Greece’s red tapes for entrepreneurs and the general business environment can be shocking, not only to Greeks but also to foreigners when they get in touch with them. David Alston, a New Brunswick’s chief entrepreneur, was invited by a startup accelerators in Athens to offer his valuable advise. He had the chance to speak with dozens of young entrepreneurs. And he was surprised about the number of bureaucratic blocks laying on the road ahead of the dynamic work force of Greece that refuse to join the wave of brain drain.
What was different, relatively speaking, was the number of obstacles these startup founders had to face. Last Spring I had had a chance to do two similar visits to accelerators in Spain and to Portugal, two other economies that have taken a real beating in recent years. However, nothing compares to what I saw in Greece.
I found it difficult to withhold my concern with each new roadblock revealed to me during the course of my visit. Indeed, these startup founders were some of the bravest entrepreneurs I had ever met, what they had to face in order to grow an idea was remarkable. As I said to many of them, if you can make your startup grow in this environment then you can make it grow anywhere.
If this terrain is so steep then why don’t they leave for less torturous climbs elsewhere? It’s a good question and one I’m sure all of the entrepreneurs I spoke with ask themselves on a daily basis. In many ways, they are now trapped. You see they love their country, the people, the food and the natural wonders around them. It’s hard not to blame them for that because Greece is tremendously blessed in all of these respects and punches well beyond its weight when compared to many other countries.
But to stay means a number of challenges. Challenges like citizens only being able to withdraw up to 840 euros every two weeks from your bank account regardless of how hard you work and how much to make in return.
It means paying two years of business taxes in advance the day you start your new business.
It means paying big tolls to use the highways every 20 minutes or so of driving. It means seeing infrastructure projects in limbo around the country and tourism and airport infrastructure decaying in front of your eyes because there are no funds to invest to improve them. It means delays regularly, perhaps even when trying to attend free talks like mine because of massive transportation strikes happening in the city and chaos that ensues (this actually happened with a business class from the local university that was hoping to attend).
It’s working in a culture that has told its youth that they should look to get a safe government job when they grow up and to avoid taking risks (even though the current lack of money has meant massive pay cuts for civil servants, teachers and healthcare workers and it’s business that actually creates the revenue for the government to pay these salaries.) And it means worrying about the stability of the country you plan to build a business in because successive coalition governments are constantly being thrown out due to the lack of support from voters (which leads to an all-time low in trust where politicians are caught between having mandates to pull rabbits out of the hat but with little money to make the magic happen.)
full article Lessons from Greece.