Greeking Out in NYC: The world in 2024

By Endeavor Greece Dec 14, 2023

We kicked off our 7th Greeking Out event, with an intriguing panel discussion between Takis Georgakopoulos, Global Head of Payments @ J.P. Morgan, Stelios Papadopoulos, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors @ Biogen, Ted Xenohristos, Founder & Chief Concept Officer @ CAVA moderated by Panagiotis Karampinis, Managing Director @ Endeavor Greece. 

What does innovation mean?

Innovation, as clarified by Stelios Papadopoulos, has become widely misunderstood in this day and age. It's not just about everything new being labeled as innovative, a misconception that diminishes its importance. According to Stelios, being truly innovative is about solving meaningful problems or focusing on efficient and rigorous solutions to existing issues. This perspective should guide decisions in launching, funding, and pursuing companies & new ideas.

The takeaway is clear: the excitement or interest in an idea doesn't automatically translate into a viable business. The core lies in addressing real problems with effective solutions.

What’s next in Biotech

Along with many professionals in the industry, Stelios expresses great interest in Gene Therapy. His concern lies in the fact that the biology behind it, is not ripe enough, and there are many risks involved. There are three criteria he looks at when looks at new scientific developments, in the gene therapy space. The medication has to be:

  1. Safe

  2. Inexpensive

  3. Modulatable

The Dynamic Impact of J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan operates at a vast scale, facilitating 40% of global money transactions swiftly and seamlessly. Remarkably, 99% of these transactions occur autonomously between machines, and the remaining 1%, necessitating manual intervention, involves 26 thousand individuals to ensure precision and accuracy. Takis tells us that this pivotal role places them at the center of any changes happening globally.

J.P. Morgan’s approach to bottlenecks in the finance world

2023 has been a difficult year for three reasons, which individually when seen in markets are not a good sign, but even more so when all three are happening simultaneously.

  1. Complicated geopolitics

  2. High commodity prices with high inflation & high interest rates

  3. High indebted developing and emerging markets

In the developed world, the current circumstances listed above are not considered ideal, but in emerging markets like Greece, the journey over the last 10 years has been marked by battling a challenging environment, which in turn fosters resilience - constructing robust ecosystems. Looking forward to 2024, Takis expresses that there is a hopeful outlook, with expectations for improvement. Despite uncertainties, JPM approaches their budget planning by adopting a benign scenario, aligning their strategies with predictions and adapting to various situations to navigate the evolving landscape.

The Fintech Landscape

In the realm of fintech, Takis observes a prevalence of “copycat” innovation, where many entities replicate existing ideas. However, he recognizes that a more challenging environment fosters a plethora of intriguing ideas. In this landscape, individuals are compelled to think outside the box, contemplating how they can add value and solve pertinent problem statements. According to Takis, navigating such difficult terrain, especially where profitability is a crucial showcase, significantly enhances the likelihood of building a successful business. This challenging backdrop not only stimulates creativity but also gives rise to unconventional opportunities within the fintech sector. For JPM Payments, the ability to build a modern payments business that can compete with and surpass “legacy” fintechs is real and exciting.

JPM excels in navigating diverse markets, recognizing that innovation often emerges beyond traditional sectors like banks. Whether it's fintech or health tech, they value companies that address real problems for our clients. Demonstrating a commitment to helping businesses grow, managing finances, and facilitating expansion is a significant plus. If your venture aligns with these principles and contributes to solving challenges on a global scale, it's more likely to capture their interest and involvement at JPM.

IPOing & what CAVA did differently

For CAVA, the initial public offering (IPO) is not the destination but an intentional journey. What did they do differently? They embarked on an 18-month preparation, treating it as a trial run before the actual IPO. During this period, consultants played a pivotal role, guiding them through the process and allowing for valuable learning from mistakes. Interestingly, CAVA didn't pursue the IPO out of financial necessity; instead, it was viewed as an opportunity to share their vision with the world, inviting investment and raising awareness as they have expanded to 300 locations across 25 states, and they're just getting started.

Ted tells us that being in the public eye through the IPO was a strategic move for CAVA, serving as a crucial step in their growth trajectory. 

Exceptional companies have deep roots

What sets CAVA apart, according to Ted, is the organic growth deeply rooted in its Greek heritage. With a mission to share Greece’s cultural warmth and inviting spirit, CAVA embraces hospitality and generosity, creating a welcoming atmosphere where the commitment to quality and hospitality extends beyond the food, mirroring the genuine pillars found in Greek culture.

The belief the employees, partners and supporters have had their story from day, coupled with these core values, forms the foundation for CAVA's linear and remarkable growth, making it stand out in the industry, says Ted.

Greece Next Steps & Diaspora Involvement

Let’s get serious

Professionalism in every aspect, ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated business environment is needed in Greece. Consistency with the way we communicate and clear cut processes are important to propel the country forward, and properly showcase the groundbreaking things we are achieving.

Stelios has implemented this thought process in a foundation he has set up in 2000 with Dr. Spyros Artavanis, where they provide mentorship and funding to biomedical scientists, working in Greece & Cyprus. The two elements they focus on at the foundation include

Meritocracy & excellence: The application is being reviewed by the true rockstars in the industry, and the only thing that is being looked at, is the proposal.

Stability & Regularity: The foundation receives applications each year in the Fall, the review process is over by February and funding takes place in March, year in and year out.

“Innovation in different sectors can come in different flavors, we need to be professional and get more serious about doing business"

An anecdote from Ted: The Olive Oil Story

Through the CAVA lens, the quest for authentic Greek olive oil unfolded as a journey that epitomizes the essence of incorporating genuine products and people. The initiative began by sourcing olive oil directly from a Greek expatriate who, having moved to the US, personally produced it. With CAVA's growth to 300 stores, the impact extended to a dedicated factory in Greece. This story exemplifies the profound benefits of looking locally, be it engaging Greek engineers or supporting olive producers, enriching the economy and talent pool.

Ted envisions more such narratives, advocating for a continued commitment to Greek sourcing. Despite challenges in professionalism and business ethics, there is a resolute desire to choose Greece over neighboring countries, fostering a deeper connection to roots and inspiring a broader movement among Greek companies to prioritize and celebrate their origins.

The 4th J.P. Morgan Hub: Greece

Greece has emerged as an unexpected yet promising destination for foreign investments, a perspective that has undergone a transformation over the past two years. The undeniable engineering talent in Greece, with two pivotal changes catalyzing a shift in perception. Firstly, the country has witnessed growing stability, and secondly, the business environment has become increasingly conducive to long-term investments. With a keen eye on expansion, these factors are now seen as essential in fostering a sustainable and growth-oriented environment for years to come.

Optimistic about Greece's potential, Takis envisions the country evolving into a hub next to existing ones in Singapore, Palo Alto, and Israel. The intent is clear – to build a hub in Greece, tapping into its unique strengths, and propelling growth from this strategic vantage point. What was once off the radar is now poised to become the fourth hub, accelerated by newfound stability and a conducive business landscape, fueling confidence in Greece's potential as a thriving investment destination.