ATHENS – On the grounds of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (ASCSA) near the city centre, The Hellenic Initiative (THI) launched its Connect the Dots online mentoring portal on September 21.
Established with the support of the U.S. Embassy and under the auspices of the Greece 2021 Committee for the celebration of the Greek Bicentennial, the program meaningfully connects successful Diaspora Hellenes from all fields and talented up and coming people in Greece.
Two program participants shared their inspiring stories. Vivianna Karamanis Tziotis, a Greek-American living in Greece, the founder of Hellenic Farms, purveyors of fine Greek products to America, is a mentor. Having not received help with her own start up, she wanted to give back after her success by ‘being there’ with guidance and moral support for young entrepreneurs.
Mentee Stratis Andreadis is President of Salty Bags, a Corfu-based firm that transforms used boating sails from waste into wonderful ladies handbags, travel good, and homeware – a pioneer in the emerging circular economy in Greece. “Connect the Dots took the ideas we had and put them into conversations with the right people who helped us turn our ideas into reality. Thank you very much for that,” he said.
THI Program Director Michael Printzos was the Emcee, introducing U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the Greece 2021 Committee, and acknowledging Dr. Christos Dimas, Deputy Minister at the Greek Ministry of Development and Investments.
Pyatt highlighted the dynamism of U.S.-Greece cooperation,” which includes public and private initiatives. “In the past year we have seen major American investments in Greece’s knowledge-based economy – flagship companies… have made major commitments to growing their footprints here in Greece, a reflection of the talent and potential they seen in this country,” he said.
Talent that will directly benefit from Connect the Dots.
Pyatt also spotlighted the Science and Technology Agreement signed by Greece and the United States in 2020 that “will help to enhance collaboration between our labs and research institutions….strengthening Greece’s Start Up ecosystem, and promoting investment.”
After declaring, “I am especially glad we are … in the beautiful garden of the ASCSA, one of the true gems of the U.S.-Greece people to people relationship,” Pyatt said that “tonight we are launching the Connect the Dots online platform, to enable more Greek entrepreneurs to take advantage of mentorship opportunities with the best and brightest of the Greek-American community. Our collaboration with THI demonstrates how the Greek Diaspora puts our shared values into practice, serving as a true force multiplier for the U.S.-Greece relationship.”
Ambassador Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said Connect the Dots “has a special place in the Bicentennial anniversary program as it embodies the spirit of the future and the past at the same time… It aims at generating interaction between successful Diaspora entrepreneurs looking for an ongoing connection with the…homeland with promising startups in Greece.”
Pyatt, echoing her remarks, said the Bicentennial events the U.S. Embassy participated in “this year – are an opportunity to reflect on Greece’s past and look towards a promising future. It’s a chance to recommit to the values that Greeks and Americans share: our passion for democracy, equality… but also our shared spirit of innovation, our creativity and entrepreneurial DNA that connects our peoples.”
Printzos highlighted THI’s efforts in Greece in response to the economic crisis by noting, “we have invested over $17 million in direct crisis relief and economic development. All that money helped feed, house, clothe, and care for hundreds of thousands of Greeks, and at the same time allowed people to grow their businesses, create jobs and expand their ventures.”
He added, however, that “the potential of the Greek Diaspora can’t be measured only in dollar terms” – the treasure trove of the talent of Hellenes abroad is priceless. The question is, Printzos said, “how to we tap into this immense know how…how do we bring the two worlds together?” The answer is: Project Connect the Dots, and his exclamation point was to urge Dispora Hellenes to contact THI and participate in the program.
On behalf of THI’s Executive Director Peter Poulos and is staff, Printzos thanked, “the teams of the U.S. Embassy in Greece, and the 2021 Committee, without whom this program wouldn’t have been realized.”