Original article by Anna Rebelou

Translation by Kardamitsis Evangelos

Dr. Nikos Arvanitidis, was one of the first Greeks to attend the University of Stanford as a postgraduate student in 1963

It is not by chance that the Greeks in Silicon Valley, that area south of the Gulf of San Francisco, which is the epicenter of worldwide high end technology, call him “mentor”. The veteran businessman Dr. Nikos Arvanitidis, was one of the first Greeks to attend the University of Stanford as a postgraduate student in 1963, after he had acquired his Bachelor in electrical engineering from the University of Seattle. When he left the universities’ classrooms to join the business world – has founded among others, the pharmaceutical company “Sequus Pharmaceuticals” which after 1995 was sold, the biotechnological company “Delpor” which develops next gen pharmaceutical systems and ” Glocu Inc” – always kept his door open to every Greek who traveled to the United States with a dream of a successful career. In our very interesting and quite lengthy discussion, Nikos Arvanitidis, admits that from early 2010, after the breakout of the economic recession, he was receiving 1 or 2 phonecalls weekly by Greeks who were looking for a chance to start over in San Francisco. An editorial piece by the journalist Anna Grimani for the Greeks in Silicon Valley, in “K” magazine of the newspaper Kathimerini, inspired him to create the Silicon Valley Greek Seed Funding Group. After all the calls for help were starting to increase dramatically.

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This group was full of new talents. A network of Greeks in Silicon Valley, from a wide range of technological, investing and business background, with the purpose of providing the necessary help to new Greek businessmen who desired to spread their wings across the Atlantic. However, this ambitious effort did not come through. It managed to remain active for almost one year, with only a single investment, that of a big greek start-up company “BUGSENSE”, which was sucessful and was bought later from a bigger company for a substantial amount. The reason that SVGSFG did not pull through was our natural weakness : “Not cooperating and each one insisting on his own way of thinking”.

” The basic idea behind SVGSFG was to establish a Greek presence in Silicon Valley, which could help new Greek businessmen to create and develop a successful company, offering them a small starting capital and a lot of guidance and mentoring in the complicated business world. Our team had everything that one could need in the field of new businesses” mr. Arvanitidis states and explains: ” We offered our experience on how to create a start-up, establish a team, develop a business plan, find sponsors, appoint the appropriate management. A look in our CVs proves it.”

The reason that SVGSFG did not pull through was our natural weakness : “Not cooperating and each one insisting on his own way of thinking”.

The funding of the business proposals came from members of SVGSFG which were Greeks, or from investors outside of the group who, however, had some connections with SVGSFG. In all cases, a founding member or not, selected a proposal and took the role of the Investor and Mentor. In its one year, SVGSFG received more than 100 business proposals.

Greece and the government were absent

In other words, the dream team that Mr. Arvanitidis suggested, tried to do what Greece had to do many years ago. Creating the appropriate background to support new and talented Greek businessmen in Silicon Valley, just as so many other nations do in collaboration with their embassies there and with private non-profit organizations ( Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland). However, nowadays there is no sufficient funding for something like that. “Before the recession there were many chances to acquire the necessary funding, but there never was a clear strategy to promote such a thing” Mr. Arvanitidis agrees. However, in this private and non profit oriented initiative of Greeks there, things did not work out.

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” The basic reason that our group did not make it through was our inability to cooperate. Gathering a number of Greeks with a sucessfull economic or business profile and our effort to come to an agreement was an overwhelming challenge after all”. For anyone who can understand the Greek mentality and culture, this is not unexpected” Mr. Arvanitidis points out, who even though has been in the United States for 50 years now, never forgot his roots. “Because I had the headquarters of my businesses in Europe, I traveled often both in my home town Komotini and in Athens. Now that I am retired, I still come to Greece every year” he states.

Greeks have high IQ

Mr Arvantidis points out that Greek businessmen are intelligent and possess high IQ. However, as it happens in other new found companies around Europe, the business proposals are not really original and of course there is the major problem of not having sufficient capital or funding. ” Not having investment capital, along with every other issue, makes it really difficult for Greek and European start-ups to compete with the Americans, which are actually overfunded” he stresses out, still having the hope, however, that someone will take this original idea of the SVGSFG and see it through. He believes that the banks which have suggested fundings for start-ups in Greece can take the idea of the SVGSFG and take it in Silicon Valley, providing direct access in the center of the high tech business world.