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Greek entrepreneur creates transaction proxy for Greek start-ups hit by capital controls

21 July 2015

Mosaiko.gr recently had the pleasure of interviewing Splunk Inc.'s Panos Papadopoulos, an inspiring Greek-American mobile application entrepreneur now based in San Francisco. Papadopoulos now volunteers his time and his network of investors to help aspiring Greek entrepreneurs caught in the financial crisis to grow and continue their businesses under restricting capital controls and an unpredictable economic situation. Panos' efforts have also attracted broad media coverage since he made the commitment to help the struggling Greek business community. We at Mosaiko.gr thank him for his time.

You are the co-founder of BugSense (now acquired by Splunk Inc.), a business that provides mobile application developers across the globe with app performance reports that detail how crashes impact user engagement. As a Greek entrepreneur, how has the financial crisis in Greece impacted the Greece-based entrepreneurs you come in contact with?

The impact is pretty big, especially for those who had exclusively Greek entities or are focused on the Greek market. Capital controls make any business - healthy or not - suffocate. What is even worse is the anxiety & uncertainty it has created. Running a startup even in Silicon Valley is pretty stressful by itself. Now if you add unforeseen situations like capital controls, one can find himself/herself in a pretty dangerous situation.

You have developed a volunteer platform that acts as a transaction proxy from Greek companies struggling to remain competitive and collect payments for their services. Can you describe how the platform is helping Greek companies when PayPal is not an option?

Right now everything is ad hoc. We are still trying to find what would be a more formal & permanent structure since capital controls aren't going to be lifted any time soon. For the time being, companies fill out a form and let us know what services they cannot pay for. Then a member of the team is tasked with reaching out - after evaluating the application - and either gives the details of a prepaid card or sometimes we ask for the credentials of their services and we pay their charges with own personal credit cards.

Many Greek mobile application entrepreneurs are delaying the launch of their products; they say they are waiting for things to 'settle down.' At what point do you think things will have settled down for these individuals?

I am not a political scientist or economist so I cannot make predictions. Actually nobody can at this point, but I am not optimistic at all.

As a successful entrepreneur yourself, do you have any advice for these entrepreneurs who are struggling with such an unforeseen situation?

Unfortunately this is an extreme situation. Standing united is the only way to make it out of this maze.

How can the volunteers of your program and the uniquely challenged entrepreneurs of Greece connect?

LinkedIn and occasional meet-ups are a great way to stay connected. Don't forget that entrepreneurship requires innovation and value creation. If you want to be part of strong networks you should always strive to provide both.

Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, the co-founder of Found.ation, an Athens-based accelerator said in an article related to your service, "If there is a positive to come from this crisis it is that people are looking at entrepreneurship more seriously." Do you believe this crisis is somehow bringing attention to entrepreneurship as a practical career for Greeks, and how do you think the support of investors like you will support a new generation of entrepreneurs and mobile application developers?

Unfortunately entrepreneurs are living in their own bubble. Right now, finding a political and economic situation that makes our country [Greece] viable should be our only priority. Entrepreneurship will always prosper and grow in time of crisis. It is... simplistic to believe that startups will be the solution to the crisis.

Final question, are you seeing any like-minded entrepreneurs of mobile applications that are producing applications or app services that are dedicated to helping other Greeks that you'd like to highlight?

Absolutely, don't forget that the initiative was sparked by my cofounder Jon Vlachogiannis. We immediately got support by other entrepreneurs like: John Dimatos (Lead for tech and design partnerships at Kickstarter), Wassilios Kazakos (business development and marketing manager at German software company disy), Christos Perakis (founder at Zootle) and Niko Bonatsos (Partner at General Catalyst Fund)

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