On the heels of a record year of acquisitions (in the midst of a global pandemic), 2021 is looking already to be a promising year for Greek Tech. COVID-19 and its rolling lockdowns in Greece have spurred a long-jump of sorts into tech adoption. This jump has meant everyday use of e-commerce at home, the advent of new digital government services and an uptick in SaaS services at work. The health pandemic will also incidentally benefit Greek ventures in biopharma and medical tech with what’s looking to be sustained interest in their space.
But not all of these advancements have been born overnight. The network and spectrum auction for 5G were planned for years and came online in a number of Greek cities last December. There is also building momentum and interest in Greece becoming a regional hub for data and research. Lastly, this optimism is only as strong as the actions and voices of its players and events like Innovative Greeks that are fostering new networking opportunities between diaspora and resident Greeks. Looking for signs of why 2021 will be a turning point for Greek tech? You’ve come to the right place.
The onset of last year’s pandemic and lockdowns have put a squeeze on Greece’s digital latency and the catch-up is coming quick. A survey conducted by the Research Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA) in November 2019, found that “25% of Greeks now buy their groceries online, compared to less than 2% in 2019.” Seemingly overnight, supermarket chains like Sklavenitis had to launch their own online grocery shopping services and logistics for home deliveries, an effort that also involved partnering with food delivery startup eFood. Skroutz co-Founder & CEO, George Chatzigeorgiou, recognizes this need to upgrade the country’s “basic infrastructure for e-commerce” as a challenge but more importantly as an opportunity for first-movers and ambitious startups. Simultaneously, Trouva.com has helped merchants from outside of Greece in their online selling flow by offering an online marketplace for over 150 vendors, while Viva Wallet continues to expand its online payment processing efforts. Rolling lockdowns in the country have meant that every generation of consumer is now getting used to transacting online, in a shift in consumer behaviour that is expected to stretch beyond the end of the global pandemic.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is enabling telework at new levels and Greek startups in that space are seeing a rosy future. Talent management and recruiting platform Workable, AI-assisted revenue management by Wappier and international credit enabler Nova Credit are all serving international clients from teams based in Greece. Their innate advantage in having cost-competitive, ambitious and well-educated software developers and business professionals means that these startups can continue to launch on new markets with lower barriers, all while the world faces ongoing travel and migration restrictions.
Aristos Doxiadis, a Partner at Greek venture capital fund BigPi, recently noted that Greece is exceptionally well-positioned to take a leading role in the global biomedical field. He shared that as a “cross-disciplinary sector”, Greece is able to offer its talent, not just in software engineering, but its “chemists, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers,” and doctors too. In particular, he believes the country has a “distinct comparative advantage” in biomedical, notably with “medical devices, diagnostic kits, digital health services, [and] bioinformatics”.
Meanwhile, Vodafone’s acquisition of Greek Internet of Things specialist Innovus in 2012 is now being leveraged to build out an e-health research & development centre in Greece. The plan is to work on two IoT applications: Vodafone Remote Healthcare for quicker data exchange and medical consults, and Coolio to bring IoT devices to SMEs.
Advantis Medical Imaging is also tapping into the growing medical imaging software market, one that is expected to be worth $4.5 billion by 2024. Their Brainance MD, a neuroimaging SaaS, allows for two- and three-dimensional modeling, all hosted remotely over the Internet.
From Corfu to Sounio, Greeks have been able to connect to new 5G networks since last December. But the implications go beyond just being able to video call without lags. Trikala, dubbed Greece’s smart city, was already testing their 5G network in 2019 to run driverless buses. Faster response time and lower energy consumption will have wider impacts on the technological capabilities of businesses based within Greece but also multinationals looking to use Greece as a staging ground for operations around Southeast Europe.
Equally innovative was the Greek government’s creation of the Faistos fund whereby 25% of the 5G spectrum auction proceeds are being put back into funding different applications of the 5G network to further propel the adoption and realizing the full potential of this game-changing technology. Outside of 5G, Cosmote has pledged €2 billion to upgrade its own internet and data infrastructure to “next-generation and fiber-to-the-home networks” over the next four years.
A number of ingredients go into Greece’s recipe for successful marketing as a destination for data and innovation hubs. First, there’s its EU membership which allows for easier investment, a greater degree of mobility to relocate talent, streamlined footing around data privacy under GDPR, among other cross-border commonalities. This while being strategically located at the southern tip of the Balkans, across the Adriatic from Italy and at the doorstep to the rest of the Mediterranean — which also points to additional submarine communication cables potentially being routed through Greece. Second, the current government under Kyriakos Mitsotakis is pushing for a number of business-friendly reforms in government to attract foreign direct investment, whether by providing tax incentives, deregulation or putting public funding into R&D. This also points to greater economic and political stability for prospective multinationals vis-à-vis neighbouring nations. As mentioned previously, data infrastructure is now catching up, evidenced by the arrival of 5G networks. Lastly, and potentially most crucial, is Greece’s comparative cost advantage when it comes to real estate and compensation for highly-skilled domestic talent.
The pay-off? Interest is already rolling in from names like Microsoft, who are looking to open three data centers in Attica, while tech firms like TeamViewer have already made the move by opening a new development hub in Ioannina to be close to their local university graduates. Tesla has also announced that they will be opening their first service center for the Balkans in Athens, in parallel to Volkswagen’s plans to turn Astypalaia into an electric vehicle island. January 2021 additionally saw the opening of Amazon Web Service’s first office in Greece to better serve their domestic B2B clients in their cloud computing needs.
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis is eyeing digital nomads as the ideal ‘long-term visitor’ to the country. He estimates that if Greece were to attract even 2.5% of the “world’s 4 million digital nomads in a year, the country’s revenue would benefit by 1.6 billion”. Fiscal incentives include a tax break on 50% of one’s income for the first seven years based in Greece, one that is aimed at repatriating Greeks who have left during the last decade’s economic crisis. The government, as a part of its gov.gr e-services portal, is also looking to digitize registration and transactions between new arrivals and the State. All while providing peace of mind to the returning Greeks and digital nomads with the “Digital Green Pass” as an EU coronavirus vaccine certificate. More broadly across the economy, Alex Patelis, Chief Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister of Greece, recently outlined the 10 major reforms taken by the government to incentivize talent and investments in Greece with Endeavor.
Tapping into the same mounting international interest to live and work in Greece, Endeavor Greece, in its ongoing contributions to the Greek tech ecosystem, launched their WorkInTech.gr portal this quarter which aims to match Greeks and non-Greeks abroad alike with the country’s leading tech startups. A simple application form aims to demonstrate the applicant’s intent to work for a Greek tech company, thereby reducing time spent combing through career pages and filling out individual applications.
Earlier this month, Endeavor Greece and SEV (the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises) hosted the worldwide Innovative Greeks conference to bring together Greeks working in tech not just within its borders but those living abroad. It was the kick-off event for a “community which aims to unite successful entrepreneurs, global executives, experienced venture capitalists, important members of State and other industry participants from all over the world”. Speakers and industry insiders spoke about closer collaborations, the power of networking, and how to encourage investment and funding opportunities. The nine panels speaking to the potential of the Greek tech ecosystem, in addition to the support of over 10,000 viewers, seem to all underpin a bubbling optimism for Greek tech’s year to come!
Have we piqued your interest to work in Greek Tech? Let recruiters and Greece’s hottest startups know of your interest by creating a profile on WorkInTech.gr.