Tuesday, May 5, 2015
The reality of trying to build a business in Greece today
May 5, 2015
As I fly out of Athens on a spring afternoon I can’t escape the thought that, in my lifetime, my country has never had it so bad. The prolonged crisis has cost us a quarter of our GDP, the state is rapidly running out of money and Greece’s isolation grows by the day. Greece is perilously close to losing its European path. And with it our connection to the liberal values and prosperity that it promised.
Amid the nationalistic rhetoric in Athens, voices from the real economy, the internationally-minded people and businesses whose exports and services offer the only lasting hope of recovery, go unheeded. It brings WB Yeats to mind: “The centre cannot hold . . . the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
My vantage point has been at odds with the Greek depression. Upstream, the mobile commerce company I co-founded, has tripled its revenues and headcount in the past three years. We have built a global business that develops software in Athens and exports it to 42 countries, with nine offices around the world.
Our team, with an average age of 29, gives the lie to the stereotypes that abound of Greek professionals — by turns lazy, inward looking or living in the past. Instead, they are determined, adaptable and competitive.