Jim Armitage: Technology entrepreneurs who are changing the script of Greek tragedy 

Global Outlook: Athens now has four venture capitalist houses – a couple of years ago there were none

Eric Parks could easily be taken for yet another Silicon Valley tycoon. You know the type: big personality, broad American accent, talks in colourful tech jargon and calls you Dude.

But, in fact, this 38-year-old is one of a small but growing clan – the Athens technology entrepreneur.

Mr Parks was brought up in the city then globe-trotted through universities in the US and the UK, before settling down to work in America.

He explains: “I was working in Colorado and just woke up one day and realised: I’m 1,500 miles from the sea. I’m half Greek. This is just not going to work!”

Back in Athens, he and his web-savvy friends founded a messaging app called Pinnatta. With no venture capitalists to speak of in the city, they had to head to Silicon Valley for funds, tapping Sequoia Capital among others.

That was in 2011. This year, the latest venture he’s involved with, Pollfish, secured its full, €300,000 (£ 257,886) seed finance entirely from Greek venture capital.

Thanks to a mixture of EU and private funding, plus red-tape cutting for start-ups demanded by “the Trokia” – the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – and the launch of collaborative workspaces offering support and guidance for young entrepreneurs, Athens has developed its own nascent silicon scene. It now has four venture-capital houses in the city where a couple of years ago there were none.

“A few years ago you had to almost emigrate to get funding but now we have a vibrant environment. It’s a big psychological change,” Mr Parks says. “And, crucially, here I can hire brilliant engineers of Silicon Valley quality for a quarter of the price.”

It isn’t just Pinnatta and Pollfish set to benefit from the new environment. Other Athens digital startups include Bugsense, Taxibeat and Incrediblue – a kind of booking.com for boats and yachts.

It is the kind of story the Greek government desperately needs to get out to its increasingly desperate and disenfranchised youth.

So far, the political narrative – and the reality in people’s pay packets, pensions and redundancy notices – has been of cuts, cuts, cuts: forced upon it by the Troika in return for bailout funds. Not to mention big rises in their tax bills.

Mr Parks evangelises about how his country needs to find a new story – one in which entrepreneurs lead the way to an economy in which the brightest want to start businesses, rather than get easy, well-paying jobs in the state sector.

He is a fine antidote to the easy German cliche of the tax-dodging Greek layabout. There are more tech-savvy folks like him in the city, who could quite easily up sticks for  San Francisco or London to make themselves rich but choose to stay.

The fear has to be that, if the conditions imposed on Greece get any worse, even these hardy souls will quit. A Grexit would make such an exodus inevitable. 

Less is definitely more for Russian computer nerds

Eric Parks says Greece’s graduates make bright, and cheap, programmers. But at Goldman Sachs, it’s Russian boffins they’re after.

So says the Muscovite maths genius Sergey Aleynikov, the former Goldman algorithmic trading programmer convicted of stealing computer code from the bank last year. In this month’s Vanity Fair, as well as protesting his innocence, he describes how more than half the programmers designing Goldman’s super-fast algorithmic trading programmes were Russians.

The reason? They’re the best on Wall Street. Mr Aleynikov says that, for his generation at least, this is because their badly-kitted out universities don’t allow them much time on computers. 

“In Russia, time on the computer was measured in minutes,” he says.   The result being, he claims, an unmatched skill in creating programs that work first time without the need for constant rewriting to eliminate the bugs.

Given the events on Wall Street this week, featuring not one but two major episodes of major computer glitches, one wonders: did the programmers involved at Goldman and Nasdaq spend too much time on their computers at college?

Georgia’s new leader has the West worried

When you’ve got $6bn (£3.84bn)  in the bank, it’s easy enough to speak your mind. But Georgia’s billionaire newish prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili should perhaps be  more circumspect.

The man who made his fortune in Russia before deciding to turn his mind back home won a bad-tempered coalition drive to push out the pro-Western party of outgoing president Mikheil Saakashvili, pictured left, last year.

Some in Western governments fear he wants to turn the country’s allegiances back to mother Russia. He counters that he wants to be friends with east and west and still wants Georgia to join the EU and Nato.

But his government has detained dozens of Mr Saakashvili’s officials on corruption charges. Yesterday he said Mr Saakashvili himself could face the same fate for presiding over a country “smothered by corruption”.

The US has already voiced concern at the arrests and will be rightly concerned by this latest outburst.

If he is serious about keeping ties with the West, he should stop threatening to use the courts to silence his opposition. Such talk may wash with Moscow, but Western capitals might take a different view.

News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
newsTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone