The New Olympians: is Greece the next, great digital talent hub?

The digital industry has had to get creative when it comes to talent - looking to new shores to find the best in the industry. The traditional powerhouses of talent (i.e. London, Amsterdam) are either over-saturated, or thanks to Brexit, not easily accessible. Is it time to look at Greece for the next stars of the industry?

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This is a contributed article by Thanos Gkavos, founder at Kin + Carta Greece.

The digital industry has become fiercely creative when it comes to acquiring and retaining talent. After all, it’s been forced to. The best people are in great demand and are snapped up at lightning speed. The traditional powerhouses like Amsterdam and London risk becoming oversaturated, with too many tech firms and not enough talent to go around. And in tandem with Brexit, extra layers of inaccessibility are woven through the recruitment process.

Just like Eastern Europe’s become a hotspot for start-ups, with 15.4% and 13.9% of Latvians and Slovakians respectively involved in start-up businesses; or Sweden snapping at Silicon Valley’s heels as the second-densest worldwide capital when it comes to breeding Unicorns, serious thought should be exercised before anointing the next talent hub.

Greece is the word. Here’s why

With a population of just under 11 million and situated at the meeting point between Europe, Asia and Africa, Greece is undoubtedly well connected. And despite the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crash, its prime placement gives big business a reason to invest: you’re looking at a workforce that faces 16.7% unemployment, the lowest employability in the EU, the highest level of overqualification among EU countries and the longest work week in the EU. That’s a country primed for investment.

In 2020, Microsoft announced a huge ‘GR for GRowth’ initiative throughout the country, with an eye to create new opportunities and upskill 100,000 people in digital technologies by 2025. Pfizer recently opened a digital hub in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city; it also houses Cisco’s Digital Innovation Centre. And just last year, Athens-founded robotics firm Softomotive (now WinAutomation) was bought by Microsoft for 100 million euros.

With new tech talent sprouting up at an alarming pace, now’s as good a time as any to capitalise on Greece and plant the territory’s flag as an emerging talent hub.

International business is improved with national teams

A few years ago, the term ‘global local’ started appearing in some tech companies’ comms. Something of a buzzword, it essentially meant that rather than offer half-hearted localised assets in areas that need them and use global creative in larger markets, the knowledge and understanding of local teams would be able to make the company truly local.

This local knowledge is crucial, and can be seen making ripples in Greece today. Just last month, the Athenian dark store grocery delivery startup Pop Market managed to seed $3.5 million. Alleged to be the country’s largest seed raise to date, the excitement around the startup has escalated due to a severe lack of competitors when it comes to online shopping.

Of course, there are bigger delivery names such as efood in Greece, but Pop Market has used its expert local knowledge to tap into exactly what consumers want, and provide the technological experience to facilitate it. It goes beyond just partnerships with traditional chains, focusing instead on the local customer experience - this includes faster delivery times, smooth user interfaces, more choice beyond the aforementioned traditional outlets and so on.

This couldn't have been achieved without tight-knit, local teams and the expert knowledge that brings. That’s something we aimed to do with Kin + Carta when we established our Greek office earlier this year - we set out to recruit fifty heads off the bat, with virtually no local presence to begin with.

Looking at Pop Market, it’s clear to see how important that local talent is. Investing in that local talent and showing yourself as an ally to the city, determined to put in as much as you’re taking out, will do wonders if you’re aiming your sights at Greece.

It’s also a chance for clients and employees to flex with you

The world before March 2020 is something we have to consign to the past. Almost one third of people claim they’re prepared to quit if their boss forces them to return to the office full-time, and the UK recently made work-from-home a right that you can request from an employer on day one. Flexibility is the key here, and - depending on the specifics of the role and remote working infrastructures - this should include allowing staff to use whatever office works best as a base. Even if it’s in a different country.

While local talent is a vital factor when investing in somewhere like Greece, you’d be remiss to forget the pent-up wanderlust of your employees back home. Lockdown gave people the chance to work from places they’d never thought possible, and their eyes are now open to the possibilities of employment without borders.

For clients, having boots on the ground in a foreign territory is beneficial. You can be their eyes and ears on the local scene, able to deliver better work closer aligned with the market’s appetite and at reduced operational costs - and the client needn’t worry about physically being there themselves.

Opening up shop in a desirable location like Greece offers a perfect balance: local expertise supported by specialist talent from abroad, the latter bringing new ideas to the former while immersing themselves in the company, country and culture.

 

Thanos Gkavos is the founding member of the Greek leadership team at Kin + Carta Greece, the global digital transformation consultancy. Having achieved B.A. Hons in business administration and management, Gkavos moved into the tech space working on systems, services and programme management for the likes of McDonald’s, Macmillan Cancer Support and Tesco. He joined Kin + Carta as product lead in 2019, and was chosen to head up the company’s Greek office when it opened its doors in 2021.