- July 29, 2022
- Posted by: EBAN Team
- Category: News, Uncategorized
The First Greek Unicorn
‘Cutting edge technology, unprecedented agility, and in-depth knowledge’ was how Haris Karonis, CEO & co-founder of Viva Wallet described his Athens-based company earlier this year.
He made the comments after JP Morgan confirmed they would purchase a 49 percent stake in the company, with reports indicating the US bank was willing to pay close to $1 billion, making Viva Wallet Greece’s first tech unicorn. It was a big story that got noticed by investors around the world, but for those watching closely the emergence of Greece’s first unicorn is emblematic of a bigger development taking place – both in Greece’s startup ecosystem and its economy more broadly.
Greek Startup Success Stories
For the ‘in-depth knowledge’ you could also talk about Skroutz for example, launched in 2005 and scaled up by its founders without VC funding to become known as the “Greek Amazon”. For ‘cutting edge technology’ you might have been talking about Greek hailing app Taxibeat, bought up by Daimler in 2017. Last year Greek prop-tech startup Blueground, founded in 2013, proved its agility by raising $140 million, with Bloomberg reporting its value at $750 million. Overall Greek startups raised over half a billion euros last year, triple the previous year.
So the question is not ‘will there be another Greek tech unicorn’, it’s not even ‘when’, because it will likely be soon. The real questions are ‘who next’ and ‘how many’, because the upwards pressure from innovative startups in the ecosystem is breaking through. If you need any more proof of this you only need to look at some of the companies pitching at this year’s Hellenic International Business Angels Summit, taking place in Athens as I write this very article. The event pulls together business angels, VC funds, policymakers, entrepreneurs, accelerators, seed funds, and startups from all over Europe and beyond. If you’re lucky enough to be there you might run into the founders of ResNovae PC, an automated, cloud-based ESG management platform, or of car-sharing app Caroo, or Athletopia, providing tech solutions to deliver running events.
The Greek Ecosystem
The vibrancy of the ecosystem in Greece and the potential of the broader economy have also been noticed by big-tech and other corporations like Amazon, Cisco, Microsoft and Volkswagen. In fact, Foreign Direct Investment in Greece soared in Q1 of 2022 by almost 214 percent compared to the same period in 2021, reaching more than €3 billion in value. Exports also leaped by 31 percent in the same quarter, compared to the previous year, hitting almost €16 billion in value.
When Amazon Web Services’ Vice President Michael Punke announced his company’s intention to launch new infrastructure in Greece last year he said it was because of “the change seen in the Greek economy compared to the previous decade”. He was talking about the story of transformation that has seen the country make bold choices to digitise, re-make, and open the economy to create the environment for innovation to thrive. It was not easy. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Greece has had to grow through adversity into the stable, resilient nation with an exciting future that it is today.
But marks of that transformation can be seen everywhere. Even amidst the pandemic, Greece has had six consecutive quarters of growth, with output having now returned to its pre-pandemic level, and growth of 8.3 percent in 2021. Earlier this year Greece paid off its entire debt from the financial crisis to the International Monetary Fund two years ahead of schedule, and the EU is in the process of releasing Greece from the financial stabilisers that were placed on the country as a result of the crisis.
What the Future Holds
Another signpost towards our country’s promising future is the arrival next year of the EBAN Athens Annual Congress 2023, after another successful edition in Cork in 2022. During this year’s event Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney called it “one of the most significant business angel opportunities anywhere in the world”. I couldn’t agree more.
This most recognized of international business angel events will come to Greece for three days in April, with the brightest and best in tech coming from across the globe. When people arrive in Athens, of course they will find a city with a glorious history of over 3400 years, but alongside that they will also find a cosmopolitan, modern city, full of life, full of promise, and full of opportunity.
You can pre-register for the EBAN Athens Annual Congress here!