Without a national strategy and held down by a clientelist state that promotes political favoritism over merit and initiative, Greek startup companies have turned to equity funding to get up and going and some have already made their mark.
The biggest impetus so far is coming from Equifund Greece, a venture capital fund-for-funds program specializing in targeting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) whose workforce makes up 67 percent of the jobs throughout Europe.
SME’s need access to equity financing to build and develop their businesses, the company said. Greece has one of the lowest levels of venture capital and private equity activity in the European Union, said Invest Europe, the European venture capital and private equity association.
With entrepreneurs on their own during a more than nine-year-long economic and austerity crisis and Greek banks so loaded down by bad loans making up 40 percent of their portfolio unable to provide enough capital to business, good ideas need to find money elsewhere.
EquiFund said it will pour some 500 million euros ($560.21 million) into Greek SME ideas over the next five years with the government essentially sitting on its hands and the Greek political landscape locked into internecine warfare.
In a feature in Forbes magazine, contributor Yiannis Mouratidis wrote that, “No matter how small this sum of money may sound compared with funding in more mature ecosystems, by Greek standards, it is seen as a huge leap considered the circumstances of the previous years.”
EquiFund said it wants to strengthen the venture capital market in Greece to provide enough money for businesses to grow and build the private business sector. EquiFund is an initiative created by the government in cooperation with the European Investment Fund (EIF).
According to Equifund’s Marathon Venture Capital, 301 Greek startups have received $2.4 billion in 500 rounds of investment from 268 venture capital funds between 2010 and 2018. Some 73 percent of the funds went to Greek-founded startups without a team operating in Greece. At the same time, Greece-based companies saw financial backing increase from $10 million dollars in 2010 to $155 million in 2018.
Among the top 10 most funded startups in Greece, according to Forbes, are Workable, Softomotive and Viva Wallet. Softomotive specializes in robot automation while Workable calls itself the world’s leading hiring platform, providing in-house recruiters and hiring teams to find more qualified candidates.
Companies who use Workable’s software get from requisition to offer letter faster, with automated and AI-powered tools that source and suggest candidates, simplify decision making, and streamline the hiring process, the firm said.
Found.ation, a leading technology and innovation enabling platform in southeast Europe, partnered with EIT Digital, a digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organization and Velocity to give annual reports on startups.
For 2018, it focused on the top 10 most funded startups in Greece, some of them already well known in the international startup community, and said that areas where startup founders choose to operate are closely related to the production sector, but they are not identical.
Tourism comes third in the list of sectors where startup founders operate, while Healthcare is rated first, said Forbes’ report, adding that Greek startups follow an international trend of development in the field of Healthcare exploiting technological advancements along with access to more inexpensive sensors and hardware.
Healthcare requires fast-rising financial flows now available through funds, the reason why startups turn to them to grow. There is also an increase of companies related to FinTech, AdTech and MarTech, areas where Big Data and Artificial Intelligence can be key factors for development to small-sized companies and give them the edge over their bigger counterparts.
“Nowadays we can witness a rise in companies that use Deep Tech in sectors such as Energy and infrastructure. This might be an indication of the maturity of the ecosystem, turning to more traditional economic sectors which definitely need modernization, and startups can answer their needs and offer the best high-tech solutions,” wrote Mouratidis.
Maria Kokidou, Content and Innovation Strategist for Found.ation said that, “The Greek ecosystem has now entered a phase where startups are being born in a friendlier environment; the path laid by their predecessors is now an easier one to follow. Yet there is much more to expect as the maturity phase has just started to dawn.”
Startups didn’t catch on in Greece until 2008 – two years before the economic crisis hit – giving people with good ideas opportunities to find alternative solutions. Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, Co-Founder & Partner Found.ation & Velocity Partners told Forbes that, “During the 2008-2012 period, the ecosystem was going through the inspiration phase, looking to find its new heroes. This is when the TEDx and the OpenCoffee platforms first appeared in Greece and they both acted as catalysts for amplifying inspiring stories of people who tried and – against all odds – succeeded.”
The food industry, Tourism, and Maritime are also offering opportunities for experimentation and profitability. Areas of interest may also be Energy or Agriculture because of the low cost of IoT equipment and the proliferation of emerging technologies, such as Blockchain, the magazine said.
EU Startups last year identified 10 companies to keep an eye on:
Augmenta: An agritech startup that offers an AI-based solution comprised of a hardware device and a web platform that scans and analyzes crops.
Cube RM: Develops a revenue management software, which can predict the impact of price changes, the probability of success, and calculate optimum prices.
Ingredio: a mobile application that informs consumers about the toxicity of food ingredients and cosmetics and allows them to bring informed decisions about their lifestyle.
Fieldscale: A Thessaloniki-based company which designs and develops simulation software solutions for electric design and analysis.
InAccel: Develops FPGA cloud hardware accelerators, which increase the performance of computing programs and reduce the total cost of operations.
Nummyspay: A subscription management and credit card processing platform that helps online businesses save money and time.
RTsafe: Develops an innovative technology for a personalized quality assurance process in radiation oncology before treatment is approved for patients
SealSmile: An online platform that offers a vast variety of products and deals at competitive prices from more than 60 popular Chinese online stores.
Syncbnb: Provides a calendar synchronization tool that helps owners and managers of short-term rental properties to increase their revenue by synchronizing their bookings.
Welcome Pickups: Provides travelers transfer services, essential products, pre-ordered tickets to top attractions, tips and tailor-made experiences led by locals.