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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Kaufmann Foundation Supports Research into a Neglected Topic: What Happens to Older Entrepreneurs?

Dr. Ting ZhangAs the nation’s population ages, will its reliance on entrepreneurship as an important component of the overall economy age with it? Will the baby boomer generation—millions strong, and still actively involved in entrepreneurship—continue to value economic independence into their retirement years?

Ting Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Finance and Economics in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business, has received a grant from the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation to answer these and related questions. While the boomers have been studied as a discrete population for decades now, little is known about older individuals’ entrepreneurship in the shared economy. Zhang will explore various hypotheses in the one-year study, using a spread of data from 2005-14 gleaned from the Current Population Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“Entrepreneurship is important for economic performance,” Ting says. “The merits of this research are that aging has not been studied rigorously in the context of the labor force and entrepreneurship. This study will bridge existing literature gaps to better understand the heterogeneity of boomer entrepreneurship and generate timely policy insights for the country’s shared economy, an aging population, and a better educated older generation.”

Zhang notes that in spite of the recent large-scale economic downturn and the arrival of the first baby boomers into wage-and-salary retirement ages, entrepreneurship continues to be an important part of the economic life of this generation. Many boomers have returned to work in the face of economic uncertainties, while others have entered or re-entered the entrepreneurship sector as a way to earn a supplemental income and maintain their economic independence.

On the one hand, baby boomers are vulnerable to trends in the labor market, not the least of which involves age discrimination and their own health issues. On the other hand, many of them continue to be economically active and entrepreneurial.

“Although older workers are generally perceived to be more vulnerable to skill obsolescence, and they tend to be at odds with technological innovations that are associated with increased training needs, their human capital is often what our knowledge-based and shared economy needs,” Zhang said.

Zhang’s previous research explored the importance, possibility and necessity of older workers’ entrepreneurship in the knowledge-based economy, and the factors driving older people’s entrepreneurial propensity. Building on this work, her new project focuses on the heterogeneity of boomer entrepreneurship.

Through her research, it is expected that a clearer picture of what the near future holds for this self-starting, independently-minded generation. As the body of literature on the topic grows, Zhang added, it may begin to drive policies regarding older workers, especially those who are or intend to be entrepreneurs, which could largely help with society’s overall social and economic well-being.

Learn more about Prof. Ting Zhang.

This post was adapted from a October 29, 2015 University of Baltimore news release.

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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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