life 19 Apr 2016 11:22 am

Another emotional encounter

Facebook post from 19 April at 11:22 · Athens ·

Another emotional encounter this morning:

Walking two streets from The Cube on Benaki str. I encounter a very old man asking someone for help – He’s confused, probably suffering from the first signs of dementia. “Where are the busses, I want to go home” – “Which bus do you need” asks the other man, an owner of a kiosk, not able to give him the attention required.
I intervene.
“Where do you live” –
He pauses, angry at himself “I don’t remember the address but I remember the place I take the bus from and the stop I need to get off on”
A needle in a haystack.
“Do you have children?” I ask, “Do you have their phone number?” He’s very confused.
“I have children but they haven’t seen me in years – where are we? I just came downtown to buy some shaving cream – now I’m lost”
“We’re on the corner of Akadimias and Benaki”
“Show me the place where there’s a dip in the road, the beginning”
“The beginning of Akadimias?”
“Yes, there where the busses leave from. What’s the name of the square”, there’s that confused gaze again.
“Kannigos” I respond – his eyes light up.
“That’s it , there”
So I walk this old man a little further east towards the bus stops
“No the other way – all I do now is go there down that street and my bus leaves from there” – He’s pointing to Solonos street – We walk past the ever present drug dealers and he tells me he’s 93 years old. He has 3 children and 8 grandchildren – he lives alone – the anesthetic used during an operation he had on a broken hip 3 years ago left his mind numb. His children slowly drifted away after he lost his wife. “They have their own lives now”
He was a bus driver – coming to Athens at age 16 “When the Germans came to Kefallonia, I left and came to Athens. It’s worse now don’t you think?” He asks.
“I don’t know, I haven’t lived through a war”
“It’s worse now”, he says
We walked for 10 minutes or so as I took him to his bus station, making sure he knew where he was going. In the short time as we waited for his bus, we spoke about life, love, war and peace, about disappointment, about achievements, about parenthood – about my Father and Mother.
“Your Dad is a youngster” he said
We spoke about Greece as it was and as it is. This old man had so much to tell and give. Yet, he’s abandoned, unable to even use a phone. – I gave him my card.
“I can’t call you”, he maintained.
“If you get lost on the way home, give it to someone, and have them call me – I’ll come take you to your home and install a phone with big buttons – all you’ll do is press one button to call your daughters”
“One button?” The impossible seemed possible.
I wonder how many old people there are that are just like him. Forgotten by their kids, the ones they once gave everything for.
It made me sad. Really sad. We don’t spend enough time with our elderly.

Uncategorized 05 Apr 2016 10:06 am

On wealth

Facebook post from 5 April 2016

We are often asked why we did coLab or The Cube. It’s not about a large financial opportunity. It’s about the opportunity to surround ourselves with interesting people doing interesting things. For us and for our children, it’s about surrounding ourselves with a wealth of activity, experience and depth. We are certainly not financially richer as a result of coLab or The Cube, but as a good friend said last night, we are certainly much, much wealthier. Wealth isn’t always about money. Vasili, thank you for that remark last night.

shameful 05 Nov 2015 09:14 am

I cried for him

Facebook post from 5 November 2015 09:14

I got into a slight spat last night with a Greek state official here on Facebook. He is something like an Ombudsman for business owners – It began with his comment about an incovenience with runners closing streets down while marathons and half marathons are bing run – I responded that there were more serious problems he could tackle. Like drug dealing – after a few comments he called me “Narcophobic” – This is my response: (It’s a true story, it happened yesterday)

Vasilis Sotiropoulos: ???? ????? ????????????. ? ????????? ??? ????? ????. [You’re simply narcophobic, policing drug use is not the solution]

Stavros Messinis: Vassili, With respect, I’m sorry but you’re appearing as if you too are out of touch with reality.?’m as progressive as you my friend, probably more but I cannot not be narcophobic. I work in and around the results of narcotics every day. Being narcophilic just doesn’t fit in my mind given that at least 1 person per day dies in this city from an overdose or narcotics related fatigue or organ failure. Today, was a terrible day for me. I lost control of my emotions on the square. Walking through it I noticed man in a wheelchair. I thought he looked familiar but I was too far away to be sure. I squinted as I approached and suddenly realised it was Spyros, an addict I knew. Spyros is an addict who six months ago had asked me to help as I walked past. “Sir”, he said, “I was unconscious last night and someone stole my shoes, look, I have no shoes and it’s cold. Do you have some shoes to give me? ” I went to the Cube and took a pair of shoes I had there and gave them to him. He was so grateful and we got talking about his situation, how he had started using and all of his failed attempts to escape the illness and his need for heroin. We talked about the things this drug will make you do about how it controls you and how it keeps you warm in the winter. We talked about the levels you will decay into if you get hooked on it, about the day he was diagnosed HIV positive and how each day is a struggle, about how he doesn’t care about taking his medication because his only mission every day is to beg for as much money as he can so he can buy his dose as often as he can. We talked about how his illnesses have led to cancerous growths in his coccix but that the pain is “manageable with heroin”. Vassili, yesterday I lost control of my emotions because I saw Spyro. Spyro was a shadow of his previous self. At least 25 kg lighter, a weak skeleton with darkened eyes sunken into his skull. He was in a wheelchair. At deaths door. I have seen this death so many times. I estimate he has less than two weeks to live. I asked, astounded “?? ?????? ????!! ?? ?????!” [What happened to you? We lost you!”] – “????????? ? ???????? ???? ?????????? ?????” [The cancer progressed to my Spine] he said with around 5 other addicts around him. I asked him full of emotion “Please! Please tell your friends here what will happen to them – show them their future in yourself if they do not stop – Why must this happen, Why!” At that point I completely lost it and started sobbing like a child at the injustice. I cried for this poor man. I ran away crying. He shouted as I ran “??? ????? ?????? ??? ?????” [Don’t cry father, don’t cry] – I walked from Kannigos to Iera Odos and back before I could return to normal function. Im crying now as I write this. I mourned his looming death and I cried for my part in it and your part in it. I cried for the injustice. For allowing the dealers to do this to him. All I did was give him shoes and offer some comfort through conversation with the hope that he might pick himself up and do what needed to be done. I can do more. Can you? Vassili, Your comment that I am narcophobic is blatantly innapropriate. You are out of touch my friend. ? ????????? ??? ?????? ??? ????? ???? [The policing of drug use isnt a solution], I agree. ???? ??? ??? ?????? ??? ????????? ??? ???????? [but here, not even dealing is being policed].??? ?? ?????? ??? ????? ??? ??? ???? ????????. ??? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ??????????????? ??? ?????????????? ??? ????? ??????? ?? ???????????. [ Come visit here and in the Academy, come talk to the addicts, the shopkeepers and business owners you have a duty to represent]

shameful &work 19 Aug 2015 08:35 am

Letter to the Mayor

[Below is a text of a letter I wrote to the Mayor of Athens in August 2015 about the rising drug problem in our area]

Dear Mayor Kaminis,

I own and run The Cube, Athens’ largest coworking space and tech startup cluster based near Kannigos square. It is home to some of Greece’s best web and tech entrepreneurs, people who are building globally impactful businesses. It is the defacto location for many of Athens’ tech meetups – daily , weekly and monthly group meetings of people with common interest in various technologies, tools and methods. Together, we are some of Greece’s most impactful changemakers.

Unfortunately, life in this part of the city has once again become untenable and I can no longer expend energy trying to convince the authorities that they need to do the commonsensible. I am tired of calling officials to complain about the lack of policing, the lack of cleanliness, the lack of adequate lighting – more seriously, the blatant surrender of the streets we have the unlucky fate to be in, to drug dealers, prostitutes and vagrants.

We have an ever present gang of drug dealers peddling their poison less than 50m from our entrance. Drug use on our street is significant. Addicts are constantly spiking themselves right outside our door, leaving their used needles, spraying blood on our pavement, sometimes passing out for hours on our street, very often fights break out and there is a general feeling of an unsafe neighborhood. The Police seem unable to take control of the situation, their patrols are minimal and they almost never arrest anyone. If they do, the same dealers are out on the street again within hours.

This is not a proud moment for me as I am writing to tell you about our combined failure. I am writing to inform you that due to this combined failure, it is my intent to move our business and all of our tenants out of central Athens at the first opportunity.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince some of Greece’s most talented entrepreneurs to come and work here, in The Cube, a place that has been recognised as one of the most positive things that has happened in this country in recent years.

It is regretful but our talented clients and coworkers refuse to co-exist with the vagrants that have embedded themselves here.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives.

I suppose one could argue that it is actually we who embedded ourselves in their territory, but I had hoped that with us moving to this troubled part of the city, that we might instigate some change and some level of care from the authorities. None has emerged, despite our efforts.

Why on earth did I choose to come here you ask? Well, I was inspired by an initiative in Lisbon, where another entrepreneur like me did the same. His story and the success delivered to his neighborhood is something that should be replicated in many parts of the world.

In creating The Cube, my second coworking initiative after founding coLab – Greece’s first (and quite famous) coworking space, I specifically wanted to go to an under-served part of town and do some good. I wanted to create an initiative that would help uplift one of the many areas that have significant challenges and are undergoing urban decay. Kannigos square was once full of life. By the time we arrived, two and a half years ago, it had descended into a no-mans land of drugs, prostitution and petty crime. The opportunity to do good had appeared. We found a fantastic building – Seven times larger than our previous location – a building that once was home to a stockbrokers, one of Greece’s biggest – but they unfortunately decided to depart after an attack by anarchists. I’m not worried about anarchists. Startups are kind of anarchists by nature too. I was more worried about the drugs and the needles. My co-investor was especially nervous about my choice for this building, as were many of the members of Athens’ startup community, but I convinced him, as I did them, that new things need to be built on the ruins of bad things and if we came here, we would give life to the neighborhood. This very large building was empty for 4 years which of course means that the city received no city taxes during that period. We came and brought life to the building and to our small street. It had become dark and lifeless. The Cube, as a working concern, currently pays very significant city taxes. I feel we get very little value in return.

In the past few days, while we were away, our tenants tell us that the situation had become extreme. We returned to find chaos in and around our office building entrance. It had become a drug den. We returned and immediately began cleaning the urine and fecal matter from HIV and Hepatitis infected addicts literally in the entrance of our office. The drug pushers stood a few meters away while we did this.They had even been so kind as to leave a small shovel for use of their customers when, in a drug induced bout of diarrhea when have the urge to relieve themselves of their infectious waste, they can use the shovel to move their fecal matter into the surrounding bushes.

Over the past two years, I have personally called the Police, the Narcotics bureau, the Ministry of Public order, several city Councillors and deputy Mayors and finally your office uncountable times. Yet, this same gang of four or five Ghanaian or Nigerian drug pushers continue to work the streets surrounding The Cube day in and day out – right under the nose of the authorities who simply raise their hands and pass the buck from one official to the next official. Your office tells me your hands are tied. I respond saying your hands are raised.

I called again and visited Omonia police station after being threatened by the drug dealers yesterday. Today, I was threatened by the addicts themselves – I was chased all the way to Omonia, manhandled and had my phone removed while they deleted photographs I had taken of the decay in Kannigos square to show to the authorities.

Enough is enough Mr Mayor. I explained to one of your aides today that my job here is to provide good working conditions to my members. I have failed them and I feel the city has failed me.

Your job, Mr Mayor, is to make the city attractive for businesses and provide the conditions (in collaboration with the other authorities) for our citizens to want to work here and for entrepreneurs to want to invest here. All parts of the city require your attention. I’d say that you might consider giving the more troubled parts, and especially those parts with the potential for improvement, with high impact individuals, as I have described above, more attention. We chose to come to this part of the city because it was at a good price and we could do something to uplift it. Without your help and support, we have no reason to remain. We are losing customers and without customers we cannot remain. Our customers are asking us to move.

I consider myself an ambassador for our city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem when I travel to speak abroad on entrepreneurship and business – I’m afraid I’m finding it difficult to represent this city given the current situation.

Today, while talking, at your office with one of your aides, I asked to see you so that I can explain this to you in person. I don’t really need to see you to complain. I have complained enough here already and I have complained to you in person before, and while I have often been accused of complaining by various authorities, including city officials, I must say it is simply because I’m very invested in this city.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you

Stavros Messinis

Founder – The Cube Athens

/cc Minister of Citizens Protection – Mr Yiannis Panousis

Uncategorized 11 Jun 2015 08:30 pm

Orbitz Hell.

I’ve just spent over 8 days battling through successive phonecalls with a few particularly frustrating conversations with Orbitz and Piraeus Bank, I have to air my grievances.

First, I never had any issues prior to this week on with my Piraeus Bank Mastercard. This issue started with Orbitz (with whom I’ve never booked before save for this first and last time).

Trying to book tickets for me and the family and Orbitz presented a great offer. I hit the buy button, put in my Credit Card info and the purchase seemed to go through. A minute later, I get an email saying the transaction has been voided and I should book a different itenerary (a more expensive one at that)
Orbitz locked up $1466 of availability on my Prepaid Piraeus Credit Card in the form of a “pre-authorization”.

After several hours talking to multiple representatives from both Orbitz and Piraeus (8 agents, a supervisor and a manager from Piraeus), I now beleive the blame is more on the bank than the merchant for the fact that I still have this non-transaction eating up availability on my card.

Orbitz screwed up on this originally, but Piraeus is the one that refuses to remove the transaction saying that there’s nothing they can do while it’s still pending.

The only recommendation they give me each time I call them is for me to get Orbitz to contact their bank or merchant services to reverse the transaction (which Orbitz cannot identify in their system) or wait 15 more days until the pending transaction cancels out naturally.

We even had Orbitz send them a fax saying they woruld not claim the preAuth but Piraeus still refuses to release the funds until Orbitz’s bank issues them with a fax.

This is terrible customer services and I’d expect more from Piraeus. Of Orbitz, I expect nothing – they suck plain and simple.

life &work 24 May 2015 12:11 pm

Best thing read

I’ve been posting a regular update called “Best Thing Read Today” to my Facebook recently. It’s normally a short text from a book,newspaper or site I chanced upon that strikes me as important. Here’s one I think is profound given Greece’s current situation and the root causes of these outcomes :


Sounds a little like Kennedy’s  “Ask not” speech.

life 24 Apr 2015 02:59 pm

Time to complain

This image expresses it perfectly. 

Today I had a coffee with Menelaos, someone I consider very highly. He said something that I wanted to share with all of you.

“If you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t have time to complain”

I’m probably wasting time on low impact things that inevitably make me complain. No more. I intend to do it right and not have time to complain.

How about you?

The next few weeks will be hectic – with a visit to San Francisco and Boulder, helping my friends from do some great things with Sparkfun and some US schools, it will be a lot of fun and we’ll make some impact. I hope too to have some time to attend TiECon  – I met the awesome TiE folks when they did their summer retreat here in AThens a few years ago. We helped them put together a great entrepreneurs bootcamp here and I’ve been invited back to do the same for their next summer retreat in Dublin. So, the following week, I’ll be closer to home, in Dublin doing that.

So, no time to complain – trying to do it right. Can I convince you to join me?


Explaining &work 01 May 2013 11:04 pm

On Values

I was asked a few days ago to contribute to a discussion on values for an organisation very close to my heart. Here’s what I submitted as the 5 most important values. I subscribe to them and I expect everyone I do business with would want to too.


  1. Honesty and Integrity
    Maintaining the highest ethical standards. Being open and transparent in all processes. Respecting the resources assigned to us.Being honest and thereby inspiring trust. Doing what we say and saying what we mean, matching our behaviours to our words and taking responsibility for our actions.
  2. Commitment to community
    Giving back. Being committed to doing good overall. Acting in an open and inclusive manner that embraces all players in the entrepreneurial community. Nurturing and inspiring nascent communities with our actions.
  3. Humility
    Valuing the the strengths, experiences, and perspectives of others while recognizing our own limitations. Being committed to partnering effectively with local communities to ensure that our work advances the broader good for all.
  4. Respectfulness
    Placing value in individuals. Respecting people for who they are and the value they bring. Embracing diversity and each individual’s unique contribution. Fostering a trusting environment that treats each person in a way that reflects our values.
  5. Stewardship
    Working towards building a better and stronger company. Developing and protecting the brand and our associated brands.

Projects &work 20 Apr 2013 02:32 am

TheCubist – a biweekly newsletter

Today, I launched a new newsletter 

Welcome to theCubist

– It’s a newsletter about entrepreneurship.

You can subscribe too by visiting

Here’s the first paragraph welcoming new subscribers.

It’s a real privilege to be welcomed into your inbox, I know this is a very personal thing and I promise to respect it by offering the most valuable insights to you. Insights I collate from my various readings as I surf the interwebs.

I love writing (it’s therapeutic), I love communicating and while this exercise will be therapeutic for me, my aim for you, is that it is informative, educational, entertaining if possible, a little inspring too.

This is a collective, inclusive newsletter. An open forum. From time to time, I will invite friends from both within our circle and from further afield to contribute too. I may promo a few things here and there where I think they’ll add value, like the excellent SWNext program you should check out, seriously click the link. Share it.

However, if at any point you think I’m overstepping the boundaries, please reach out and tell me.

Regarding frequency, I’ll try get this out to you every couple of weeks but don’t hold me to it. I know you only want value coming into your mailbox.

Will it be about Greek startups, you ask? A little (actually very, very little). There are enough forums, newsletters and sites covering that subject. Our little ecosystem is maturing so as to enable that. This rising tide is lifting all boats. StartupDigest will continue to cover Athens events. I will cover the odd Greek startup here and there but I will also talk about my other countries’ ecosystems too (those that I have been privileged to serve in the past) i.e. South Africa, UK and Brazil. Im adding a few more as we speak. We are citizens of the world after all.

Enough jabber. Let’s get this show started. Welcome again!


Explaining &work 26 Feb 2013 01:49 pm

A sunshine moment.

Sunshine momentHello friends.

What a ride! It’s been fun! It’s been challenging, but now, it’s time for something new.

I have just completed a transaction with Dimitris Tsigos and his StartTech group transferring all of my shares in coLab to them.

One key tenant in coLab recently told me “everyone who’s anyone has graduated from coLab or is about to”. I agree, and now, it’s time for me to graduate too.

The last 2 years of my life have been precious. In building coLab, I invested almost everything I had. Money, time, family, tears, everything. Yet, we built it and together, we built a community around it. With sacrifices. Through the crisis. Without (much) investment other than the investment from customers who trusted us. coLab was never meant to return huge profits financially. It did however return huge profits in social terms.

We built our corporate brand as well as our respective personal brands. We had hundreds of events and thousands of readers of our newsletter. We helped and were helped by many. I can’t count the number of kudos emails I received because of what we were doing.

Giving someone a chance in business is so important and all of you gave that to me and Spiro. We gave it to each other. It wasn’t always rosy but it was always fulfilling. I have taken many lessons from this past period. Lessons about commitment, about trust and about integrity.

Selling coLab! I know, shocking isn’t it? Well, they had it coming. The deal is pretty sweet and gives me the ability to continue along a new track.

Spiros will remain in coLab together with the StartTech team. I wish them all the best of luck. I hope you will give them the chance they deserve in this new beginning. If I can part with one final piece of advice to my past collaborators it would be this: service is more than saying, “Yes” and taking care of the customer. Above all, great service needs personality.

Now, on to the terms of the sale: There’s a small catch. The terms of the sale contain a non-compete clause with coLab so and while I will never consider coLab as a competitor but rather a collaborator, I will be going into coworking stealth mode for a short time. Let’s call it a hibernation from coworking. I will not be running a new coworking space immediately. I will be running events and some of them may be in coLab or elsewhere or some may be in a new event space I will likely set up soon(ish). It will NOT be a coworking space, at least not in the short term.

