This Coworking Space In Athens Is Helping Social Startups Thrive

Impact Hub in Athens is working closely with the government and the private sector to help social startups thrive and succeed
  • Equifund pledged €300m to back around 200 early-stage, Greek-founded startups.
  • Lida Tsene of Impact Hub Athens talks about Athens’ startup and innovation ecosystem and how coworking is acting as a catalyst for startups.
  • Impact Hub and the Municipality of Athens set up Kypseli Municipal Market, the first mall in Greece designed to support the social economy.

Athens is an exciting place to be right now, especially for entrepreneurs.

In 2018, Equifund – a programme backed by the Greek government, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund – pledged a total of €300m to Greek-founded startups with the aim of backing around 200 early-stage companies over the next five years.

2019 is also the year the city celebrates its European Capital of Innovation status, awarded in recognition of its efforts to develop social enterprise projects that benefit the community, strengthen the economy and open up the city to the rest of the world.

A burgeoning coworking scene

Athens’ success in recent years goes hand in hand with its thriving coworking scene; spaces specifically designed to support innovation and facilitate growth. Its first coworking space, CoLab, opened in 2009, and many more have followed suit since.

Allwork.Space caught up with Lida Tsene of Impact Hub Athens to find out about what makes Greece’s capital city a great place for startups and how Impact Hub is acting as a catalyst for startups with a social conscience.

With a portfolio of over 100 centres worldwide (and expansion plans in the pipeline), Impact Hub is more of a global movement than a collection of bricks and mortar coworking spaces. Their members use the network as a resource for finding investment and gaining access to the skills needed to scale.

Tsene explains that Athens began to establish itself as a global player in the tech startup scene a decade ago when new investment opportunities and events like Hackathons enabled entrepreneurs to experiment with ideas and start new businesses.

“In a way, our city’s growth can be partly attributed to the momentum of a generation of people who were graduating and couldn’t find traditional employment in the aftermath of the financial crash. Instead of finding jobs, people created their own.”

Tsene believes this is when the startup scene in Athens really took off.

“However, the link between entrepreneurship and social impact was missing,” she added. In recent months, this has changed. “We are now seeing a positive shift towards social mindedness and the government has become really involved in supporting the growth of social businesses in Greece.”

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This ecosystem is also getting help and support from the US and the Netherlands Embassies in Athens; the latter of which recently opened a coworking space called Orange Grove.

Coworking with a social conscience

Impact Hub recently worked with the Municipality of Athens to set up Kypseli Municipal Market, the first mall in Greece specifically designed to support the social economy. In fact, this project and similar ones helped Athens to secure the European Capital of Innovation award.

“This is one of the first times a Municipality has collaborated with the private sector on such a project. The Municipal Market has been a successful experiment so far and is home to eight organisations, all of whom have social characteristics that aim to support the local community,” explains Tsene.

Unlike more niche coworking spaces, Impact Hub is comprised of people from a range of industries. What links them is that they are all socially-driven in one way or another. It is also focused on social inclusion and social integration, the environment, and fair trade.

“We work with a number of incredible organisations including, Wise Greece, a non-profit organization that works with a network of local food producers to raise money to source food for people in need; Liminal, a tech startup that makes ads accessible for people with impairments and disabilities; and Alternative Athens, a tourist company on a mission to promote everything our wonderful city has to offer, not just the main institutions and attractions.”

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