ATHENS – The Hellenic Initiative (THI) announced the winners of The 2021 Venture Impact Awards (VIA) on December 13. The virtual event presented one of THI’s newest programs, which the organization notes provides “help and support to Greece’s brightest and most talented teams”- for-profits and not-for-profits – “helping them create ventures and projects that are scalable and sustainable,” businesses that create jobs. This year, 18 entities were awarded a total of $285,000. VIA was founded with the initial support of Helidoni Foundation Inc. and The Charles C. Condes Trust and this year George Antonopoulos of Connecticut joined as a sponsor.
The cohosts, Marianna Skylakakis and Yiannis Moutsos, first introduced Michael Printzos, THI’s Director of Programming. While he hopes for a ‘live event’ next year, he called the event a “very special moment for this online community to celebrate the success of our much-anticipated project … with $285,000 of direct funding” – which rose from last year’s $250,000 – “awarded to this year’s teams as a sign of recognition of their hard work and impact on the ground.” He thanked all the applicants and the donors – as well as the THI Board members and staffers “who have supported the idea from Day 1… and our judges, who had an extremely difficult task trying to select the best teams out of the 176 applications.”
Moutsos then invited the sponsors to share their thoughts about the program.
Dimitri Georgakopoulos, President of the Helidoni Foundation, expressed how delighted he is that the idea he discussed two years ago with THI about promoting “purposeful innovation” has become a reality embraced by the Hellenic Diaspora.
Hariette Condes Zervakis explained that her uncle, the late Charles C. Condes, distinguished civil engineer and philanthropist from Chicago, was very concerned about Greece’s brain drain. A proud Hellene, Condes, Zervakis said, today would have jointly celebrated both Greece’s Bicentennial and “the winners of the Venture Impact Awards who are going to be taking us into the next 200 years. What would I like say to them tonight? Thank you for giving us confidence in the future of Greece and Hellenism, and congratulations!”
Peter Zervakis, Condes’ Great Nephew, added a video message saying of the winners, “I want to congratulate them all and encourage them to innovate and improve.”
Skylakakis introduced THI Board Member Jeremy Downward, who presented a message from this years’ judges: “We have seen a large numerical jump in applications that were made… we were amazed by the quality, the vison, creativity, and focus of this very broad number of applications. There were not any without worth or that were discarded…the work of getting to the short list was complicated.”
Before introducing the people representing each of the winners Skylakakis said, “we encourage you to find out more about the fascinating stories and people behind these Greek successes through their website and social media” and at Thehelleniciniative.org.
The $10,000-level winners included: Nosilia Association, Organization Earth, Odyssea, Epanekkinisis, and Aegean Sails. The winners at the $15,000 level include: Women on Top, Humane, Citycrop, Lia, Inaccel, The Greek Online School, EV Loader, Dentica, and AidPlex.
Dogs Voice, MindSpace, SciCo, and Moptil won the $25,000 grants.
There was also a live interview with 2020 winner Melina Taprantzi, founder of Wise Greece, whose goal is “to make sure nobody goes to bed hungry.” She praised the 2021 winners, saying “they are very talented people. They had to adapt to so many crises – so they are crisis experts… if they can adapt to whatever they find in front of them – and trust me, every year will be different from the previous year – then they will be successful and they will use the amount they got today in the best possible way.”
Closing remarks were offered by Peter Poulos, THI’s Executive Director, who said, “this left me feeling hopeful for the future of Greece and I’m sure everyone watching felt the same way. What an incredible group of teams and ideas and brainpower!” He thanked the hosts, sponsors, judges, and the entire THI team, including Printzos, whom he said “deserves much of the credit for creating this event.” In closing he offered congratulations to all 176 teams that applied, saying, “our only regret is that we were not able to support all of them.”