In a fascinating article in MIT News, NextGen Master Class leader Marina Hatsopoulos talks about her role in bringing young Greek entrepreneurs this summer to an international technology startup bootcamp held at MIT.
Last October, Ms. Hatsopoulos was in Athens to address the two-year-old MIT Enterprise Forum Greece (MITEF Greece), where she was surprised to see “a great interest in entrepreneurship,” which she calls “a radical shift in aspiration” for a country with a tradition of public-sector jobs. “I had just visited Israel, and seen how they created a start-up economy in 50 years, with rockets firing at them,” says Hatsopoulos. “A light bulb went off: If Israel could do it in such a difficult environment, why not Greece?”
It also dawned on Marina that she was “uniquely situated to play a tiny role” in helping spark such an economic turnaround. “One thing Greeks are missing is a connection to the rest of the world,” she says. “They are so isolated, and don’t have access to everything a networked entrepreneur has, whether investors, suppliers, partners, or customers.” Who better than Hatsopoulos, with her own entrepreneurial background, networking expertise, MIT roots, and cultural and personal links to Greece, to forge that connection?
Fast forward to June 2015, when 10 young Greek technology entrepreneurs are sitting in her Boston living room, pitching business ideas to 50 Boston-based Greek and Greek-American investors and business leaders. “We didn’t know each other at all,” says Hatsopoulos, “but one thing about the Greeks — we can become best friends overnight.”
The event kicked off a week-long series of business-building opportunities, engineered by Ms. Hatsopoulos. In addition to networking, the aspiring Greek CEOs were scheduled to attend an international technology startup bootcamp run at MIT. If everything clicked the way Hatsopoulos hoped, the entrepreneurs would leave with their business dreams much closer to reality.
The start-up plans presented included a 3-D-printed avatar for precisely targeting radiation therapy in cancer patients; a smart economic news analysis and reporting platform; and a cloud-based software service for processing MRI exams.
Mentoring by Ms. Hatsopoulos, and her Boston-based entrepreneurial network during the bootcamp, and in subsequent months, has already begun to pay off for the visiting Greek entrepreneurs. Three participants of the bootcamp won top honors at the MITEF Greece startup competition in July, and other groups have found potential investors and collaborators.
“For these startups, the costs are so low, and they have access to really good and affordable talent, which is a huge advantage,” says Ms. Hatsopoulos. “I want to continue to work with MITEF Greece to help them out, and the next step is to make the U.S. network more cohesive and provide these entrepreneurs access to funding.” Her ultimate objective, she says, “is to increase employment in Greece.” Although the Greek crisis persists, Ms. Hatsopoulos remains optimistic, not least because of her experience with this group of emerging entrepreneurs. “They are so totally different in spirit from the country overall,” she says. “They have this amazing excitement and energy. They see only upside.”
In early June, Marina Hatsopoulos SM ’93, an investor and entrepreneur, threw a networking party at her Boston condo. Over sushi and cocktails, 10 young Greek technology entrepreneurs pitched business ideas to 50 Boston-based Greek and Greek-American investors and business leaders. “We didn’t know each other at all,” says Hatsopoulos, “but one thing about the Greeks — we can become best friends overnight.” Read more at: news.mit.edu