Attract the talent so tech can thrive in Greece

Like shipping, the country’s technology sector could flourish in a global market with the right people

Greece’s technology sector is small but fast-growing. Software and electronics companies employed 28,000 people in 2017 — less than 1 per cent of the country’s workforce — but that represents an increase of more than 50 per cent since 2013.

Among start-ups, there have been three tech exits at valuations above €20m over the past five years, while there were none before that. There are just six or seven homegrown tech companies valued at more than €100m, but this is up from two in 2014. We are yet to see the first Greek unicorn — a tech start-up with a $1bn-plus valuation — or even companies that are halfway there.

So are these small successes flashes in the pan or harbingers of something bigger? Pessimists may argue that recent growth has been driven by transitory factors and is not an indication of structural shifts towards knowledge-intensive industries. There is some truth in this.

The drop in domestic demand and public spending after 2009 blocked traditional career paths for the educated middle class. Instead of becoming doctors or civil servants, some founded start-ups. Mathematics graduates honed their programming skills and went to work in business, rather than becoming teachers.

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