of discussion at the end.