The Greek Entrepreneurs Fighting the Financial Crisis

By Silicon Allee |

This is a guest blog post by Jessica Erickson of 6Wunderkinder, which has also been posted on their website.

We have all read the headlines. ‘The European Financial Crisis Turns Ugly’, ‘Worst Crisis Since the ‘30s”, ‘Europe Financial Crisis Deepens as Greek Government Teeters’. Let’s face it, in this era of globalization the economic landscape has taken a turn for the worse. Every day, we see mass protests and strikes splashed across TV screens and newspapers. But behind the disappointment, there are people who are working on changing the headlines.

There is an urgency for world leaders to meet and discuss how they will map out Europe’s recovery in a top-down process, but it’s not that often we hear about the individuals who want to make a change from the bottom up. The same individuals who have the potential to create the next Facebook, Google or Twitter. In this blog post, I want to share a compelling story of my three day experience working with an outstanding group of individuals. Where did this all take place? STARTup Live Athens.

Entrepreneurship 101

Let me begin by highlighting a group of people in Athens who are working on creating change and rehabilitating the economy through the promotion and support of young entrepreneurs. Konstantina Zoehrer (whom I had the pleasure to interview), Julian Sametinger and Moritz Plassnig brought together a group of 23 mentors and over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs over a three-day period at STARTup Live Athens. I know what you’re thinking: startup conferences and events are a dime a dozen. But this event was different for one simple reason: for the entire three days the crisis didn’t exist in everyone’s mind. Instead, the focus of the group was to kick start their companies and empower one another through brainstorming sessions. Some entrepreneurs began with a solid idea, half an idea, a concept, or even just sketched out thoughts for their businesses – but all were 100 percent focused on achieving a lot within a short period of time.

“Innovation, creativity and the vision to improve people’s lives is our team’s perspective on entrepreneurship.”

Mentee Vaggelis Rekkas, iMellon

So we rolled up our sleeves and for three days participants worked hard and gained experience in collaboration, ad-hoc leadership, decision-making and ideation. I was honored to serve as a mentor for a bright-eyed team of 10 and provided assistance in the creation of a detailed business model. When working with this group of entrepreneurs, I found myself inspired by their tenacity and determination to get things done. Many of them had been told that it would be difficult to create a company in Athens but this didn’t discourage them in the least bit. Instead they focused on examining their company, developing a new business model and validating the various ideas that were proposed at each stage of the process. So what was the end result? Our team’s ideas were put into action and presented as a final pitch to angel investors, industry leaders and Greek government officials. They received constructive feedback and were later rewarded with a prize from 1st Click that offered them free online marketing services, Facebook advertising and SEO consulting. I can only hope they will receive funding soon, perhaps HackFwd is already on it 😉 The whole experience embraced the environment of a budding startup and solidified what I enjoy so much about working for 6Wunderkinder.

“While the Greek government was resigning and working on rebuilding itself, everyone involved in this event took part in changing the status quo. There was a strong human connection which showed us that we can make things happen together. Even if the focus is on startups and business, these three days have reminded us that it will always be about people, and if we keep this in mind, change is possible.”

Lead Coordinator Konstantina Zoehrer, STARTupLive Athens

It’s clear that millions of people are hurting from the Greek financial crisis and feel powerless against the new economic and social challenges. But this particular group of entrepreneurs have set their fears aside and are playing an active role in rebuilding their communities through entrepreneurship. I could really feel the sense of urgency and passion for what they were doing on a personal level. Everyone realized they were in a true David and Goliath battle in terms of finding funding and the support they needed to jump start their company. However, this event really proved that by sharing knowledge and embracing the challenges we can really alleviate some of the uncertainty and work towards a resolution.

“This event put Athens on my map of European Start-up origins. I experienced a vast amount of creativity and software engineering capacity, and I see great opportunities for Greek-German co-founding stories.”

Mentor Tim Lagerpusch, Business Net Partners

Importance of Mentorship

Mentoring is something that every new entrepreneur needs when they are first building their company. Our angel investors Frank Thelen and Marc Sieberger from e42 Ventures have been with 6Wunderkinder every step of the way. They have years of experience and a skill set between them that has taken 6Wunderkinder to the next level. Without them we wouldn’t be as successful as we are right now.

I think we all have the ability to become mentors. It’s about tapping into your personal knowledge base and sharing your passion and expertise with others around you. There will always be a group of people interested in learning. In three short days, a great team of mentors were able to empower the local entrepreneurial community in Athens by sharing what they know. The experience was intensely fun, rewarding and really triggered creative thinking for every participant, including myself.

Who knows, it’s entirely possible that someday Athens will be considered a hub of tech and business innovation in Europe. If more European neighbors support one another on a grassroots level, change will only come faster. The world is more interconnected and complex than ever and it’s our responsibility to work together and rebuild a stable path towards recovery. The years to come will be challenging and of course our governments and financial institutions have the primary responsibility of repairing our global economy. However, we can play an integral role in fostering these necessary changes by getting engaged, strengthening our ties with neighboring countries and creating new jobs by embracing entrepreneurial spirit. Let’s make a change, from the bottom up.