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Note from Editors:

Nineteen companies participated in Greece’s first Fair. This gives hope for the future of entrepreneurship in the country.

by Despina Trivoli

A day before the Greek government announced the referendum and four days before it imposed controls, the first-ever venture fair was held in Greece. After five years of a crippling recession, the Greek economy was on the road to recovery for the first time this year with a forecast of 3 percent GDP growth. However the past few months have seen the Greek economy take a turn for the worse: after a disastrous standoff with its international creditors and the imposition of capital controls, the GDP is now expected to drop by -3 percent to 2.5 percent, and the “real” economy has nosedived bringing enormous setbacks to businesses, particularly SME’s which are effectively isolated and unable to pay their international suppliers. At a time when the whole notion of entrepreneurship in Greece was being tested, this venture fair was seen as a ray of hope and a chance for people to meet potential investors from all over the world.

The fair was hosted by The Hellenic Initiative, an international movement run by members of the Greek diaspora, that seeks to bolster Greek entrepreneurship. Over the past few years, the group has promoted various charitable activities — but most importantly economic recovery initiatives which have — understandably — often been neglected as crisis relief became the center of most charitable activities in Greece.

The event, which more than 100 European and American investors attended, took place behind closed doors at the Hilton Athens at the end of June. The notion that Greece is not the most hospitable environment for business is most likely taken as fact by now. As Achilles Konstantakopoulos, chairman and CEO of ΤEMES, noted in his brief introduction speech: “Greeks have to face bureaucracy as well as the market.”

George Stamas, the co-founder of The Hellenic Initiative, explained in his own speech how the venture fair coincides with “some of the hardest times that Greece has faced to this day.”

During the event, 19 up-and-coming Greek companies had the opportunity to present their businesses. Each had five minutes. After the presentations, the judges’ panel, which consisted of experienced business executives (often Greeks of the diaspora themselves) from around the world, provided feedback, observations, and advice to the participants.

There was a wide array of participating businesses — from agriculture to tourism, transport, to logistics and shipping.



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