World Economy

Greece Becoming Huge Startup Incubator

Greece Becoming Huge Startup Incubator Greece Becoming Huge Startup Incubator

A taxi-tracking tool, a head-hunting engine and a vertical gardening company -- all business startups that have paradoxically emerged from a Greek economy long in the doldrums.

Faced with the worst unemployment wave in living memory, Greece’s youth are turning away from the traditional pursuit of civil service or family-centered jobs, and towards innovation and foreign funding, AFP said in a report.

Until recently, most Greeks fresh out of university contemplated life-long job security in a civil service post, or guaranteed employment in their family-owned business. But that’s no longer an option.

The four-year Greek economic crisis killed off thousands of small and middle-sized companies, and staff cuts and hiring freezes imposed by the cash-strapped state has made new public sector hiring all but impossible.

One in two youths under 25 is currently out of work. “The public sector has lost their sheen,” says Aristos Doxiadis of Openfund, a venture capital fund.

In the last five years, at least eight startups -- offering advice to budding entrepreneurs with bankable ideas -- have opened in Athens.

“We know that the Greek economy in its current form has no future,” states Giorgos Vrachnis, manager of Egg, a business startup incubator backed by Eurobank, one of the main Greek lenders. “But it will take time to invent a new, outward-looking model. The domestic market is too small.”

Part of the challenge lies in the established mindset in Greek universities, where corporations and non-state funding are viewed with suspicion.

Egg has a stable of 25 startups receiving one-year mentoring from industry experts in various sectors. Verdical, the garden designers, have won the right to stay for a second year.

According to Endeavor, a global non-profit organization supporting entrepreneurship that opened a Greek branch in 2012, the sector has grown exponentially in the last four years.

The number of startups has grown nearly tenfold between 2010 and 2013 -- from sixteen to 144 -- while investment rose from 500,000 euro to 42 million over the same period, Endeavor said.

“The Greek market was ripe for startup growth,” says Spyros Trachanis, one of the managers of Greek fund Odyssey, arguing that valuable experience was gained during a first spurt in the telecoms sector a decade ago.