BOSTON, MA – Nicholas Negroponte, the renowned Greek-American Founder of the MIT Media Lab, discussed the history of the Media Lab, his efforts to bring computing to disadvantaged children all around the world, as well as his experiences in early stage technology investing in a fireside chat with Michalis Bletsas, Director of Computing at the MIT Media Lab.
The event, attended by more than 250 entrepreneurs, investors, and academics was organized by The Hellenic Innovation Network and the Consulate of Greece in Boston, included several pitches by entrepreneurs and was moderated by Founding CEO of Z Corp Marina Hatsopoulos.
The youngsters included, Bill Gianoukos, Pineapple; Michalis Vlastarakis, Eurobank/EGG program; Marianthi Fragkopoulou, Herado; George Chaliotis, Mediline USA; Apostolos Atsalakis, PNOE; and Dr. Evangelos Pappas, RTsafe.
The Greek crisis, while causing tremendous hardship, pushed Greece to reboot and create a new engine of growth by fostering a startup economy. Highly educated graduates, unable to find work, started creating their own jobs by founding innovation-based startups in agriculture, food, tourism, energy, logistics, and technology.
“These globally-focused Greeks have been setting the country on a new course to recovery through technology entrepreneurship,” said Michalis Bletsas, a leading Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab who has been involved with Greek startups for two decades and who, together with Nicholas Negroponte, founded the One Laptop Per Child non-profit organization.
Greek startups have come through incubators and accelerators like MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, Eurobank’s The EGG in Athens, and OK!Thess in Thessaloniki, as well as research centers such as Demokritos, Corallia, the South-East European Research Centre, and programs of The Hellenic Initiative (THI).
Entrepreneur Marina Hatsopoulos said, “Greeks are strong, independent thinkers who are hungry to control their own destiny. Greece has a tremendous opportunity to follow Israel’s lead in employing developers in the homeland while growing global businesses based in the United States. We hope to empower Greek entrepreneurs by connecting them to the rich network of mentors, advisors, partners, customers, and investors here in Boston.”
According to Marathon Ventures, in 2010-2018, 301 Greek startups raised $2.4 billion in 500 investment rounds from 268 venture capital funds. During that period, a total of 47 acquisitions and 5 IPOs took place. The total invested amount in Greek startups grew 11 times, from $48 million in 2010 to $539 million in 2018. Some U.S.-based investment firms that have invested are Kleiner Perkins, Andreeson Horwitz, Bain Capital, and Sequoia. About one third are founded by Greeks but are not based in Greece.
Entrepreneurial activity was boosted last Spring, when EquiFund, an EU-based fund-of-funds supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, committed to investing €320 million in Greek venture, private equity, and tech transfer funds, such as Marathon Ventures, Venturefriends and Big Pi.
Addressing young entrepreneurs at the event, Nicholas Negroponte recommended creating a startup only if you have passion and a deep belief in your idea, not just to make money.
Stratos Efthymiou, Consul General of Greece in Boston, said “The Consulate of Greece in Boston is critically positioned to bring the Greek tech community together from both sides of the Atlantic.” He added that “we are working toward the establishment of a non-stop flight that will connect Boston to Athens. We want to help Greek entrepreneurs take advantage of the opportunities of the Boston ecosystem and we encourage American investors to seize opportunities in Greece.”
The Hellenic Innovation Network (formerly known as the MIT Enterprise Forum Greece Diaspora Group) was started by MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, with the support of the Consulate General of Greece in Boston. The group, composed of entrepreneurs, academics, executives and other professionals based in the United States, organizes semi-annual events to educate the community and provide the opportunity for Greek startups to pitch and network, with the goal of creating a bridge to the United States technology entrepreneurial ecosystem.