“We need to give way to young people and help them flourish”. These were Prof. Iordanis Ladopoulos’ words during one of our Q&A sessions. He and his partner D. Skourtas paid us a visit a few weeks ago. We all enjoyed a brief presentation on Panorama of Entrepreneurship and career development. It’s the largest youth entrepreneurship and career orientation conference they’ve been organizing for the last ten years.
How it all started
The idea was put forth by D. Skourtas who had studied under Prof. Ladopoulos at the AUEB. And he got the chance, as his student, to participate in company visits organized by his former professor.
Their vision was to organize a broad-scope conference that would help young people — not only AUEB students, but also young students coming from all Greek universities, no matter their background — get all the information they need to follow a career path that matches with their profile.
And so, they did. They organized the first Panorama of entrepreneurship and career development in 2008 at Zappeio, with great success. Companies, business executives, startupers, researchers, professionals that specialize in a wide range of domains were on board, to offer young Greeks a three-day multi-conference.
Ever since, almost every year, young Greeks attend this conference and get the chance to broaden their horizons on entrepreneurship and career development issues.
The 10th Panorama of entrepreneurship is loading
This year they celebrate ten successful years in offering employment opportunities for young people. And we are honored to be invited to this wonderful event. The conference will take place on March 13-15, at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro Mousikis). [postponed]
We’re more than grateful for their kind invitation. And we plan to take part at round-table discussions — as part of the parallel events take place during the conference. Members of our portfolio startups and our Lean Acceleration team will be presenting how we work at Starttech Ventures.
Once again, the main objective is to inform young people about trends and opportunities in entrepreneurship and career development. And this year’s multi-conference will host guest speakers from nearly twenty different sectors of economy.
Apart from the main event, Prof. Ladopoulos and Mr. Skourtas offered some additional information regarding the Business days they organize throughout the year.
Business days offer young people the opportunity to visit large organizations, factories and companies. These educational visits offer them a great opportunity to familiarize themselves with companies they aspire to work with.
Each visit lasts 5-8 hours and participants get that chance to get some insider information on how each of these companies operates. During these educational visits they will usually enjoy a short tour throughout the premises. They may also attend educational workshops and even discuss operational processes in detail with employees, over dinner.
As Mr. Skourtas shared with us: “We advise participants to be energetic, to make an effort to stand out and, if they finally liked what they saw, then they are encouraged to make an attempt to get hired.”
The feedback they get is that many of the business days’ attendees have been hired from the respective companies.
“The first year we had organized 13 business days. Last year we had 41 business days. It’s encouraging that more and more companies give us access to their offices each year”, said Mr. Skourtas.
As for their future plans regarding this initiative, they mentioned they have already visited big companies such as Oracle. And they are now attempting to extend their business days to established companies that started their life using the startup model.
During our Q&A, we also got the chance to get some early information on an additional initiative that is in the works; one that is closer to what we do.
As Prof. Ladopoulos and Mr. Skourtas explained it’s about a well-structured short-term program for young people who aim to start their own startup.
“Most of the time, aspiring startups have the passion but lack knowledge, as they usually don’t know their way around selling their products”, said Mr. Skourtas. And we couldn’t agree more on that.
This is what they shared: “With our short bootcamp that will last 3-5 weeks, we plan to help a group of almost 20 young people on building their startup. Experts will guide them go through the whole process from ideation to validation and to build their business plan almost what you as Starttech offer to your portfolio companies.”
They’ve done this one before. And they’re planning to further extend it. “This time, we’re going to make it part-time – preferably evening hours and weekends – to help, this way, young people who already work in companies or startups attend our program.”
For that reason, they have invited startupers, academics and people from companies to help them in this endeavor. And they’ll be discussing the details on that during the upcoming 10th Panorama of Entrepreneurship and career development conference.
What’s really interesting regarding this initiative, is the fact that they hope they will receive applications not only from young aspiring entrepreneurs but also from existing ones. As they said: “We hope that some startups will sprout up from this initiative.”
At the end of the presentation, we got the chance to spur a brief discussion, as we usually do in our Q&As.
Do you get feedback on the success of your initiative? Do you use any metrics to measure its efficiency?
D. Skourtas: “Well, currently it’s difficult for us to measure our success in numbers. Companies might hire young people that have attended our business days in the past but it’s difficult for us to know about it.
We have not yet established a process to measure these hirings.
For example, there may be a young student that takes part in a business day of a company; and four years later s/he gets hired at that company. His/Her participation may have helped him/her on that. So, our contribution may not be immediate. Though it’s not yet measurable, it’s really important.
In addition, we’ve got examples of companies that have participated in our business days and, ever since, they make their hires – mostly on internships – from us.”
Q: Prof. Ladopoulos, you have been a professor for more than 30 years. Do you see signs of improvement in Greece, during these latest years?
Prof. Ladopoulos: “Well, without a doubt, ten years ago things were different. Today, all young Greeks are ‘European citizens’. They speak one or two foreign languages. In addition, many companies have already extended their headquarters in Greece. That means we have an exceptional workforce, but we lack the right ‘infrastructure’, in order to make the most out of it.
Back in the 80’s, I would invite professors from abroad to make presentations to our university. And the feedback I used to get was that here, in Greece, we have energy levels that beat all other countries. Indeed, they recognized the potential of the workforce available in a small country, such as ours.”
Centers of excellence
We’d like to end this posting about the Panorama of Entrepreneurship and career development, just the way we started it; with Prof. Ladopoulos’ promising words:
“I’ve been to many countries all over the world. And believe me, we’ve got ‘centers of excellence’. There’s another aspect of Greece; that of young people who create and make progress. I believe that young people in Greece have a lot to offer.”