Greek Tech on the Rise
In order to know where we are going, it is vital to see from where we have come. And there is no better time than the beginning of a new year to reflect, assess, and plan for the next. The beginning of 2018 marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the tech ecosystem and the country as a whole, starting with a major private investment. The Greek tech ecosystem was granted over €260 million from the European Investment Fund and private investment, indicating a confident bet that this is the next disruptive and transformative sector. Since this investment, we’ve seen a flurry of innovation as predicted and beyond. The number of firms in the venture capital space has quadrupled, spurring exponentially more ideas and innovation from young minds, founders, and investors in the space.
So as Greek tech enters another year of building and bringing visions to life, let’s take a look backwards at how the ecosystem has grown, the trends that will continue to grow in the coming months, and how we can all help to pave the promising road ahead.
Brain Gain, Slowly But Surely
With an observable shift toward brain gain over the past year, we are slowly but surely seeing a counter to the brain drain that the country has experienced over the past decade as a result of its crisis. What was a previously unknown and unexplored territory for the local market has now transformed into a wave of curiosity, tangible enthusiasm and influx of formal programs supporting the Greek tech ecosystem.
Now more than ever, organizations and startups are actively supporting the brain gain. From the company end, companies like Transifex have led the way in launching repatriation programs, providing support and incentives to bring Greek talent back from abroad. Organizations like The Hellenic Initiative have long been on a mission to bring back and bring together Greeks around the world, and has highlighted Hellenic innovation through events like its annual Venture Fair.
Voted last year’s Capital of Innovation, Athens has also increasingly become the home to digital nomads, expats, and long-term international visitors. The steady growth of coworking spaces (like Coho in Thessaloniki, Spaces by Regus, Romantso, The Cube, and of course our beloved Stone Soup in Athens) has helped house and attract this international talent.
On a local level, we see the continued growth of hackathons and weekends dedicated to equipping Greek founders with the foundational resources and encouragement to dare to venture out on their own. At these events like Afixis Hackathon and Startup Weekend Thessaloniki, we see the local youth mobilizing and can’t help but be inspired by their bright, young, entrepreneurial energy.
Industries on the Rise
Every defining characteristic of Greece from its geography to its millennia of history, has placed our country at a unique intersection of worlds, cultures, and innovations. Due to its location on the world map, Greece has long served as the crossroad between the different regions of the Mediterranean, Balkans, and of course, the European Union — a crossroad that has been leveraged dating back to the days of the Silk Road. The ancient days were driven by the transport and trade of olives, the original thought leaders of philosophy, and birth of democracy.
The spirit of innovation remains ever-present in Greek culture. Today, this has transformed into the development of brilliant technological innovations, spanning across industries such as agriculture, travel, and of course, software.
Travel & Tourism
With tourism projected to drive nearly a quarter of Greece’s annual GDP (and growing, as we see numbers skyrocket particularly due to the rapidly increasing outbound tourism from the East), the past couple years have seen a strong push towards supporting and evolving travel and tourism experiences for Greece’s rising number of visitors.
While it is a known statistic that small businesses are the backbones of most economies, this stat rings far more than true for the Greece. All around Greece, you’ll find small businesses — from new bars to multi-generational family retail shops, law firms, and more. The natural evolution? The development of innovations to support these shops.
Still a relatively new space, first players of fintech in the Greek economy were ventures in the insurance space. Today, we see businesses supporting the boom of virtual banking to support an increasing population of globetrotters and digital nomads, along with other ventures educating and helping locals to take more financial control.
Shipping & Maritime
Shipping has been a key element of Greek economic activity since ancient times, and the international shipping industry is responsible for carrying 90% of all world trade. This coupled with the country’s burgeoning startup ecosystem puts Greece in a unique position to foster ongoing maritime tech innovations.
From the ancient days of olive harvesting and more recent days of feta franchising, agriculture has been in Greek DNA since the beginning. Now, the market is ripe for disruption as modern-day agrotech innovations gear up to make farming more efficient, food healthier, and find solutions to other big challenges of the space.
The ecosystem’s first notable exits were technologies that made day-to-day life easier – online food delivery app efood (acquired by Delivery Hero) and local taxi-hailing app Beat (acquired by Daimler). Today, the road paved by efood and Beat is now being walked by startups looking to continue making day-to-day activities more convenient.
These industries are on the rise in large part due to the ventures and evolutions of the Greek tech ecosystem, and we anticipate even more transformation in the coming years. Stay tuned for the rest of this #GreekTechRising series as we dive into each of the industries above, and the emerging ventures developing within each vertical.
The Year Ahead
While many would argue that we still have far to go, it is important not to overlook all the steps forward that have led us to today; the beginning of a new and promising year. True, a growing challenge for startups is finding the right, qualified talent that are needed to be able to grow and scale. Also true is the Greek bureaucracy amongst other institutionalized hurdles that are not necessarily the most conducive to growth in the local tech ecosystem.
But that’s the great thing about this space — if it is not the minds and founders from one of the most creative regions in the world who are going to find solutions to these problems, then who will? The year ahead undoubtedly holds even more growth, local disruption, and the creation of a global Greek revolutionary footprint that we have yet to even imagine.
Stay Anchored in Greek Tech Updates & Startup Tips
Looking for more insights like these? Subscribe to our newsletter to get more insights into the burgeoning Greek tech ecosystem, actionable tips for growing your startups, interviews with thought leaders in the space, and more. If you’re a startupper in Athens or Thessaloniki, sign up and be the first to know when our next workshop event is. See you soon!