Greece Has Hung Out A Welcome Sign: Greeking Out 2.0

By Endeavor Greece Jul 1, 2024

Sifted has published a second report on the Greek Tech Ecosystem, in collaboration with Endeavor Greece. A foreword by Panagiotis Karampinis, Managing Director at Endeavor Greece.

Greece was the first market in Europe for Endeavor to set operations, 12 years ago. And although it paved the path for opening another 10 Endeavor offices in extremely attractive European markets over the following years, not even the most optimistic at the global non-profit, who are supporting the most disruptive entrepreneurs to scale up and transform their markets, could expect what is happening in Greece today.

Greece is a turnaround story that shows the world that everything is possible. A poster child for economic and political dysfunctions only a few years ago, Greece was named by The Economist as the world’s top standout economy in 2023, for the second consecutive year. The mentality, the most important element for innovation and business growth, has changed drastically and we have seen every single stakeholder of the Greek economy bring impressive wins that push the boundaries of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, and transform the country even further.

US-based Blueground and now-acquired Viva Wallet are leading the pack with $1bn+ valuations. There is now a generation of industry leading Greek scaleups such as ActionIQ, Persado, Workable, Hellas Direct, Skroutz, Epignosis and Schoox as well as an impressive number of world-class rising stars, like Hack the Box, Causaly, Orfium, LifeBit, TileDB, Spotawheel, Instacar, Harbor Lab, Flexcar, Plum, Signal, Omilia and others. The Greek tech ecosystem now consists of 1k+ startups that have a combined value of more that $12bn and have created more than 10k high-value jobs.

Established tech players are noticing Greece’s deep pool of scientific and engineering talent (Sequoia Capital has listed Athens as a top global hub for AI talent) and increasingly business friendly environment. J.P. Morgan has recently opened one of the few Payments Innovation centres in Athens, while Tesla has established their engineering office in Athens doing leading work on Powertrain and energy engineering. Amongst others, Google, Cisco, Pfizer, Meta, Samsung, IBM, Microsoft and Applied Materials have all made large investments in Greece and run significant engineering operations out of Greece.

World-class leading Greek businesses are also driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of Greece. In their industries/categories companies like Titan Cement, Viohalco, Mytilinaios, Olympia Group, Fourlis, Raycap, Cosmote, National Bank of Greece, PPC and Lamda Development, as well as the entire maritime industry (where Greeks hold 20% of the global market share), are investing in technologies and solutions around the world more actively than ever before. Lamda Development is 6 running the Ellinikon project, a $8.2bn smart city that is rising fast in the Athenian coastal area and is expected to house tens of thousands people in villas, houses, office buildings, retail stores, schools and research centres. It is the largest urban regeneration project in Europe today.

Over the last few years, Greece has become an attractive jurisdiction for foreign and diaspora investors, founders and talents due to the combination of established favourable tax rules and a recently introduced beneficial tax framework boasting tax breaks and incentives for investors and professionals. Tax incentives range from a 50% capital deduction for angel investors, an annual one- off €100k income tax for foreign tax resident investors, who wish to relocate to Greece and invest at least €500k in Greek assets, a 50% tax break for foreign tax resident executives and employees wishing to relocate to Greece, to a predetermined five-year tax liability for Law 89 offices of foreign companies established in Greece under the “cost-plus” regime. Greece has introduced new immigration options that grant you residence for over one year in Greece as digital nomads and is working on novel options for talent looking to work for Greek Startups (Greek Tech Visa), as well as visas for graduates from the top universities in the world.

Most importantly, the Greek education system is undergoing a major transformation, where together with world-class Greek public universities, private foreign and local universities are allowed to set up operations for the first time in the country’s history. Columbia University recently launched a global centre in Athens putting the Greek capital in the global network of just 11 global centres around the world. More are coming.

Challenges, of course, remain. Endeavor and other organisations are working with the government to tackle roadblocks to further growth including a disconnect between the education system and the labour market, a sluggish judicial system and a need for investments in key infrastructure like faster internet and better roads. But being early in the process of building an innovation ecosystem also offers significant benefits to first movers.

Greece has hung out a welcome sign and is inviting innovators from around the world to participate in its turnaround story.

Diaspora talent, investors and foreign businesses that have been drawn not just Greece’s famed sun-and-sea lifestyle, but also by the chance to participate in building an ecosystem from the ground up. They are becoming co-creators of the country’s reinvention, not only benefiting from its new dynamism, but driving it forward. Interested in learning more about the vibrant Greek tech ecosystem, through the eyes of the most influential minds in the country? Read the report here.