Greek-American businesswoman and angel investor Marina Hatsopoulos sees “two different worlds” in Greece.
“There is the world of old Greece, of bureaucracy that makes everything difficult, a world that doesn’t see socioeconomic opportunities, and then there’s another new world that’s hungry, that understands the need for risk and hard work and knows there are no guarantees,” says Hatsopoulos.
The businesswoman was in Athens to speak at Mindspace’s first meetup. She delivered a lecture whose focus was the usual mistakes made during the first steps of a startup.
“There are a lot of things that are different between everyday life and business,” she told Kathimerini. “For example, it makes sense for us to want to be ‘good people,’ but if this means avoiding controversy then it is bad for business. Business is all about conflict, standing up for yourself, arguing your position and negotiating.”
Another obstacle hindering the entrepreneurial spirit she sees in Greece is the acute fear of failure.
“No one should be afraid of failure. Sure, you need to be smart but if you spend all your time in fear of failure you will never take the risks needed to succeed. Mistakes are how we learn and evolve,” argues Hatsopoulos.
Hatsopoulos founded her first company in 1994, when she was a postgraduate student in mechanical engineering at MIT. It was called Z Corporation and was among the first in the field of 3D printing. She admits that its success was preceded by a string of failures.
“In the 1990s, it was all about the internet and no one cared about hardware, so we suffered rejection after rejection. It’s scary, especially when you come to a point of having no revenue and have to pay your staff,” she says.
The company was eventually bought out in 2005 and Hatsopoulos has since joined the boards of several listed companies and startups, including Levitronix Technologies, GSI Group and Contex Holding, as well as Cynosure, of which she is director.
Hatsopoulos believes that Greece has plenty of promising startups and has already singled out a few. Among these are hospitality and property management firm Blueground, which “is doing astronomically well and has expanded very successfully to New York,” and Welcome Pickups, which is active in the tourism sector and “is also growing at a rapid pace.” She also mentions medical technology company RTsafe, and Augmenta, which has developed a system for precision agriculture.