Athens’s turn, 3rd International Investment Forum, 24 June 2022
The 3rd International Investment Forum took place in Athens on June 24th, with the participation of 19 start-ups from the Balkan Mediterranean countries (Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and North Macedonia), business angels and innovation development agents. The Forum was organized within the framework of the European Project GAZELLE – orGAniZing accELaration for high-potential innovative SMEs, of the INTERREG Balkan – Mediterranean 2014-2020 program. Co-organizers were the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and Enterprise Greece, partners of the GAZELLE Project.
At the opening speech of the event Mrs. Betty Alexandropoulou, Executive Director of Enterprise Greece and Member of the Board said: “Innovation is of central importance for Greece and for the sustainable development we want to achieve in the future. With this in mind, we are running a comprehensive plan with different actions – such as bootcamps, roadshows and networking events – further strengthening the ecosystem and creating business opportunities and networking with the outside world. Such an important project is Gazelle, which aims to develop an integrated mechanism for the acceleration of innovative companies, known as “gazelles” through investment angels and knowledge transfer in the Balkan-Mediterranean region.
On behalf of ACCI, Mr. Dimitrios Dimitriou, Member of Administrative Committee – Business Consulting, noted: “ACCI since 2014 has established its own business incubator called THEA, which had the privilege of creating a network of Business Angels, among all members – entrepreneurs of the Chamber, to develop in an environment with 100,000 business members, having access not only to experienced Business Angels, but also to entrepreneurs, policy makers and investors. It is this network, which also supports the Gazelle Project and the participating start-ups. In addition, our Chamber, as part of the Project, brought together female start-ups with European women’s networks and the National Chamber Network of Greek Women Entrepreneurs, whose president is Mrs. Sofia Kounenaki-Efraimoglou, who is also the vice-president of ACCI”.
Further, Mr. Michalis Dritsas, director of the office of the Deputy Minister of Development and Investments Chr. Municipality, referred to a set of initiatives undertaken by the State for the substantial support of original and disruptive ideas and the further interconnection and development of the innovation ecosystem, such as financial tools from NSRF and Recovery Fund resources. At the crown of this effort is the Elevate Greece platform, which works for the certification of Greek startups by ensuring for the members of the Registry, among others, special privileges such as tax investment incentives for Angel Investors, favorable tax incentives for Stock Options and aid with non-refundable Working Capital. A number of other interventions are moving in the same reform framework, such as the new legislation on the establishment and operation of spin-offs.
Through her personal business story, Mrs. Candace Johnson, Honorary President of the European Business Angels Network (EBAN) and Co-President of the French Sophia Business Angels, highlighted how business angels can contribute to early-stage innovative businesses not only with capital, but offering their experience and giving vision and know-how to start-ups for the development of their business planning and acting.
Mr. Fanis Matsopoulos, Member of BoD of ACCI & Business Angel-member of BANG, in the summary and recommendations session of the 3rd International Investment Forum, quoted: Cyprus, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece are neighbours in a very fragile region – especially today – given the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to an energy crisis, from which all countries are suffering. The only way for our countries to achieve sustainable development and stability is through transparent communication that promotes cooperation on a fair basis. The GAZELLE PROJECT is one of the best tools for this extremely complex and important task. It brings together SMEs that promote innovation, which will pave the way for our countries to work more closely together. It also bridges the financial gap between investors and startups, which is sometimes more critical than the idea itself. Since the entire above are met, the GAZELLE PROJECT ultimately promotes social well-being.
Next, a pitching session event took place, during which 19 start-ups from the 4 countries participating in the Program (North Macedonia, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria) presented their business idea to the Forum audience.