ATHENS – Eleven of Greece’s most promising startup firms led by dynamic young entrepreneurs across many fields were given the opportunity to make pitches to local and international investors at the 5th annual Venture Fair of The Hellenic Initiative at the Athens Hilton on July 1.
Officers and members of THI, a not-for-profit active across the Hellenic Diaspora from Australia to America to London, travelled to Athens to meet the talented youngsters and some participated as judges in the competition whose first round narrowed the group of companies to its five most impressive and finally – judges were overheard saying they were all good – to the top new firm.
Guests were greeted, organizers and cooperating groups were thanked and the entrepreneurs were praised by THI Chairman and industrialist Andrew N. Liveris in his keynote address, THI Chairman and noted attorney George P. Stamas in his closing remarks, and the organization’s Executive Director, Peter Poulos, who shared Emcee duties with Athens-based Program Director Michael Printzos.
THI is contributing to the creation of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greece. The young Hellenic entrepreneurs represented by the 60 firms that have participated in Venture Fair thus far are a mix of descendents taking family businesses to new levels and worlds and pioneers building from the ground up.
The conversations of judges and guests brimmed with enthusiasm and contrastive criticism – which the youngsters welcomed – during the event’s valuable networking receptions.
The company that emerged as the 2019 winner is Beenova, whose “AI infused personalized platforms” for students are the leading edge of an education revolution.
The other top five firms included: Apiceuticals, whose methodology turns the output of bees into skincare products that neutralize free radicals, Centaur, whose cutting edge food monitors tackle waste in the food supply chain, and Excellon, whose products aim to disrupt the banking industry and empower consumers and businesses. Someyea seeks to help solve the world’s looming protein shortage through algae-generated animal feed supplements.
The remaining firms are also promising and have inspiring stories.
With Inomo, Vivian Parashou has taken her family-firm experience in fiberglass products and created a firm that creates high-end innovative furniture sought by architects and the hotel industry.
Deliverback, according to George Zachartzis, “will change the way lost and found is handled in hotels. Every day, 8 million people check out and 50,000 leave something behind;” he says its solutions are win/wins for hotels and guests.
Massive Grid helps protect companies’ IT infrastructures, and Xtapod assists IT firms recruit and retain top IT talent, especially in Athens, whose international reputation has grown by leaps and bounds. Quanta & Qualia seeks “to lead in the technology field by bridging the invisible and the visible through its products.”
PD Neurotechnology reflects the strong presence of Greeks in the biomedical field. Their “innovative medical device and a sophisticated expert system” that supports physicians in monitoring patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease” through lightweight monitoring devices patients wear on different parts of their bodies” have impressed investors and major medical institutions. Its ‘glove’ that tracks vital finger movement is fascinating.
Venture Garden also included an informative talk about the challenges and opportunities for Greece’s economic development led by Marcos Veremis and Nicholas Papapolitis. Kurt Heiar, the serial entrepreneur affiliated with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, addressed the gathering and expressed his enthusiasm for the young Greek entrepreneurs he meets and works with.
All participants displayed balanced doses of optimism and realism. The most heartening message is that Greeks, especially the younger generation, are finally mastering the vital skill of collaborating and working together and appreciating the power of creating great teams. Over the years the presentation skills of participants have also improved dramatically.
Attorney Elina Paraskevopoulou, who helps Diaspora members navigate the Greek environment, spotlighted some plusses and minuses. While the long awaited “one stop shop” for startups has finally arrived, she said, the process of collecting the necessary documents before making that stop can still be a nightmare – but law firms can help.
One of the judges was Cleo Lymberis, Investor Relations Director of Mytilineos, SA. She moved to Greece in 2001 after growing up in New York and was introduced to THI by her sister Dr. Stella Lymberis. “It was very gratifying and inspiring to see the level of talent that exists here. The entrepreneurship community is thriving,” she said, adding that with help of the Diaspora, there will be many success stories.
Artemis Kohas, who works with THI and is an entrepreneur herself, in the mastiha trade, told TNH “this is my first Venture Fair and I am excited to see the teams pitch and the people who want to see them succeed and create many jobs in Greece.”
According to thehellenicinitiative.com, THI is “a global movement of the Greek Diaspora. Our Mission: Investing in the future of Greece through direct philanthropy and economic revitalization…We empower people to provide crisis relief, encourage entrepreneurs, and create jobs.” Since 2010 it has distributed or committed $8.7 for economic and entrepreneurial development.