A Clarion Call: Take The Bull By the Horns and Invest in Greece
Blog entry written by Desiree Michael, Girls in Tech Managing Director, Athens, Greece
Living in Greece and perusing my surroundings as the MD of Girls in Tech here in Athens, I see something and feel something amazing happening in a shift towards technologically innovative ideas here in Greece! During the month of November, I watched groups like Open Coffee Greece, MSCOMM an advertising agency, the female-founded Militos Emerging Technology & Loft2Work with business & marketing solutions, stir up a maelstrom of innovative activity that included the founder of YouNoodle, Rebeca Hwang and former Morgan Stanley COO turn entrepreneur, Linda Cheung of CubeSocial, Symbid’s crowd-funding founder Korstiaan Zandvliet and local industry developers like Tasos Flambouras of Aventurine gaming.
These names may be all to familiar to the average tech reader in Greece, but it is not their presence here that is at issue. It is what they have ignited within the country and neighboring countries amidst such a lugubrious climate of financial and civilian misery. Entrepreneurialism is catching like wildfire and 2013 leaves us with more to come…ZeroFund’s launch and TechCrunch’s first Meetup in Greece! If our country’s leaders miss this, well, let’s just make a note to history buffs that the information signs in the Cyprus Airport are in Greek, English AND Russian—so, hmmm. Even Donald Trump suggests having flexible game plans is a must.
Now is the time to invest in Greece.
Though as talented as they are, organizations like Open Fund, The Hellenic Award, The Gabby Awards, and others cannot fuel the ‘hope’ of a wayward nation on their own. Direct support for visa programs and exchange training is a necessity. Maybe initiatives like the Startup Visa bring to mind the Immigration Act of 1990, which immensely increased immigration to the United States, but allowing the free exchange of Greek entrepreneurs to America is not an issue of our Homeland Security and loss of American jobs. It is, rather, an issue of National Security and the creation of global opportunities for all parties.
If we, as Americans, have learned anything from our own failures (which are a plus in the world of entrepreneurialism), it would be that divesting from communities that are striving to assimilate into the mainstream will leave us with dependency-communities reflective of our very own poverty stricken enclaves. The internal human demise of Greece will leave us with yet, another festering appendage in a region that is too critical to rebuild from the ground up. Furthermore, just as our nation is financially weakened by our own ‘affirmative action’ programs that seduced the best and the brightest from those protracted communities (without commitment to return), Greece cannot afford for its brightest youth to succumb to the glistening dollars and promises of milk and honey beckoning from the ‘Sand Hill’ roads and silicon valleys of America without a secure community to return to and spur the growth of a successful innovation cluster.
Thus, for our nation to avoid oxygenating this amazing brush fire of genius and ingenuity that is giving life to this region will be a financial travesty that just might blowback on our shores and in our pockets for years to come. So why wait?
Granted, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Jose W. Fernandez, has stated that in order to promote effective entrepreneurship, a country’s laws must first change to provide the right ecosystem. This is very much in line with President Obama’s Startup America Initiative for our own country; but the real question is, “Must the laws change first or can a powerful ecosystem drive policy change?” As Lecturer in Public and International Affairs, Mickey Edwards states, “Democracy is not about policy. It is about the process.” So, if policy can be driven externally, the process of democracy will regain its welcoming position here in Greece. Some of our most successful business leaders, such as Brin & Page, have shown us that the economic system of capitalism provides the potential agility and allowance for democratic innovation: thus, there is room for the outliers to succeed and force the hand of lawmakers to follow. And there must be an innovative, reliable and ethical solution to fund the steady growth of a Greek-based technology cluster and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
So, here is what Girls in Tech (GIT), Athens is proposing: in the memory of a legacy that President H. W. Bush once promoted, the belief that Americans could spread “a thousand points of light,” and in furthering the insightful reality that GIT’s founder, Adriana Gascoigne, envisioned—the global empowerment of women in technology and entrepreneurialism—we are launching the Lovelace-Walker Initiative*.
This initiative will focus on two things:
- We will work with the local ‘collective genius’ and raise an undisclosed sum of money to help Greek entrepreneurs and American entrepreneurs exchange experiences towards further developing a successful innovation hub in Greece. This cluster creation is already underway, evidenced by company-models like CoLab, Bugsense, and Hackerspace; and like Loft-to-Work and IforU which are supporting a variety of innovative avenues, including the agricultural, health, and social enterprise arenas.
- Secondly, we will work with the international leadership who understand the need for an immediate visa implementation program that can mirror the global success in business innovation that the Fulbright Scholarship achieved for academic exchange over the last half-a-century.
This is what we can do, but it is time for our leaders to take the bull by the horns and invest in Greece. Time, now!
MD, Girls in Tech Athens, Greece
To join our initiative, like us on Facebook and we will keep you posted as we move along in our mission!
*Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer and Madam C.J. Walker was America’s first female millionaire entrepreneur; thus, the Lovelace-Walker Initiative!