Orange Grove is boosting the range of support activities it offers startups outside of Athens, helping innovative ideas take form and shape in Greece's challenging business environment.
From 2013, Orange Grove, which has been set up by the Nederlands embassy in Athens, has worked with more than 180 teams on innovative ideas or startup businesses. It offers services relating to their guidance, networking, and education, with the help of foreign and Greek volunteer mentors, that come from the startup ecosystem or corporate world.
Out of the total number, 15-20 teams went on to clinch funding from investors, such as venture capital funds, or other sources, said Alexandra Sarma, General Manager of Orange Grove, in comments to BusinessDaily.gr.
«Some have gone abroad, but this is a small number. Our goal is to keep them in Greece. From the total number of startups that have come through us in Athens, 20 percent now have a steady income stream», said Sarma.
Startups normally come in contact with Orange Grove via incubation rounds, programs in which participants receive support on their idea, business plan, etc. As part of these programs, they benefit from workshops, boot camps and other activities organized by Orange Grove on a series of issues, such as accounting, strategy and soft skills. Taking part in these initiatives is free of charge but startups need to first pass through an assessment performed by Orange Grove.
As of last year, a higher priority has been to areas outside of Athens in a trend that is seen continuing.
«There are businesses out of Athens that don't have the right support. We'll organize activities in more cities, such as Lamia and Thessaloniki. Also, we'll give extra weight to Patras, where Orange Grove has already been operating in since 2017»she said.
More initiatives are also scheduled for the area of Messinia, in southern Greece.
What are the most common problems faced by startups and young entrepreneurs? Accounting issues and demands from holding down regular day jobs until the new business gets off the ground. At the top of the challenges list, however, is whether the right team has been set up.
«Abroad, they normally leave their jobs to work on their business, while in Greece, they keep their regular day job. This does not allow them to concentrate on their new business as much as they would like, delaying its development,» Sarma highlighted.
«The most difficult task is the creation of the right team. It is not the idea that decides on the success of a business, but the extent to which the right team is in place. This is one of the first things we look at when we come in contact with them, as do potential investors», she added.
Another new step taken in 2019 was the introduction of a business support program for those aged between 15-18. Another one, called Junior Squeezy, will be held in coming months.
«They came up with unbelievable ideas. We brought in experts to help explain some of their ideas they presented, such as one on cryptocurrency. There was also one more great idea regarding a bracelet with a GPS for people suffering from dementia», highlighted Sarma.
«They are a generation full of self-confidence, a generation that grew up without the dream of one day working for the Greek public service»..
* Stelios Bouras