© Reuters. An employee walks past the Viva Wallet logo at the headquarters of the company in Athens, Greece February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
By Karolina Tagaris and Renee Maltezou
ATHENS (Reuters) – After years in which Greece was almost as well known for its financial woes as it was for its beaches, recent deals have highlighted a small but thriving startup scene that has grown up since the crisis.
JP Morgan’s acquisition https://www.reuters.com/technology/jpmorgan-agrees-acquire-49-stake-greek-fintech-viva-wallet-2022-01-25 of a minority stake in fintech Viva Wallet last month valued the payments company at over $2 billion, giving Greece its first tech “unicorn” after a steady buildup of the sector over the past seven years.
That deal is expected https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-owner-meta-close-deal-greek-startup-accusonus-source-2022-02-01 to be followed up this month by Facebook (NASDAQ:) owner Meta’s acquisition of Accusonus, a startup founded by a pair of engineers and amateur musicians whose audio software is used by the likes of Bob Dylan and Shakira.
Funding for Greece-based tech startups soared to nearly $1 billion last year, according to a report by Marathon Venture Capital, more than double in 2020 and nearly 10 times that raised in 2015, when Greece faced bankruptcy and a chaotic exit from the euro zone.
The deals have given a boost to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has built on the work of previous governments and the EU with tax breaks and funding reforms aimed at diversifying an economy dominated by tourism and shipping.
“Greece is not just a country that relies on tourism and its wonderful beaches,” he said as he toured Viva’s offices last week, adding the government was optimistic that technology would be an “increasing part” of the country’s GDP.
The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) estimates the startup sector overall stands at 6 billion euros, or 3 percent of GDP, without saying how much of that is accounted for by tech startups. It has set a goal for the technology sector to reach 10% of GDP within the next decade, Markos Veremis, co-chair of its innovation committee, said last month.
Despite the optimism, Greece still languishes near the bottom of the European Commission’s 2021 Digital Economy and Society Index, scoring low on connectivity, internet use and digital public services.
Nowhere near other European startup hubs like London, which raised a record $25 billion in funding in 2021 according to a report by Dealroom, it also faces stiff competition from other southern European countries like Portugal, which hosts Europe’s biggest technology conference, Web Summit.
But there is an increasingly active network of entrepreneurs and investors as well as employees with experience working abroad during the crisis years.
“What started as an underground movement of small nerdy communities is now front and centre in Greek society,” said George Tziralis, partner at Athens-based…
Read More: Greece’s fledgling tech scene starts to take off By Reuters