Greece lauds savvy startups amid slow economic revival

By Sophie Makris, AFP

ATHENS–A taxi-tracking tool, a head-hunting engine and a vertical gardening company �X all business startups that have paradoxically emerged from a Greek economy long in the doldrums. Faced with the worst unemployment wave in living memory, Greece’s youth are turning away from the traditional pursuit of civil service or family-centered jobs, and towards innovation and foreign funding.

��If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,�� muses Petros Boskos, a 35-year-old architect. Alongside two of his friends, Boskos created Verdical, a company designing ��vertical�� gardens for the sides of buildings. ��It was basically my last chance to stay in Greece,�� he told AFP on the sidelines of a business innovation fair in Athens earlier this month. Until recently, most Greeks fresh out of university contemplated life-long job security in a civil service post, or guaranteed employment in their family-owned business. But that’s no longer an option. From ‘daddy’s store’ to Innovation The four-year Greek economic crisis killed off thousands of small and middle-sized companies, and staff cuts and hiring freezes imposed by the cash-strapped state has made new public sector hirings all but impossible. One in two youths under 25 is currently out of work. ��The public sector and daddy’s store have lost their sheen,�� says Aristos Doxiadis of Openfund, a venture capital fund. Enter the innovation incubator. In the last five years, at least eight such initiatives �X offering advice to budding entrepreneurs with bankable ideas �X have opened in Athens.