Can we predict winners among technology startups?

This is a lecture I enjoyed giving, to a Conference of statistics experts and data analysts.
I don’t have a text, but the slides should give a sense of what we discussed.

Επιχειρήσεις τεχνολογίας, ένας απολογισμός

(Καθημερινή 26/12/2016)

Τέλος της χρονιάς, κάνουμε απολογισμούς: στον εαυτό μας, σε συνεργάτες, σε μετόχους. Ας κάνω κι εγώ έναν δημόσιο απολογισμό, για ένα ολόκληρο οικοσύστημα επιχειρήσεων, και για μια τετραετία. Αναφέρομαι στα startups («νεοφυείς» επιχειρήσεις). Είναι οι νέες, μικρές εταιρείες που στηρίζονται σε δική τους καινοτομία και ελπίζουν σε λίγα χρόνια να κατέχουν σημαντική θέση στην παγκόσμια αγορά.

Στο τέλος του 2012 υπήρχαν στην Ελλάδα ελάχιστες εταιρείες με αυτά τα χαρακτηριστικά. Στο τέλος του 2016 υπάρχουν μερικές εκατοντάδες. Η σύγκριση με το πρόσφατο παρελθόν είναι εντυπωσιακή, αν και η σύγκριση με άλλες ευρωπαϊκές χώρες παραμένει απογοητευτική.

Η γρήγορη ανάπτυξη οφείλεται τόσο στις παγκόσμιες τεχνολογικές εξελίξεις που επιτρέπουν σε μια μικρή ομάδα να δημιουργήσει ένα πρωτόλειο προϊόν με ελάχιστη επένδυση, όσο και στην ελληνική οικονομική κρίση που ώθησε πολλούς επιστήμονες να επιχειρήσουν, επειδή δεν είχαν ευκαιρία για καριέρα στο πανεπιστήμιο, στο Δημόσιο ή στο μαγαζί της οικογένειας. Continue reading

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