NEW YORK – Entrepreneurship, investment, and new growth opportunities for young professionals and their firms in the context of globalization were the topics of a fascinating and timely recent panel discussion in Midtown Manhattan.
The event was hosted by GreekTech, a start-up organization created last August by Marios Nicolaou, to support start-ups from Greece and Cyprus that want to expand to the United States through New York. The panel was made up of three young entrepreneurs who have already taken the big step from Greece or Europe to America. Among them were John Papadakis, Pollfish Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Boloudakis, Founder of Kinems Inc., and Hector Kolonas, Founder of Included.co (not .com). Lia D'Alessandro moderated the debate.
GreekTech's goal is to empower companies interested in entering the U.S. market by providing extensive practical guidance, free office space, and direct access to an existing business network.
Nicolaou said to The National Herald, "We are a non-profit organization. Our goal is to give a choice to startups from Cyprus or Greece that want to come to America, and want to accelerate their journey through New York. We are not the pioneers. There are others such as Peter Polydor, with Accelerate Greece, and Marina Hatsopoulos, based in Boston. We want to strengthen this communication channel with twenty-five mentors of Greek origin. The purpose of today's event is for the three young entrepreneurs to talk about the experience of setting up and expanding their businesses.”
Boloudakis, founder of Kinems Inc., which has been operating in America for six years, told TNH, "Tonight is an opportunity to meet with other business people to discuss ideas and our businesses. I moved here from Greece, thanks to my business. As soon as we developed sufficient capital, we 'landed' in New York. It was a difficult decision but ultimately only your personal fears can prevent you from succeeding. Everything can be made easier, of course, with support and connections.”
Boloudakis explained that, unfortunately, when he was starting out, such a framework of support was not available in Greece.
It was emphasized that stories of successes by people who have expanded their businesses to the United States which help create a different collective experience and a climate of optimism do not easily reach the ears of other entrepreneurs.
The evening’s discussion ranged from the personal backgrounds of each entrepreneur to the history of their business to the challenges and the opportunities for expansion from Europe to the United States.
Panel participants shared advice and ideas and answered questions from attendees. The speakers seemed to agree that the essential ingredients for success include a good lawyer specializing in immigration, smart money, and the identification of angel investors who can provide startup capital in exchange for equity in the new venture.
Kolonas said, "It is important to remember that people who decide to help want to see you succeed, because success brings more success," for all.
Above all, and beyond the financial gain, the most essential component of a business's success is always the entrepreneur’s pursuit of personal happiness. "The road is more important than the destination. One has to find what it is that will make him happy when he is working late into the night,” said Boloudakis. More than one hundred and twenty people were present at the discussion; among them were the Consul of Greece in New York Lana Zochiou, the Head of the Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Greek Consulate Georgios Michailidis, attorney George Zapantis, attorney Tasos Pardalis and his wife, entrepreneur Maria Pardalis, Hellenic Professional Women President Maria Frantzis, and the President of the Cypriot Young Professionals Jovanna Tannousis.