It is a fact that the past few years have changed our lives dramatically. The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had social, economic and health impacts, but how has this affected entrepreneurship and innovation? We realize that there were a lot of opportunities created through this situation, mainly (but not only) in technology and science, so that new ideas can sprout and flourish.
Companies like Uber, started in times of crisis and evolved into success stories worth billions, proving that difficult times can also be times of entrepreneurial opportunity. This fact was confirmed by many startup companies, that, in the midst of the pandemic, developed significantly and are still today in constant search of executives to be able to respond to the new challenges.
Crete and especially Heraklion, in addition to the Mediterranean climate, significant cultural wealth and gastronomy, in recent years has demonstrated a new but promising startup ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation, which has begun to show signs of maturity, resilience and significant perspective to be a reference ecosystem in the coming years.
But for this to be achieved and thrive, a mix of ingredients is required. We will focus on three of them, which are considered of utmost importance for the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems and are the ones that, in the midst of a pandemic, brought the maturation of the ecosystem to Heraklion.
One of the key ingredients for the success of an entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem is human capital. Heraklion has a large pool of highly trained and quality human resources, which is a catalyst for the creation and development of technological enterprises.
A significant role in feeding this pool is played by the presence of two important university campuses (the University of Crete and the Hellenic Mediterranean University) and the most important research center of the country, the Foundation of Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH). Also, in recent years, Heraklion has been a pole of attraction for foreign technology companies, which build and develop their R&D departments or tech/development hubs in the city.
Recently, Sunlight.io, which has its engineering department in Heraklion, announced its development with new hires following the 6 million funding it received from BlueOcean VC, while the Swedish fintech startup Fairlo has started building its own tech hub in Heraklion, which is developing rapidly.
In the last three years, the city of Heraklion, in addition to important established technological companies (Phaistos Networks, Papaki, Top.Host, Best Price, Netmechanics, etc.), has also presented promising startup companies in the field of entrepreneurship. Some of them are the result of technological development of research results (spin-offs), such as OramaVR and JustAddBio, while others such as BioMimetic, BioPix-T and EnzyQuest managed to secure significant funding in the midst of a pandemic – the last two, in fact, are in the scientific battle to fight the pandemic.
Finally, several startup companies such as Deeplab, Oxygen Pelatologio, OpenIchnos, Hotel ToolBox and StinPorta.gr have been developing significantly in recent years, while recently new startups have appeared (Tourmie, Oqullar etc.) which have received distinctions in national innovation competitions.
At the core of an ecosystem is the interaction of individuals, creators and thinkers, which can significantly contribute to the dynamic of successful businesses to emerge. The city’s technology and entrepreneurship communities have grown, while the meetups of Open Coffee Heraklion (which focuses on startups and innovative businesses) as well as DevStaff (a group of developers from Crete), constitute the largest communities of the city and the island, highlighting the passion for sharing ideas and knowledge around new technologies and entrepreneurship.
Well-known and very powerful business ecosystems such as Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Berlin and London took a long time to develop to the level they are today. Now, every ecosystem has the potential to become a thriving ecosystem, but to achieve this it needs the necessary ingredients and the right conditions that will allow it to develop dynamically. What is certain is that the conditions are there for Heraklion – the rest will be shown by time and the conditions that will be created by the synergies/interactions for a dynamic ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation!