Can Zerofund, an unusual funding platform, save Greece’s economy?

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Greece’s startup ecosystem is on the up with the launch of Zerofund: an inventive platform that is part social network and part funding/participation bridge to the United States’ acceleration program, MindTheBridge.

Greek entrepreneurs were forced to find ways to survive the economic crisis of 2008 as a direct result of government budget cuts and company layoffs. One solution was to create and fund their own companies — a tough task indeed. Fortunately they now have a helping hand with Zerofund.

The platform was founded by the core team of BugSenseJohn Vlachogiannis, Maria Nasioti and Panayiotis Papadopoulos — and is effectively a network of mentors from Greece and abroad including bigwigs of the Greek startup world, Taxibeat, Hellas Direct and more.

As a Microsoft BizSpark Network Partner, Zerofund will provide the young businesses access to advice and resources from the Microsoft Hellas Innovation Center as well as from Google and the mentors involved with the platform.

The young companies are guided through a four stage process concluding in San Francisco at MindTheBridge where they could receive resources and funding up to the value of US$65 000.

Journalist Eleni Natsi’s guest post on The Next Web roughly explains the four-step process as follows:

  1. startups register at the Zerofund website (accepted until 28th February), create a public pitch (via text, video and photos) to raise a minimum virtual amount of funds from any member of the public to create a product or service
  2. qualifying startups then present their ideas to the public at an event, where any interested party can offer an actual amount of funds to the company of their choice
  3. collected funds are then funnelled directly to co-working spaces Colab and 123p who provide a space for the company to work (and supply meals) – startups then have one month to build their product or service
  4. Zerofund evaluates the startups and their products, chooses one to travel to MindTheBridge in San Francisco where they participate in the three month acceleration program

Two things stand out as unusual about the process: the initial phase using virtual funds, and the fact that the money goes to the co-working spaces rather than to the startup itself in phase three. Both have a method to their madness.

John Vlachogiannis, CTO of BugSense, explains that the use of virtual funds is a phasing process and ‘…saved us [Zerofund] from legal issues’. This means that the startups don’t need to have a legal identity in their early stages, an often costly and time-consuming endeavour, while the resources and office space provided by Colab and 123p would be welcomed with open arms by any budding business.

So is Zerofund the saviour of the Greek startup scene (and their economic problems)? It’s too early to tell at this stage. But the platform at least promises a space for new ideas to flourish and much needed support and advice from people that have experience in the startup game.

Zerofund promises to lead the way to mending Greece’s startup ecosystem and, hopefully, the offshoot will see Greece pave the way for an era of ‘re-emerging’ markets.

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