Open Coffee Athens XIV – meeting notes

Last Tuesday the 14th OpenCoffee meeting took place at the usual place in Bios. There were 4 talks and in this post I’ll put down some of the things I noticed in them – mostly stuff that never made it to the slides. The presentations themselves and videos of the talks will follow in separate posts for the more visual types of people.

First talk was by Alexis Mpallas of Cytopia.org, a website that does online music distribution for psychedelic trance (psytrance) and progressive labels. They cover an impressive (for the genre) tally of 50 labels while their site features an online radio station and brings in about 1000 euros a month in sales. One thing to take away from Alexis’ talk is that the reason they can survive in a market otherwise dominated by big players like iTunes and Amazon is the fact they aim in the niche market of their particular genre and even their website design aims to fit in with their particular audience. Their best promotion is – probably as expected – from online marketing, mainly in forums – compared to physical world efforts like fliers and promos. Main sales come from countries like the US, UK, Brasil and so on – but not Greece.

The second talk was by V.Trip‘s Dimitris Tsigkos who parted with his life’s wisdom for someone who would like to startup in Greece. Even before the business plans start a life plan is necessary – and the various alternatives one has right after finishing school are limited. A significant amount of risk-taking is required – but that’s made even worse by the fact that in essence no high-risk VC’s operate in Greece. Those that are here realise their limitations and decide not to invest in our kind of startups (early stage and high-risk). That alone but also the presence of a magnitudes’ larger market abroad means that to find success you most probably need to look outside the local markets. He made it clear that if you manage to come up with a product (and not just services!) that demonstrates the necessary volume (and as such value) for a foreign VC, they will not hesitate to invest – even on a Greek-based startup.

V. Trip’s course in particular included initially some subcontracting in public portals and then some subsidised research work. Presently, they still base their income on services and grants and subsidies while they also sell products on a global scale such as e-front, open source e-learning package, video streaming apps, etc.

The third talk was by Andreas Konstantinou by VisionMobile a small team of mobile market analysts spread all over Europe and working from home. Although the company started for the sake of teamwork it has evolved in the sales of a wide range of products including consulting, reports, market-how maps and seminars among others. Andreas underlined that a good business environment as the one offered in the UK (where good startup infrastructure, transparency and market information is available) is a plus but what’s really important is to get together a good team that share the same values and can bring knowledge, passion and innovation in the startup. An interesting approach he stressed is the need to answer 3 questions before implementing your idea:

  • What exactly is the problem you are solving?
  • Who pays to solve this problem?
  • Is there another way to solve this problem (that would make yours irrelevant)?

Finally, it was the turn of Anna Diamantopoulou, State Secretary of Development to take the stage. She also stressed how important it is for ideas and businesses to become competitive beyond the strict confines of Greece’s borders. Her main premise is that for that to happen three factors are required:

  1. an idea accompanied by an advantage
  2. a high level of technological infrastructure
  3. a helpful environment in terms of institutions

She gave a few examples from her book of how this happened both abroad and here. Perhaps the most descriptive was about how Sweden managed to turn a province known for its steel-making industry which was however decaying into the best location in the world to test cars against problems resulting from low temperatures. The cold (exploiting the idea of the low temperatures as an advantage) aided by top-notch scientific research on the matter and the relevant infrastructure managed to transform the province within 10 years with the help of everyone: the workers, the unions and the government.

Greece according to AD needs to work towards extending internet access, increasing public spending in research, improving the banking system to encourage investments and strengthening small enterprises, to increase the number of patents produced and to actually reward the best businesses to provide further incentives for growth.

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