New Greek Incubators.

Last May, I visited Athens, Greece to conduct research on the Greek entrepreneurial ecosystem. During this visit, I’ve focused specifically in new Business Incubators that emerged in the city in the past four years.

Business Incubators are organizations that help entrepreneurs to develop ideas, launching companies, and attract investments by providing shared office space, business training, and networking opportunities. The five incubators I’ve visited are all unique in that they address different needs and types of entrepreneurs representing a unique example of a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem amidst the worst economic downturn within the European Union in decades.

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The Incubators
THEA is a public business incubator sponsored by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Municipality of Athens, and the prefecture of Attica. All companies are assigned a mentor and enjoy the vast local and regional network of its sponsors.

The Egg is a corporate social responsibility initiative of Eurobank, a major Greek bank. All companies go through a fixed 12 month program which trains entrepreneurs in business basics, helps them to develop their business models, and exposes them to potential investors. About 70 companies have been awarded tenancy at The Egg.

IQbility is a private corporate investment fund. Owned and managed by Quest Holdings, a leading IT group in Greece, it has supported so far 8 companies with angel investments. Using its unique position and network, IQbility incubates exclusively IT enabled companies.

EkinisiLabs is a educational program for university based research teams. During six months, teams learn business basics and get the chance to pitch their ideas to potential investors. The focus in on technology commercialization and so far 150 teams went through its training programs.

Orange Grove is a private co-working space and business support program owned by the Dutch Embassy in Greece. All companies sharing the space go through a training bootcamp and are assigned mentors to help develop their ideas and businesses. Sponsors and expertise are brought in from Holland and many teams are encouraged to develop international contacts with Dutch universities and multinational companies. More than 150 entrepreneurs are affiliated with Orange Grove.

This research project is co-authored with Michalis Mitsopoulos (Senior Economist at SEV – Hellenic Federation of Entreprises). Future research includes surveying all tenants to understand the mechanisms of business support delivery.

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Rise to the Challenge with our Entrepreneurship courses.

The Rise to the Challenge Pitch competition took place last week in our campus. Out of 11 finalists, three are currently enrolled in our Entrepreneurship survey course (ENTR300 – The Entrepreneurial Experience), two of which won the competition in their respective categories of undergraduate new idea and existing business. Both students have developed their ideas in the course with the help of colleagues, instructor and live audiences who participated in initial versions of their pitches.

ENTR300 – The Entrepreneurial Experience is open to all the students on campus. During the semester, students learn to think like an entrepreneur and defend their business ideas in front of live audiences (this post describes a recent exercise). The course is a good example of experiential learning since it’s based on a real new business idea project developed throughout the semester. Some sections in Spring 2015 have earned the designation of Enhanced Course by the Helen P. Denit Honors Program.

The winners:

Collin Corcoran presented his existing business Premier Property Preservation. It works as a one stop shop for real estate owners who seek to sell or rent homes. This new venture offers clean-outs of vacant properties, trash removal, lawn maintenance, carpet cleaning, pressure washing and general cleaning of residential properties n the Baltimore area.

Joe Napoli earn the judges vote with his idea of a vacation kennel – Unleash the Beach. His vision is to build a kennel that houses pets during the holiday season in Ocean City, MD. Pets can be visited during the owner’s vacation time, which it may be an advantage over other kennels located in the city.

The Merrick School of Business offers several Entrepreneurship courses, a major and a minor/concentration in Entrepreneurship. Learn more here.

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Do entrepreneurs share a common strategy?

Entrepreneurship researchers have often conceptualized new venture development as a planned endeavor. This view holds that entrepreneurs develop business ideas based on forecasts of markets and industry future behavior; they set out a goal, devise ways of achieving it while building fences against competitors.

Recently, other views emerged suggesting that Entrepreneurship is essentially an emergent process and that entrepreneurs often disregard predictive information in favor of building on their current means and resources. Similarly, seeking partnerships is preferred to analyzing competitors and seeking market share.

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Together with Dr. Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, my research shows that there is more nuance than merely opposing views. A thorough analysis of archival business using as means to obtain business support from a Technical University, we see that often entrepreneurs combine forecast with insight, look at competitors as much as they build partnerships, and make do with they have at hand while defining future goals. We have presented this research in three international conferences and are currently working on an academic journal publication.

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