RG Connect18, the fifth annual Reload Greece conference, took place in London on Saturday and it was a truly inspiring day. The event brought together innovative entrepreneurs, leading CEOs, esteemed academics, investors from the US, the UK and Greece, and policy makers to forge connections, exchange views and drive positive change. Over 330 people attended the conference, over 660 people watched live via the live stream and the livestream videos have already had more than 4,000 views!
RG Connect18: ‘Where Challenges meet Solvers’ showcased those who are embracing challenges and the ways in which they are approaching them. Forty-five international speakers participated in sessions across three tracks, ‘Inspire, Learn, Connect’. The day was packed with inspiring keynotes, practical workshops, thought provoking panel discussions and startup pitches and attendees enjoyed many valuable opportunities to network. With so many highlights it’s challenging to highlight just a few!
RG Connect18 highlights include:
Venture Capitalists, Niko Bonatsos (Managing Director, General Catalyst) and Chrysanthos Chrysanthou (Partner, Kindred Capital) took part in the ‘Building The Next Greek Unicorn’ session moderated by David Rowan (Founding UK Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine). Mr Chrysanthou said “When assessing whether to invest in entrepreneurs, we look for Founders who will be world class in their field, who are insanely ambitious and who are obsessed with solving a problem”. The speakers’ advice for startups included “never give up, have a mentor and build a great network.“
George Chouliarakis, Alternate Minister of Finance in Greece, discussed ‘Greece Beyond the Programmes’. “We have met our primary and medium fiscal targets, we now have space for some targeted tax cuts to support growth objectives, including those to help young people into the job market.”
Michael Tsamaz, CEO of OTE, one of the largest telecommunications companies in Europe, shared his story and experience of building a culture that develops leaders. Mr Tsamaz stated: “Successful leaders need a growth mindset and a good attitude. To develop leadership – take responsibility, have passion, faith and commitment and always treat others as you wish to be treated.”
Four of the Greek Funds deploying more than 200 million Euros in early stage ventures participated in sessions and several Funds also exhibited at the event. Partners from Uni Fund, Metavallon VC, Marathon VC and Big Pi Venture Capital Funds and the European Investment Fund’s Head of Division Mandate Management, Ioannis Tsakiris, and George Kametas, Head for Business Banking Segment, National Bank of Greece participated in an ‘EquiFund Update’ session. Mr Tsakiris said: “In total around half a billion Euros are available through nine VC & private Funds to be invested in Greek high growth SME’s”. Discussions highlighted that the EquiFund will also “need to look to the diaspora to find opportunities for investment” and when discussing the type of companies they will be investing in, the Funds stated that they look for “team, ambition, product and stage”.
James A. Robinson, Professor of University of Chicago and co-author of ‘Why Nations Fail’ and Elias Papaioannou, Professor of Economics at London Business School discussed ‘An Institutional Bailout for Greece’. Mr Papaioannou said: “The solutions will come from interacting with the people and learning from them. The focus has to be engage as opposed to segregate.”
Francisco Veloso, Dean at Imperial College Business School joined a discussion on ‘Where Do Good Ideas Come From’ with Ella Goldner, Co-Founder & General Manager, Zinc and Dimitris Papastergiou, Mayor of Trikala, Greece. Mr Veloso said: “Four elements are important in driving the entrepreneurial system – talents, opportunity, experimentation and community”.
Ten Reload Greece alumni start-ups pitched to a panel of judges and networked with attendees. The judges awarded innovative startup Entomics the top prize of office space at Central Working and marketing support. Entomics, who won the Reload Greece accelerator programme RG Challenge18, is a technology company within the rapidly growing insect bioconversion industry converting low nutrient inputs into high value feeds and they are looking to move manufacturing and engineering to Greece. Their CEO, Fotis Fotiadis said “Winning this award and participating in RG Connect has been amazing because it’s enabled us to meet with startups, mentors and more importantly investors.”
Through sharing stories of success and by focusing on the contribution young, solutions oriented individuals are making to enhance growth, RG Connect18 informed, inspired and empowered. Using Greece as a case study but approaching every challenge with an international perspective, RG Connect18 explored what solutions can be applied to some of the most tough business challenges. Also, new for this year, Young and mighty artists, such as pop stars Marina Satti and Leon Veremis, inspired attendees with how they are challenging outdated perceptions of Greek music and art, and addressing the evolving face of Greek culture and the Thessaloniki International Short Film Festival presented a programme of short films.
Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, Partner, Kindred Capital said: “To develop a long term sustainable ecosystem in Greece you need a lot of different ingredients. Events such as RG Connect bring all of the different players together to network, support each other through mentor sessions and see the best examples of what is being done to influence everyone in the right direction.”
Katerina Kanteraki from Greek Fund Metavallon said: “RG Connect has a big impact on the start-up ecosystem. Reload Greece’s role is more important than ever to serve as a bridge between what’s happening in Greece and the brain power outside of Greece.”
Marcos Veremis, Co-Founder of Upstream and Partner at BigPi Venture Capital said: “Reload Greece is an important catalyst in bringing together Greeks from abroad and Greeks back in Greece to combine forces and change the future of the country.”
Thank you to everyone who participated in RG Connect18, it was a very inspiring and engaging day and as always, it was great to see the power of our community in action. Thank you especially to our RG Connect18 partners Freshfields and Kyvernitis, our RG Connect18 supporters John S Latsis Foundation, OTE and Green Cola and all of the charity’s partners who support our work over the year. Your support is truly invaluable. You can watch all of the RG Connect18 livestream videos here, see the event photos here and learn more about RG Connect here.