Our Athens office is celebrating its third birthday – and while the pandemic has certainly warped time, it feels like only yesterday our first employee started there.
Back in 2018, I outlined the rationale behind opening an office in Greece. Extremely high education levels, English as the primary business language, and an increasing desire to head back after working abroad were all clear reasons for setting up.
Three years on, the team has grown from one to over 30, we plan to have over 50 employees by the end of 2021 and we expect to continue to scale the team to 15-20% of global headcount.
With our retrospective goggles on, we look back at why setting up in Greece has been such a success, and what we’ve learned in the process.
Opening in Greece has taught us a lot.
- Enhanced ability to fill challenging roles: We’ve grown at pace, are continuing to do so, and we’ve welcomed new, diverse talent into challenging roles that would’ve been impossible to fill in London and New York. This has also expanded our view of the types of teams we could set up in Athens and more functions have moved roles from London.
- Increased roadmap velocity: Shrinking our time to hire has meant increasing our roadmap velocity and bringing new features to market quickly.
- Enabled remote work: The tough reality of work anywhere is that you need subsidiary companies. Without a legal entity to guide you, the logistics on payroll, taxes and benefits are just too difficult. Having the Greek legal entity opens more options for the business as we move to hybrid working.
- Differentiate with culture: We’ve focused on creating an independent, autonomous and entrepreneurial way of working. Through this, we’ve built a driven team and community spirit that sets us up to compete with the tech start-ups and scale-ups and sits opposite to many traditionally hierarchical working cultures in Greece.
- Global locations unlock new ways of thinking: We have teams across Athens, Prague, London and New York. When your team members span other countries and cultures, it brings with it new ways of thinking and problem solving. This is vital if you have a global customer base, and in the ‘Zoom world’ we live in, it’s even easier to put this at the core.
There’s a growing spark of entrepreneurialism.
Greece today is much better placed to cultivate entrepreneurship than when we landed.
A recent report from Endeavor shows the rich and vibrant tech scene that’s emerged there, attracting large tech companies like Microsoft, which recently invested $1.17 billion in new data centres, alongside acquiring Softomotive. While others already established, like Viva Wallet and Greek founded Instashop, are sharing their big success stories.
This, combined with the shift to hybrid (or primarily remote) working, means competition for talent is rising.
The other big change was the arrival of the Kyriakos Mitsotakis-led government in 2019. This made a huge difference in creating a positive business environment. It focused on reducing the costs of doing business, lowering punitive taxes, and introducing very forward-thinking policies to attract digital nomads.
Growing, scaling and moving forward
These are all positives for Greece and there’s a real feeling of change. But there’s still a long way to go on taxation and the excessive, punitive tax costs involved in hiring.
This is still the biggest barrier to further scale and remains a major obstacle to other companies setting up there.
Let’s hope change comes for the benefit of everyone – companies that can scale up easier, employees who can take more home, and the marketplace that can gain from greater levels of employment and a higher tax base.
We’ve seen the benefits of opening in Greece first-hand, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from this experience. We’re excited to see what’s next for us as we continue to grow with the help of our Greek team.