There’s a buzz around Greek startups. Well, the whole country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to be precise.
Fresh waves of investment capital such as the Equifund are heading the country’s way, and the next five to seven years are set to be exciting for aspiring founders, entrepreneurs and investors alike.
And while there’s no doubt in order to succeed, you need more than money. Greek startups need daring, maverick entrepreneurs. But they also need thoughtful, innovative, risk-taking investors. You know, the ones who look beyond the confines of the local market.
Exciting times for Greek startups
And there’s no doubt that the National Bank of Greece (NBG) falls into to the latter category. Having recently launched the 9th edition of it’s NBG Business Seeds startup competition, it continues to encourage great opportunities for visibility and funding from key stakeholders and funds within the Greek ecosystem.
Applications are now open for competition, and you have until Monday 8 October 2018 at 15.00 to submit your proposal for consideration.
The contest aims to encouraging innovation and youth entrepreneurship, as well as to highlight and reward original ideas that will contribute to the development of innovative systems and applications based on the following criteria:
- new technologies
- the integration of the environmental dimension into the design of products and services
- the deployment of new information and communication technologies
- and more generally to promote innovation in Greece
A “startup within a bank”
We caught up with program coordinator of NBG Business Seeds, Spyros Arsenis, for a brief chat about all things Greek startups.
Q1: This is the ninth NBG Business Seeds competition, how would you describe its evolution from the first year up to now? And what has been the highlight so far?
SA: It would not be far from the truth to say that the Competition’s progress (nbg.gr/competition) reflects the progress of the Greek innovation ecosystem. Some of the best known Greek start-ups, such as PollFish, E-table, DoctorAnyTime, Intale, Wifins, Nannuka, Insibyo, and Giaola, have participated in the Competition and achieved distinctions.
With an average annual participation of 400-450 innovative ideas, the Competition has grown into one of the most important of the innovation ecosystem. Offering promotion and funding opportunities to the teams that take part.
We launched the Competition 9 years ago and, gradually, we built up a comprehensive program designed to support innovative entrepreneurship (nbg.gr/nbgseeds) at the pre-seed, seed and growth levels. Backed by funding, mentoring, networking and promoting actions. Blueground was among the first start-ups the program financed and we are especially proud of its excellent progress.
Furthermore, as part of its overall strategy to support the Greek innovation ecosystem and development of related ecosystems, NBG is participating as private investor in 4 out of 9 new funds of Equifund, in its innovation and early stage financing programs.
Q2: What are your expectations and plans for the near- and long-term future of the project?
SA: Through the NBG Business Seeds program we have created new structures-points of services for startups and innovative SMEs and new products. Structures for receiving startups are already up and running in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and Heraklion. Our staff who is running the points of service have participated in the previous NBG Business Seeds actions and fully understand the needs of innovative entrepreneurship. In addition, we created a financial product package, which provides solutions at very attractive prices for e-commerce, working capital and all other banking operations. The Crowdfunding platform — a financing tool expected to offer capital up to €500,000 — will soon be launched.
Q3: What are your expectations regarding the Greek startup ecosystem? There is a lot of investment heading our way and this is an opportunity that we simply cannot afford to waste. What do you feel are the benefits and dangers of having “too much money” injected?
SA: It is, indeed, an amazing opportunity. We’re confident that by the end of the five-year period there is going to be a number of successful start-ups. And, most important, a number of successful entrepreneurs participating as angel investors in the innovation ecosystem. And numerous executives with substantial international experience in managing start-ups, as well as sales and marketing. A corporate culture of understanding for financial management and best use of financial tools will be created.
Q4: What are the main industries which NBG Business Seeds target their investments in, and what do you think is the secret of success for fledgling Greek startups? i.e. aiming straight away at a global market, or starting local?
SA: We have already invested in 20 companies covering all sectors: ICT, biotech, agro, tourism, services, and transport. At the moment, we’re trying to strengthen tourism and agriculture, sectors which are crucial for the economy of our country.
We believe that, after the first round of successful financing, in tandem with successful business operations and increase in sales, companies should look for co-investors from abroad and staff their advisory board with members from all over the world, who will help with the company’s growth and the successful completion of the next rounds of financing.
Q5: What advice would you give to young Greek Entrepreneurs with plans to create a digital business? And what is your advice to fellow investors about why they should invest in Greek startups?
Investors do not care about nationalities. They care about sustainability and profit.
As for the early stage Greek Entrepreneurs, we propose the following:
- Create a good team. Do not underestimate marketing, sales and finance.
- Be an active member of the start-up ecosystem to benefit from networking and updating.
- Try your idea in real market conditions, and try within three months to have the first users / clients.
- Start on a small scale (one place, friends, university, city). And expand your business activities slowly so you can realize your mistakes and correct them.
- If you’re at an early stage, submit your proposal to multiple competitions in Greece and abroad to win promotion and prizes.
- Endeavor to secure profitability; even an NGO needs revenues to ensure its continuity.
- Choose carefully your investors giving priority to those who will help you develop your company and achieve your next funding.