Athens – What’s next?

Originally published on Startup Live blog.

This guest post was written by Konstantina Zoehrer. She decided to move from the city she was born, Vienna, to Athens and discovered there a world where passion is a way of living. She loves coffee, tea and traveling through space and time. Her latest journey is called Startup Live Athens.

Summer 2011, the news about Greece are mostly about the crisis, strikes and demonstrations against the new austerity measures. There is much more happening in the mediterranean country and also with positive impact, even if it seems small scale at the moment.

During the last three years, fresh ideas and young people engage with the entrepreneurial ecosystem and restructuring the business world, and even society, and why not taking the crisis as an opportunity to create. A different approach on what we read in the German Edition of Financial Times some days ago, that young greeks are leaving the country due to unemployment and lack of chances.

Actually, one year ago, I was about to leave Greece myself. It was a natural decision to me since I was born and grew up in Vienna. The door was open and I was a freelancer and just on my first real steps on my entrepreneurial journey.

What I learnt during my professional path was that culture might be one of the most important values in the business world. People admire the mentality of Silicon Valley, but can we simply copy-paste cultures? Indeed, we can bring some of its components into our culture and build on small changes.

Fact is that, I did not leave Greece. Instead of this, I started traveling as much as possible and took advantage of my intercultural background, starting not think about the components that I was missing in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem but build on them.

As, Alex Christoforou from Wadja, wrote some time ago on Mashable:

Once upon a time, Greece was the Silicon Valley of the world, full of brilliant people taking artistic, philosophical and mathematical risks. Challenging the status quo and upending common beliefs was what made the ancient Greeks so great.

What I was missing was the connection to the European and the international market and new opportunities for young people given through the tools of web 2.0 (networks), but also what was communicated about the Greek entrepreneurial ecosystem outside Greece.

So there I was, thinking what I could do. That is how Startup Live Athens came into life during one Viennese morning at the STARTeurope HQ. In two days, a team between Athens, Thessaloniki, Vienna and Zurich was set up and we were already contacting possible mentors and partners. I still remember pitching on the phone, on 17th August, at the beach, while I was taking short vacations after two years. I was about to give up. Our team’s budget deadline was the 8th September, we had our soft launch on the 7th.

We recognized that we had to speak another language in order to move things – language of «meraki», the love for what we do, as we call it in Greek. Organizations, companies and people started to engage, because for us it is indeed more than just another event, it was our way to empower actions worth taking and stand up for our dreams, because we are too young to give up, even in a crisis.

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