Greek American Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, discussed the history of the Media Lab, his efforts to bring computing to children in the developing world, as well as his experiences in early stage technology investing in a fireside chat with Michalis Bletsas, Director of Computing at the MIT Media Lab.
The event, which was attended by more than 250 entrepreneurs, investors and academics was organized by The Hellenic Innovation Network and the Consulate of Greece in Boston. Moderated by Founding CEO of Z Corp Marina Hatsopoulos, it included several pitches by leading Greek technology entrepreneurs.
“These globally-focused Greeks have been setting the country on a new course to recovery through technology entrepreneurship,” said Bletsas, who has been involved with Greek startups for two decades and founded together with Negroponte the One Laptop Per Child non-profit organization.
Greek startups have come through incubators and accelerators like MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, Eurobank’s The EGG in Athens and OK!Thess in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, as well as research centers such as Demokritos, Corallia, and the South-East European Research Centre.
“Greeks are strong, independent thinkers who are hungry to control their own destiny,” Hatsopoulos said.
“Greece has a tremendous opportunity to follow Israel’s lead in employing developers in the homeland while growing global businesses based in the US. We hope to empower Greek entrepreneurs by connecting them to the rich network of mentors, advisors, partners, customers and investors here in Boston,” she said.
According to Marathon Ventures, in 2010-2018, 301 Greek startups raised $2.4 billion in 500 investment rounds from 268 venture capital funds. During that period, a total of 47 acquisitions and 5 IPOs took place. The total invested amount in Greek startups grew 11x, from $48 million in 2010 to $539 million in 2018. Some US-based investment firms that have invested are Kleiner Perkins, Andreeson Horwitz, Bain Capital and Sequoia. About a third are founded by Greeks but not based in Greece.
Entrepreneurial activity was boosted last spring, when EquiFund, an EU-based fund-of-funds supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, committed to investing 320 million euros in Greek venture, private equity, and tech transfer funds, such as Marathon Ventures, Venturefriends and Big Pi.
Addressing young entrepreneurs at the event, Negroponte recommended creating a startup only if you have passion and a deep belief in your idea, not just to make money.
“The Consulate of Greece in Boston is critically positioned to bring the Greek tech community together from both sides of the Atlantic,” said Stratos Efthymiou, Consul General of Greece in Boston adding that efforts are made to establish a non-stop flight between Boston and Athens.
“We want to help Greek entrepreneurs take advantage of the opportunities of the Boston ecosystem and we encourage American investors to seize opportunities in Greece,” he said.