1st Innovation Summit in Athens, Greece held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

This article originally appeared on Endeavor Greece’s website.

On July 15, 2022 Endeavor Greece hosted the first Innovation Summit in Athens, with the goal to make it an annual international innovation event. Together, we celebrated 10 years of supporting high-impact entrepreneurs and their extraordinary accomplishments, pushing Greece and global innovation forward.

That night, and our promise to make this an annual world-class innovation event, is dedicated to their success, courage and impact.

Opening Remarks

Costantza Sbokou Constantakopoulou:

Mr. Prime Minister, Dear friends, Good evening!

I am Costantza Sbokou Constantakopoulos, the Chairwoman of Endeavor Greece and it is a great honor to be here with you tonight – to celebrate Endeavor’s 10-year anniversary in Greece and with that recognize and celebrate what Greek high-impact entrepreneurs have achieved in this decade.

There is no better place to host tonight’s discussions and no time when we have needed them more. At a moment when peace, democracy, and even our very planet feels threatened, high-impact entrepreneurs must play a critical role in solving our toughest challenges. The birthplace of democracy can become a global epicenter once more -for them to connect and join forces for a brighter future and a better world.

So, at this point, on behalf of Endeavor Greece I would like to express our gratitude to the Greek Ministry of Culture and all the authorities that have supported us and allowed us to host this unique Innovation Event at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Endeavor is the world’s leading non-profit organization for the high-impact entrepreneurship movement. High-impact entrepreneurs dream big, scale faster, create more jobs and multiply their impact. With their success stories and pay-it-forward mindset, they transform the local economies, contribute to the creation of sustainable ecosystems, and push the next generations forward.

As an entrepreneur myself, as well as the rest of our Board of Directors -and here I would like to thank you all for the engagement and huge support- we have a great respect for the impact and multiplier effect that entrepreneurship creates in Greece and we empathize with every next generation of founders who set out to do big things and make the world a better place. We understand completely the value of having a global community of like-minded, high-impact entrepreneurs around you: to guide you, to advise you and help you along the difficult journey you have embarked upon. That is why so many of us are putting our heart and energy in this organization.

The idea of Endeavor was born in Buenos Aires 25 years ago, in 1997 by Linda Rottenberg. Linda realized that the country’s economic situation and the lack of entrepreneurial mentality had led many high-skilled young people out of innovation and entrepreneurship – they did not even have a word for entrepreneurship in Spanish. So Linda co-founded Endeavor, to boost the entrepreneurial mentality and create an entrepreneur-first community in emerging markets, beginning in Latin America – and she did so in such a great way that a few years later the word emprendedor was added both in the Spanish and Portuguese dictionaries.

The story of Endeavor in Greece, started in the summer of 2012 when Mareva Grabowski, had the idea of bringing Endeavor to Greece and with an impressive success she managed not just to gather the local support (an incredible founding Board of Directors) but also persuade Endeavor to launch its first European office.

Our country was amid an extremely difficult macro situation with no clear end in sight. Our dynamic and innovative young communities were feeling disappointed and deeply pessimistic about their future in Greece that resulted in more than 500 thousand people, mostly young, leaving the country.

Endeavor was launched with the ambition to replace some of the fallen support system for entrepreneurs and start building a thriving global community of high-impact Greek founders.

Today, I am glad to say that we have made great progress. The environment for local entrepreneurs and new generations is much more supportive and favorable, the communities and ecosystem much denser and more productive and our global brand enhanced significantly by the hard work from all of us here tonight as well as by the impressive success stories we have seen over the last 10 years.

Endeavor Greece has selected and currently supports 45 founders as Endeavor Entrepreneurs, from 35 scaleups and has selected another 120 companies in earlier stage programs, with many of them being Greek founders from our Diaspora. Only in 2021, we devoted 4.000 hours that went into mentoring, community building, thought-leadership and knowledge sharing for our Greek high-impact entrepreneurs.

At this point I would like to say a special THANK YOU to our Mentors, who are an integral part of our community.

But of course, nothing of that could ever be possible without our charismatic Managing Director Panagiotis Karampinis and his amazing team of young, passionate, hardworking and committed people.

Looking ahead, Endeavor will continue to bring a thriving community of high-impact entrepreneurs closer together but also work on promoting Greece as a Destination for global innovation – We are optimistic that Greece can be a Rising International Hub and Endeavor will work on supporting this unique momentum and opportunity!

At this point I would like to ask Linda Rotenberg the CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, to join me.

Linda welcome. It’s a great pleasure to celebrate together the 10-year anniversary of Endeavor Greece and the 25th anniversary of Endeavor Global. I have mentioned some of the accomplishments over the first 25 years of Endeavor. If you had to distill 25 years of Endeavor’s impact in a few sentences, what would those be?

Linda Rottenberg: When I first had this idea for Endeavor, 25 years ago, people called me crazy. I flipped that and said: Crazy is a compliment! If you’re not called crazy when you start something new, you’re not thinking big enough. What have we accomplished since then, I’d say three things:

  1. We helped create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in 41 markets around the world.
  2. We created what we call ‘the Endeavor Multiplier Effect.’ The high-impact entrepreneurs you mentioned, the ones who dream bigger, scale faster, and pay it forward, also multiply their impact with support from a trusted network like Endeavor. The result: more jobs, more opportunity, and more young people inspired to take up the entrepreneurial path.
  3. Through our rules-based Endeavor Catalyst Fund, which so many here in Greece invested in, we created a path to self-sustainability that’s almost unheard of for a nonprofit organization.

Costantza, when I look at Endeavor Greece, celebrating 10 years tonight, I’m so grateful to you as our dynamic board chair, to Mareva who convinced me to launch Endeavor in Europe, and to the current board members, mentors, team members, and entrepreneurs — here and around the world — who’ve brought Endeavor’s mission to life.

Costantza Sbokou Constantakopoulou: I am sure we are going to hear a fascinating discussion. Linda the stage is all yours!

Linda Rottenberg: Thank you all for joining us this evening. What a spectacular, breathtaking venue!! When I told some Greek friends that we would be speaking here tonight, they said I’d gone beyond “crazy is a compliment” to just plain crazy!!

Ten years ago, when we were launching Endeavor in Greece, amidst the Great Recession, I was invited onto the CNBC morning television show, Squawk Box. The host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, began the interview by saying: “Linda, if you were going to launch Endeavor in Europe, why in G-d’s name would you start in GREECE?”

My answer:

One of our greatest lessons at Endeavor is that every organization, every company, goes through ups and downs. And we created a safe place to turn when entrepreneurs have no place else to turn.