Athens’ 15,000 Euro Idea

Athens, Greece – A young Greek businessman is just five seconds away from finishing presenting his startup idea and potentially winning €15,000. But one of the judges in the panel has a quick, final question to ask him before they consider giving him a prize.

“Why are you looking at the screen and not your audience?”

“The Squeeze” is an event created for young entrepreneurs by Orange Grove, a workspace for Dutch and Greek youth who are interested in starting a business.  This is an initiative started by the Dutch embassy in Athens and aims to tackle issues related to ‘brain drain’ and youth unemployment in Greece.

At yesterday’s event (March 27th), eight teams of young innovative Greeks pitched their business idea in front of the designated jury consisting of four businessmen. The first place prize of €15,000 went to founders of Gigalize, an app that helps fans campaign for their favourite artists to perform in their hometown.

The second place prize of €10000 went to Clio Muse, an app that connects museums and tour guide apps into one platform. That helps visitors find the stories most suitable for their interests while connecting them to the corresponding museums and exhibitions.

Daphne Tsereni and the other two co-founders of the app Clio Muse, Andreas Fatouros and Yiannis Nikolopoulos. Clio Muse went to win second place at “The Squeeze”.

Euroviews spoke to the founders of Clio Muse before they went on stage to present their product. Daphne Tserni, 24, co-founder and business executive explained how they plan to persuade the judges that they deserve the prize.

“We have to convince them that the two winners are going to use them wisely,” says Tserni. “We have to show them which sectors we’re going to invest on.”

She told Euroviews how they would use the money.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to pay some marketing expenses in order for us to go to some exhibitions that are really important for our sector.”

Tserni and the two other co-founders, Andreas Fatouros and Yiannis Nikolopoulos, were selected as one of the 15 teams which were to take part in The Squeeze, based on their startup’s originality and creativity. Only eight teams were able to make it to the finals, based on similar criteria.

For jury member John C. Fox, a software engineer from San Francisco, having an innovative idea is not the only factor he considered when picking the winners.

“How much success are the presenting teams able to achieve?” he commented. “What are they learning? Are they able to get something out there, fail if they fail, and to learn and try again?”

“I want to see someone so passionate about their idea that they can continue to earn my attention in 30-second increments.”

The panel of judges take notes during one of the 5 minute pitches.

Judges, like Fox, also want to see how the teams would spend their money.

Fox has travelled to Athens three times over the past 12 months to learn about the city’s startup scene, which he believes is both relative and bigger than he imagined.

“My understanding is that there are 13 or 14 incubators,” he says about the scale of the scene in Athens. “Orange Grove is by no means the only one.”

Other than being a workspace for young entrepreneurs, Orange Grove also provides mentoring, legal advice and coaching for the individuals interested in startup projects. There are currently 64 teams involved in Orange Grove, according to Assistant Project Manager, Christina Birliraki. The Squeeze has been part of the initiative since December 2014 and happens every three months.

The funds for the startup were provided by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, a private philanthropic international organisation that helps fund projects and startups in different sectors from culture to sports. The foundation started Greece’s “Recharging the Youth Initiative”, which aims to tackle youth unemployment and create opportunities for Greek youth.