In my last post I talked extensively about How we are Trying to Create an Ecosystem of Startups in Leicester. When I came to Greece a few weeks ago, I was hoping that I could help to the creation of a similar ecosystem also in Athens. After several meetings I had with many members of the community, I am inclined to believe that such an ecosystem is impossible.
Athens and its surrounding is a large metropolis of around 5.000.000 people. In a country where Greek Entrepreneurship has been suppressed for the past thirty years, Athens has no more than 5.000-6.000 startups. It is heartbreaking to see our brightest unemployed, or worse, in public sector jobs, where creativity is undermined and innovation is non-existent. Athenians are certainly not leading startup renaissance, although I seriously hope this will change in the years to come.
There have been some notable recent attempts to drive the startup scene to the right direction. Among them I would like to mention funding through the OpenFund, Iqbility, Odyssey Ventures, and a few co-working spaces among which found.ation and colab are the most prominent. How far can these attempts take us in the creation of an ecosystem?
Not far, indeed. These may be commendable efforts but they seem to be isolated activities that sometimes do not meet everyone’s approval; not that such approval is always necessary. In any case, I have not seen any elements of collaboration between the different organisations at a level that would ensure the creation of an ecosystem.
So, what needs to be done? I think that the first step is to announce a meeting between the leaders of all of these organisations. There is no point in communicating through emails or during conferences or networking meetings. It is time for the leaders of the startup community to sit around one table and start talking about their vision. They do not have to agree in everything but they do need to have the same grand vision and to collaborate for its implementation.
The other basic element is the willingness to welcome new activities, ventures, ideas. No individual, organisation or government can become the guardian or driver of an ecosystem. The community should be open to accept new members and to allow them to take action, even if their targets are not necessarily in alignment with the older members’ ideas.
Once the process starts, once the collaboration is ensured and the basic elements of the grand vision are in place, then we should expect fireworks to happen in a very short period of time.
However, I am still very concerned about the isolated efforts. They seem like a drop in the very large ocean that is called Athens. I promise to remain hopeful for the future and I intend to pay close attention to any positive developments.