“This is a our Great Depression. Not only in an economic sense, but also in a psychological sense. Greeks are in a catatonic state. One moment, in a state of rage, another, this is a typical case of manic depression. There are no prospects. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Reading that doesn’t give you much hope. Well, personally I think there is a small sliver of hope in Greece and it has nothing to do with the European Union, the banks or economists - call me naive. There is a small group of people working feverishly to build a strong, dynamic, motivated and high-impact startup eco-system in Greece. If anything is going to save the country, it’s this band of talented and intelligent individuals who aren’t sitting around in a “catatonic state” but simply getting on with the business of creation - creating sustainable businesses which can only be good for the overall economic situation in the country.
I’ve been to Athens twice in the past four months, both during quite unstable periods. First time, back in February, I attended Startup Weekend where the image I left with was quite a powerful one - Athens Startup vs. Athens BurnUp
While people outside were wreaking havoc, over 100 young and determined entrepreneurs spent the entire, rather beautiful weekend, inside creating companies. The quality of the event and the teams was phenomenal. As a result of Startup Weekend and my visit, we invited two very promising startups (USEUM and Radiojar) from Greece to Pitch in Berlin during Build 0.9 and another (Babelverse) was selected as a finalist. Three Greek startups!
This last time, I went to TedXAthens Salon. I was invited by our Referrer in Athens, Dimitris Kalavros, along with others from the HackFwd community including our Board Member Michael Jackson and another Referrer, Alex Barrera. Needless to say, HackFwd was well represented - but that’s not the point. Just one day after the forming of a new government, over 200 ambitious young Greeks came out in force to learn more about entrepreneurship and founding companies. The talks were excellent as was the networking with some obviously intelligent entrepreneurs. Keep an eye on the TEDxAthens Twitter account for the talks which will be published soon.
Left to Right: Michael Jackson, David Bizer, Dimitris Kalavros, Alex Barerra, Jess Erickson
While we weren’t attending the event, Dimitris and his team kept us busy meeting startups. Apparently there was so much interest to meet with us, some startups had to be turned away. The quality of the founders I met was outstanding. Regardless of what’s happening outside on the political and economic fronts, these entrepreneurs have one focus - building great products with excellent teams and making a difference.
It might seem like an odd place to respect at the moment, but I see great things coming out of this crisis. Some of the most exciting and successful companies in the world have been built in times of crisis. There is no reason why the next great startup won’t be Greek.
- David Bizer, Talent Geek