To give you a sense, the company now is among the five largest in this particular space. We employed 250 people of which 80% are engineers. We have nine offices around the world, we sell in 40 countries, and 99% of our revenues come from abroad. Really, the interesting thing is that since we started an eco-system of companies producing similar technology solutions, i.e. mobile related, has grown in Greece to a size that today is about one billion dollars, which are almost exclusively exports, which is actually bigger than olive oil. They employ about 3,500 people, if you put all these companies together. They are growing at the base—that is over 50% a year.
Are they affected by the crisis?
Veremis: The answer I would give is that the crisis changes the situation, because you are getting people who were stuck in non-productive technology companies who were not really innovating. They were not exporting. They didn’t have any prospects of success in the long term. These guys are relocating either to smaller companies that are becoming bigger but are export oriented and innovation oriented—or they are starting their own business. So, my perspective is: I am certainly optimistic about what I am seeing compared to ten years ago. There is no comparison.
So, for example, you now have venture capital money available, which is in the region about 100 million today in Greece from four funds. Ten years ago you had zero. 100 million is a lot. In the U.K. in 2012, I was reading that the total amount of venture capital invested, which is the strongest place in Europe, was one billion. So, it is a good start here. Where I am pessimistic is obviously the popular psyche that is lagging behind.
You have a class of people who are beginning to build companies, or transforming existing companies in a far better way. I think it is a result of the crisis. You have huge advantages in terms of skill in personnel. Nevertheless, this nice world that is developing is still operating on the edge. It is not in any way mainstream. It is not reflected in the way that still the government works or even the popular psyche works. You can see this in the electoral polls still. So, there is disconnect, which is extremely depressing for these few people who are optimistic but then really pessimistic, because they look around and they see that the critical mass is not there yet.
Yiannis Retsos: I am the managing director of Electra Hotels and Resorts, a family company operating and owning six hotels in Greece since 1963. I am also the president of the Hellenic Hotel Federation and the first vice president of Sete, which is the association of Greek tourist enterprises. Company-wise I think that this crisis was a major opportunity for actual reconstructions in terms of everything: operation-wise, cost-wise, and debt-wise. in 2008 when the international crisis started, politicians in Greece were telling us that our country is very well protected and „crisis-proof“. Because of that many people remained confident that nothing would touch us.