Despite Greece’s current economic difficulties, the startup ecosystem there seems to be taking advantage of the crisis to attract an international audience. One example is Pollfish, which has recently attained a market of eight million users.
L’Atelier: Greece has been hit very hard by the crisis, so where does the startup ecosystem stand?
Andreas Vourkos: Surprisingly, I have the impression that the crisis is proving to be a real driver for the creation of startups. We’re seeing lots of sets of two or three people founding their own startup, whether through lack of choice or job opportunities or simply as a result of inspiration arising from the current environment. In fact the market is quite mature. A great number of co-working spaces have been set up and lots of events have been held to help fledgling firms reach out to potential audiences or seek support. Moreover, the European Union is what one might call a big player in Greece in terms of allocation of funds whose purpose is to help companies set up or to grow their business. I see that in Greece at the moment there are a lot of opportunities to be seized, but if you’re going to try to do so it’s important to feel you’re part of something, that you can really follow your dreams.
Was it difficult to launch on to the survey market in less than favourable circumstances?
When we founded Pollfish, we started out with only our own capital and we set the company up in the basement of the house where one of us lived. In fact I had just left another startup in Cyprus to set up this one; the same was true for some of the other co-founders. So from the very beginning we had channels to potential customers. We also found investors very quickly, both investment funds and business angels. I have the feeling that the crisis is not a limitation, that people are still taking the time to listen and will believe in you if you argue your case well enough.
How did you manage to differentiate yourself from the international competition, which perhaps set out with greater resources than you?
Yes it’s true that the online survey market is very competitive. So, with the whole world becoming increasingly ‘mobile’, we decided to focus on that aspect of the technology as our main differentiator. What we do therefore is create opinion surveys that are more user-friendly from the mobile Internet user’s point of view – surveys which can be adapted to a variety of devices. In addition, we thought it was vital to recommend that our clients target their audience at local level, but without imposing any rigid limitations, either geographical or in terms of distribution. For distribution we concentrate on integrating the surveys into downloadable apps – which are part of mobile users’ daily lives. Lastly, we decided to go for the ‘rewards’ approach in order to attract a wider audience.
However, you’ve chosen to focus on a European and wider international market rather than on the Greek market…
That’s right, our company is aiming mainly at the United States, the UK and Germany, and also less obvious markets such as India, South Korea and the Philippines because although the research we’ve done indicates that there’s a real passion for mobile in the Greek market, Greece lags far behind other western European countries and the United States in terms of actual usage. Hence our decision – or perhaps necessity? – to focus on a more global market.