Entrepreneurs Are Finding Silver Linings in Greece

Despite a severe recession and a nearly 25 percent unemployment rate, Greece can offer business opportunities for the savvy and creative entrepreneur, according to a new enterprise helping start-up businesses in Greece.

Man with wings
Mike Timo | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
Man with wings

“The time for a total reboot of the economy is now,” Haris Makryniotis, Managing Director of Endeavor Greece, an organization launched in Greece to help entrepreneurs find their niche in the market and build up their businesses, told CNBC.

“It was time to focus on growth to get out of the crisis,” he said. “Now is the time for entrepreneurs to flourish and the time for creativity. We need to create new business models and jobs and have a bottom-up approach rather than top-down theoretical approach.”

The Greek division of the global non-profit organization is the newest group aimed at helping new companies create economic growth, jobs and affluence that will boost local communities.

Already operating in locations such as Latin America, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, Endeavor says it has helped entrepreneurs create 200,000 jobs and generate over $5 billion in revenues worldwide.

One fledgling digital app business, Taxibeat, which allows customers to locate and rate taxi services, is only a year old and has already expanded from Athens into Brazil and Bucharest.

The founder, Nick Drandakis, told CNBC that the successful mobile application has helped his firm gain a 10 percent share of the total taxi market in Athens.

“We have created a market base that wasn’t there before. Customer service and safety was a problem, customers had no choice or quality of service before, taxi drivers just didn’t care."

"Now, they know that they can be rated by our customers and the service has improved massively.”

Greece is struggling with what one economist described as an economic “freefall”, but Drandakis said although the climate was "bad", there was still room for opportunities.

“Sometimes the best ideas come when your back is against the wall,” he said, adding that in the next 15 months he plans to expand further into 10 to 12 countries.

Haris Makryniotis from Endeavor Greece agrees that Greece had similar investment opportunities to other emerging markets. In fact, he said, Greece was a pilot for other ventures in Poland, Spain and Portugal.

“Greece meets a number of criteria for successful entrepreneurship- there is a crisis and there is an opportunity,” he said.

Nearly one in four Greeks in the labor force are currently unemployed and the country is now in the fifth year of a recession.

International lenders are considering whether to release another tranche of bailout funds even as the country is looking to find further savings of 11.5 billion euros.

But many entrepreneurs are still putting their money, and faith, in the country and its future recovery.

Nikos Kakavoulis, is the founder of Daily Secret, a digital enterprise that sends a daily “curated email newsletter” to its subscribers with tips on things to see, visit and explore in their city.

Kakavoulis told CNBC that Daily Secret didn’t start as a business, but rather as a “good karma” project designed to remind Athenians “what they love about their city". Now, the project has gone global with offices in New York and “daily secrets” emails sent from Tel Aviv, Shanghai and Istanbul, among other cities.

Kakavoulis said that Daily Secret has made the most of being a digital business focusing on emerging markets.

“Daily Secret is a Greek digital media project that has managed to escape Greece [and its economic pressure],” he told CNBC. “The world is moving in a new direction, we wanted to focus on emerging markets and the first generation of people who are truly mobile.”

He told CNBC that the opportunity posed by the crisis would be “a terrible thing to miss."

“I would say the crisis is a crazily big opportunity for people to invest in Greece. There is a whole movement of young people with ideas that deserve investment.”