Exploring Financial Literacy, Sustainable Travel & Global Startup Lessons with Zara Drousas

 

Fascinating and transformative ventures are being pitched across the world every day with a mission to disrupt all industries imaginable, even those that have not fully come into existence yet. Australian entrepreneur and Greek tech enthusiast Zara Drousas is the founder of one of these ventures. Zara is looking to take on the women’s financial literacy space, as well as lead a much-needed discussion towards the new era of sustainable travel.

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Dive into this interview with Zara to learn more about sustainable travel, lessons learned from pitching the venture in Tel Aviv, and thoughts on the future of Greek Tech.


Pioneering Women’s Financial Literacy and Sustainable Travel with Technology

My natural interest is in technology, especially from the consumer side of things, and I’ve been drawn towards it since a young age. I started out playing Pokemon on Gameboys, and teaching my family how to use the latest tech gadgets. My tech passions then translated professionally four years ago by becoming a telecomm sales consultant and Microsoft telecomm adviser. It gave me the opportunity to really understand the technicalities of technology, and then distilling it down to be able to explain it to someone else in simple terms.

Today, my technology journey has coincided with my love of financial education which led me to my startup venture idea — a platform that works to improve women’s financial literacy. The mission of this new platform is to improve the personal finance skills of women aged 18-35. The project is still in its very early stages,  so unfortunately I can’t share the ‘secret sauce’ of the venture just yet (watch this space)! We’re currently building the platform and I’m hoping will be off the ground in the next 12 months.

Now for a cause I really want to bring awareness to, sustainable travel. Travel has become something that pretty much anyone can do at this point – it so affordable these days, and there so many different ways and modes to get around. But people are less aware of where they travel to, how they get there, when they go and where they go have a huge impact on the places they visit. It’s something you don’t really notice if you come from a country like Australia, US, Canada, UK or New Zealand… you’re in a bubble. You’re in your own kind of world with the way you live, isolated from other things. Then you go to these other countries within —Asia, South America, Europe, Middle East — and it’s more connected there. But there’s too many people in these areas going at the same time.

“People are less aware of where they travel to, how they get there, when they go and where they go have a huge impact on the places they visit.”

Social media has contributed to this with ‘bucket list destinations’. It’s made everything a bit more commercial for people and less cultural. And in turn, that has had a massive effect on the residents there too. Cities like Athens, Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam (and the list goes on…) are at or over capacity during peak tourism season. In some cities like Barcelona, they’ve even gotten to a point where residents are protesting against tourists because it’s now to their detriment, it’s destroying their cities and making everything more expensive for themselves.

“Social media has contributed to this with ‘bucket list destinations’. It’s made everything a bit more commercial for people and less cultural.”

With technology, we can now bring awareness to the over-tourism situation and get it on people’s radars so that maybe they can consider other places, or maybe not staying in places such as Barcelona for as long. Sustainability will come into play as well — most people seem to understand environmental sustainability from a household perspective, but we can definitely push that more in travel as well.

Lessons from Tel Aviv’s Booming Startup World

After spending some time exploring Tel Aviv (via The Hacker Exchange), it’s clear that there are some valuable startup insights that can be adapted from the Israeli market. Their whole country is a startup success, and it’s built upon entrepreneurship because of how they started. There’s a lot of collaboration — even competitors help each other. That’s a huge lesson that we can all learn to collaborate a bit more. You don’t have to tell your competitors your deepest darkest secrets, but it doesn’t have to be as cut throat. You can learn a lot from each other, and that’s the most important, tangible thing you get from it: the learning.

“That’s a huge lesson that we can all learn to collaborate a bit more. You don’t have to tell your competitors your deepest darkest secrets, but it doesn’t have to be as cut throat.”

Additionally, their entrepreneurial strength comes via a focus that is encouraged from their governmental and societal levels. There is a push from the top that encourages citizens to develop their entrepreneurial skills and gain skills through life experiences. It is through these types of programs that people are equipped with cutting-edge skills and experiences they can then use to form companies, building upon entrepreneurial skills early in life is important.  

And all of this is powerful to connect back to Greek tech, because it’s about bringing more knowledge and awareness from other countries, and then also really showing these other countries what the Greek ecosystem can do. By bridging the Greek connection with these other countries that have more developed tech sectors, that will help Greek entrepreneurs break out a bit more.

The Future of Greek Tech Holds Great Things

I have high hopes for Greece and I believe in the quality of the people of the country. The Greek people – are smart, educated, and have the potential to do so much. They will propel the country forward, and it will make a real difference in the near future and then the next 25 to 50 years. The country will come into its own, like it did centuries ago, and now it will in the new era.

“The Greek people – are smart, educated, and have the potential to do so much. They will propel the country forward, and it will make a real difference in the near future and then the next 25 to 50 years.”

This will be driven by technology and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is the way forward for the whole economy. They don’t need to take on more money from anyone else, they need to create more jobs for themselves. I go back to Israel here — when they first became a state in 1948, they had nothing, they had to build from it and create things to survive. It’s really what Greece needs to do: not rely so much on other countries or other economies, but to start creating within itself. Because the potential and skills to do it are there; it’s just a matter of having the stage, platform, and resources to action it.

“Entrepreneurship is the way forward for the whole economy. They don’t need to take on more money from anyone else, they need to create more jobs for themselves.”

And personally as someone with Greek roots who grew up and lives abroad, I hope to start developing a stronger Greek tech base. It is one of my goals to form a Greek entrepreneurs resource and community base (sign up here). With the aim to enable Greek startups to ‘go global’, which includes encompassing entrepreneurs within Greece and those outside of the country — Greek Australians, Greek Brits, Greek Americans — anyone with some sort of connection back to Greece.

The Overarching Principle of Growth: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Tying together our discussion on travel, entrepreneurship, and Greek tech, there is one overarching principle that ties these three together: getting out of your comfort zone. Whether we are talking about a Greek entrepreneur, Australian founder, or anyone else trying to grow—a vital action to take is to get out of your comfort zone. Travel, go and meet other people in other countries and discuss your ideas with them. It’s good to get feedback and connect with others, which is how you will grow. You need to get out of where you live for a bit, go travel and attend events and meetups in other cities. Across Europe or in the US or Australia (it’s really not that far), or Israel (Tel Aviv is wonderful with so much going on all the time). Get involved and meet other people and discuss your ideas, because that’s how you’ll progress further — is connecting with others.


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