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Politics

Hellenic Initiative Hosts First Venture Fair in Athens; Greek-Americans Active

ATHENS – Amid a financial crisis and teeter totting business environment of crippling uncertainty, The
Hellenic Initiative (THI) has taken a leap for Greek entrepreneurship, hosting its first Venture Fair
at the Hilton Athens, June 24.
Following THI’s 2015 Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards celebration June 22, the networking and pitching
event brought together a total of 19 promising early-stage businesses with an audience of more than 100 potential investors representing the U.S. and Europe.
Each company had five minutes to pitch their plans before the investment community, which included,
among others, businessmen C. Dean Metropoulos and John P. Calamos, Sr. The participating groups then
received feedback on their presentations by a judging panel, comprised of experienced business
professionals.
Considering that the economic crisis in Greece has made it extremely difficult for entrepreneurs to ge
t the critical funding they need to take their companies to the next level, the Venture Fair’s goals are to
“drive growth, create jobs, and empower the future of Greece.”
A global movement of the Hellenic diaspora established in 2012, THI aims to provide a safety net for crisis-
stricken at-risk communities, as well as offer mentoring and monetary support for entrepreneurship and
new Greek businesses.
“We have a constellation of programs…so far, we have helped over 100 companies kick off in a period of
18 months,” THI Program Director Michael Printzos said of the initiative’s various pro-business activities.
Participation in the Venture Fair included a THI-sponsored comprehensive training for all companies,
through the Venture Garden program in Athens at ALBA, and Thessaloniki at Anatolia College. Mentor for
the teams was Kurt Heiar, of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa.
“The feedback we got from the presenting teams was amazing,” Printzos said. “They have acquired a new
skillset that they can use in the future,” he added.
The young founders and team members behind early stage and startup companies presenting that
evening represented a number of emerging business industries including health care, web development,
and logistics.
Born and raised in Holland where she studied supply chain management, Roxane Koutsoloukas decided to
move back to Greece to discover her roots about three and a half years ago. Working in Greece, she
identified inefficiency in the fragmented transport market, and decided to launch her new business
JoinCargo (joincargo.gr), an online shipping platform whose mission is to increase productivity in the
bulktransport industry.
“Greece is the perfect place to kick off with JoinCargo, because a crisis calls for innovation,” she said.
Representing the world of healthcare at the Venture Fair was Evangelos Pappas, professor of medical
physics and founder of RT Safe (rt-safe.com), a medical technology company that has developed a new
approach to quality assurance, significantly enhancing the safety and accuracy of radiotherapy for can
cerand other medical conditions.
“We are offering the global market an innovative solution that ensures safety, and right now we are
starting to have our first revenues,” Pappas said.
And though the company will soon be based in the UK with a legal entity in the US to ensure the business’s security while the Greek government decides which cards to play with the EU, Pappas asserted that RT Safety’s research and development will always be carried out in Greece.
“Potential investors need contracts to be done in a more stable environment,” he said. “Our Greek offices and labs are already producing our products and we are going to continue research and development here,” he added.
A recipient of last year’s Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award, a joint THI and Libra Group effort, Pappas
said he is grateful to be part of a privileged group of young businesspeople. “We are honored and proud of
this support from the Libra Group. It’s a safety net for us,” he said.
What the teams took from the first THI Venture Fair were mentorship, training, and exposure to potenti
al investment.
“The venture fair gave me the opportunity to fine tune my pitch, which gives great handles to present
JoinCargo to the target audience, like investors and customers,” Koutsoloukas said. “The enthusiasm and
support of the investors give energy to take JoinCargo to the next level, and we are in discussion to
come to a fruitful collaboration,” she added.
As for how the economic and political situation is affecting these budding companies, Pappas expressed
his concern, but said he believes in the country and wants to stay.
“It is strange and unsecure,” he said of the current situation of heightened unease in Greece. Still,
he has not lost hope for a better tomorrow. “Right now we cannot import our raw materials with which we can
produce our products, but at the end of the day, there is only one thing for sure…that we will stay her
e and everything that is new will be born in Greece.
We will do our best for developing new products to help the cancer patient society,” he added.
With times so tough, and spare funding difficult to come by, the livelihood of some of these companies
hangs by a string. But the folks at THI believe the Venture Fair has a future, and can offer serious
assistance.
“We’re thinking that if the whole situation in Greece allows, we will repeat the event in a year’s tim
e,”Printzos said.

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