Georgios Georgantas, Alexandros Costopoulos, Athanasios Savvakis, Grigoris Zarifopoulos

A new initiative aims to build on the existing network of Citizen Support Centers to offer targeted support for startups and entrepreneurship across the country.

Launched by the Ministry of Digital Governance in the context of the country’s ongoing efforts towards digital transformation and the establishment of a more streamlined and efficient business environment, the new KEP Plus initiative promises increased support for startups and entrepreneurs across Greece in the form of interactive info-points and easy-to-access digital toolboxes available at select Citizen Service Centers (KEPs).

The initiative’s primary goal is to seize on the possibilities offered by new technologies and to utilize the potential of the country’s 1000+ KEPs to provide support to entrepreneurs regardless of location by providing access to tools, programs and resources developed by chambers of commerce, universities and other reputable entrepreneurship related organizations.

At the Ministry of Digital Governance, we are interested in hearing every good idea, every good thought, every smart policy no matter where it comes from.
— Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Minster of Digital Governance

Speaking about the initiative, Minister of Digital Governance Kyriakos Pierrakakis praised KEPs as one of the most popular public institutions in Greece and pointed to the need to ensure that citizen-state interaction keeps up with times and to explore all possibilities for using the country-wide network of KEPs to support entrepreneurship. “At the Ministry of Digital Governance, we are interested in hearing every good idea, every good thought, every smart policy no matter where it comes from,” said Pierrakakis. Also commenting on the initiative, Deputy Minister of Digital Governance Georgios Georgantas said, “KEPs are constantly being upgraded to keep pace with the new reality. In this context, it is our strategic choice that they also serve as startup accelerators and accelerators of entrepreneurship in general.”

Determined to launch from solid foundations, the initiative kicked off with a survey and a series of roundtable discussions that sought to identify the kinds of help and support that can have a real impact in the country’s startup ecosystem and, for the first time, allow startuppers themselves to be part of the process and be heard. “Appreciating the significant power of bottom-up initiatives, we advised on designing a large-scale discussion in 16 cities across Greece, where in collaboration with local chambers we invited entrepreneurs and startups to share their insights and ideas and determine the kinds of services that they would like to have access to through this kind of initiative,” said Alexandros Costopoulos, CEO of Foresight Strategy and Communications, the firm hired to design and implement the program.

In this context, it is our strategic choice that they also serve as accelerators, of startups and entrepreneurship in general.
— Georgios Georgantas, Deputy Minister of Digital Governance

The survey, which was carried out in May and June 2020, examined a sample of 65 Greek startups that were selected in collaboration with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, NBG Business Seeds, and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce’s Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee. The roundtable discussions were held in 16 key municipalities with distinctive entrepreneurial ecosystems and included local government officials, representatives of local chambers of commerce and KEPs, and, primarily, local entrepreneurs and business owners. The cities were: Agia Varvara, Aharnes, Arhaia Olympia, Athens, Drama, Hania, Ilioupoli, Ioannina, Kastoria, Kilkis, Marousi, Nafplio, Rethymno, Sparti, Thessaloniki, and Trikala.

Τhe program highlighted the need of an alliance of all stakeholders that will awaken, enhance and unleash Greece’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
— Alexandros Costopoulos, CEO, Foresight

The survey and discussions yielded important insights that will undoubtedly prove crucial as much to the Ministry and its efforts as to all stakeholders active in and working to strengthen the country’s entrepreneurial and business landscape. Some of the key findings underlined the importance of bridging the capacity and mentality distance between Athens and the rest of Greece, promoting digital literacy across the board, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining the various government business development and assistance programs to keep up with rapidly changing global trends and technological developments. Equally, simplifying the relevant legislation, increasing mentorship and knowledge exchange opportunities, and improving the flexibility and accessibility of existing structures and services, including KEPs, were highlighted as key areas for further development.

“Perhaps the most important finding,” Costopoulos noted, “was the clear need for a dynamic and entrepreneurs- driven alliance of all key business, government and academic stakeholders across the board—an alliance that will awaken, enhance and unleash this country’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.”