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Capital Link Forum: Entrepreneurs’ Success Stories and Hellinikon Project

NEW YORK – The 22nd Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum: Greece – Looking Ahead with Confidence was held virtually on Dec. 15-16. The event highlighted many subjects of interest, including entrepreneurs’ success stories and the progress on the Hellinikon project.

Jimmy Athanasopoulos, Chair – Envolve Entrepreneurship and Libra Greece Representative – Libra Social Responsibility Libra Group, said, “Greece’s start-up environment has since entered a new phase of maturity with a growing number of investors offering their backing and support to local innovation. Local government is also tapping into innovation to address urban challenges, setting up social cooperatives and clusters, while opening the door to more funding and support. Efforts are being made to involve and evolve universities, government agencies, large companies, and other bodies to further develop Greece’s start-up scene, which is projected to achieve rapid development by 2022.”

Athanasopoulos noted that “in the new environment, Greek startups will have funding opportunities to empower their teams and support their missions and visions. We have seen some highly promising deals the last years and we will undoubtedly see more in the years to come.”

Apostolos Apostolakis, Partner – Venture Friends, said in the Greek Success Stories Attracting International Investors discussion, “In the last 4-5 years the Greek tech ecosystem has greatly evolved, and that evolution is expected to accelerate. Five years ago, one could name only a few startups, such as Beat, Workable or Upstream, that had started from Greece and managed to attract significant capital or scale internationally.”

He continued, “The situation has changed significantly for the better. We now have companies like Instashop, Skroutz, Epignosis, Blueground, e-food, Netdata, Softomotive, Persado that have been acquired or had attracted significant capital from global investors. This development came as an effect of three key ingredients: More ambitious founders were eager to create large companies, a high caliber talent pool that Greece which had always available, and finally then there was more capital available.”

Apostolakis added that “the new success stories create a reinforcing cycle that will further support the growth of the ecosystem. We now have many role models to inspire new founders to undertake the tech entrepreneurship route. Being a successful tech entrepreneur from Greece is not an isolated phenomenon anymore. We now have more than 20 founders who have had liquidity events or are leading global scale ups with presence in Greece.”

“We are more optimistic than ever about where the tech ecosystem in Greece is heading,” Apostolakis concluded.

Concerning the Hellinikon project, Yannis Kourniotis, Partner in Lambadarios Law firm, said, “The Greek government aspires to turn the old airport site at Hellinikon into a Monaco-like magnet for wealthy entrepreneurs and businesses from abroad, as well as for tourists and pensioners permanently relocating to Greece.”

He continued, “The development of the first Integrated Resort Casino (IRC) in Greece and further afield will be pivotal for the success and the viability of the overall Hellinikon project.

“Inspire Athens, a consortium between Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, a global gaming and entertainment leader and GEK-Terna, a local infrastructure leader, being currently the preferred bidder of the tender for the development of the IRC, expects that its plans will yield profits not only to the business partners but also to Greece, both in the short and the long term, Kourniotis said, adding that “Inspire Athens will be a 24/7 destination, the like of which does not yet exist in Europe. It will incorporate a luxury hotel, entertainment venues, convention center, shopping, restaurants, bars, casino and a comprehensive mix of premium amenities. It is expected to create 7,000 new jobs and increase tourism traffic in Athens by as much as 10% a year. The IRC in Hellinikon will be ready within 36 months, assuming that all permits and licenses will be in place, something which should not be considered as an easy task.”

Mario Kontomerkos, Chief Executive Officer of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment said, “I will start with a saying that we have here in the U.S. and I am sure it is being translated around the world. For a project of this size, when you want to bring something up and raise something up from the ground, we often say 'it takes a village.' For a project of this size and scale, and I am talking about something that is going to exceed 1 billion Euros, in our minds the only path to success is by joining forces and engaging with all the stakeholders who are involved. Because a project of this size impacts so many different stakeholders in the Greek community: it impacts the Greek state; the Greek private sector, like construction, banking, technology, and professional services companies. And it is in that spirit of cooperation, that this village will come together and even though it is an enormous undertaking, we believe that we will bring this to bear and we cannot wait to get started in Athens.”

Kontomerkos expressed his optimism by saying the Hellinikon Project is “an unbelievable opportunity to demonstrate not only to Greece but to the rest of the world and foreign investors, who are watching, the example by which the Greek community and foreign investors can work together as a village to create something of this size and scale.”

More information is available online: http://forums.capitallink.com/greece/2020/.


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