In parallel, I will continue the fun work I’m doing with StartupDigest, facilitating Startup Weekend in cities around the world and helping co-organise SW in Greece and further afield. I am about to complete my accreditation as a SWNext facilitator and the next cohort of SWNext will begin imminently. Also, I’m in discussions about a new track of work I may be tasked to do and as always, as someone who always has more than one pot of tea brewing, I have a few more things up my sleeve as well. Stay tuned to learn more.

By now, you all know my strategy. I announce something and then do my best to implement it. The announcement acts as a promise to deliver and a reminder to me that my reputation is at stake. Not delivering amounts to failure and while failure is acceptable, it is certainly not desirable. I fucking hate failing.

So, on to new things. Remember, I’m only an email away!

Stavros Messinis
coFather of coLab

Startup Weekend 31 Jan 2013 02:24 pm

Punching above my weight @ Startup Weekend Cologne 2013

Startup Weekend CologneBeing invited to present Startup Weekend Cologne was a true privilege. My business, coLab, was born out of Startup Weekend Athens in 2009 and I know first hand what a life changing experience it can be. I suspect the same feelings are being felt by most participants in Cologne who met each other for the first time and together created so much.

Entering the Startup Weekend pressure cooker produces superb results. The mashup of experienced and not so experienced, the raw, the lightly baked, the spice of different cultures, folks from other cities and countries, all expecting something different while actually not knowing what to expect at all. It’s a melting pot of ideas and activity that produces a warm flavourful mix of creativity and innovation.

Being from Greece, I was especially apprehensive about going to Germany and playing the startup business “expert”. My fears were quickly put to rest upon entering betahaus and being greeted by its hostess Anu Beck (betahaus is beautiful). I immediately got the sense that this weekend would be truly special. Volunteers were buzzing around, getting final details ironed out. A nervous but determined energy prevailed. This was going to be amazing. Anu introduced me to Vidar Andersen, the lead organiser and the rest of the team. We got to work straight away. The event was starting in 2 hours. This was go go go time.

Fast forward to the event and all I can say is that the crowd were warm and receptive and by the end, the organising team and I had turned them all into screaming lunatics.

I was told later that some thought it “Charming” that a Greek was running the event. The slightly different flavour than the straight strict German business culture they were used to seeing was a welcome thing. Not sure how to take that remark but all I can say is that from the get-go, I was determined to give the event a little craziness, a sense of fringe, a sense of frontier. That is, after all, what entrepreneurship is about. You’re working on the fringe, on the cusp. New technologies, new teams, uncharted territory. Startup Weekend is exactly that. Actually, in Greece, it’s life.

Some volunteers approached, saying that some participants were nervously eager to learn about the pitching “Process” – I think that’s a German word. I introduced them to a Greek word: “Arakse!” It will be fine. We’re all friends here, we all want to see each other succeed.[See video from Stefanos Sitaras]

After playing a few networking games (I won’t reveal them here, you’ll have to come and experience the craziness yourselves) The crowd produced about 40, raw, 1 minute pitches. Some ideas were pretty amazing and it’s these that inevitably progressed to the next phase. The recruiting period straight afterward was insane! There was no German order here. None. This was a free for all talent orgy. Get what you can, and fast. Complementary skills and all that. No, absolutely no German order. That came after.

The organizing team kept up the fever. The Videographer[Ali Mokhtari] worked endlessly to get good quality content out there. We had a live blogger[Droid Boy] and a live photographer[Dawawas] adding pics as things happened. All this is engaging stuff and essential to delivering an outstanding event. Startup Weekend is the one event that can rally everyone in a local community around a common objective. This happened in Cologne too. I was very surprised to see so many similarities between the Athens scene and the Cologne scene. Both good and a few not so good. It’s all necessary. Startup ecosystems are just that. Living, breathing things. They are vibrant villages and Startup Weekend is their annual festival. What a privilege to be invited.

Execution is everything. Time for order. Immediately after getting teams together everyone got to the real task at hand. These guys know when to turn on the order and when to turn it off. After a well run braindump exercise, there was precise and surgical execution of their plans. The business model canvas was often extended and amplified. They took it apart and put it back together again with fine precision. Some teams had status meetings every couple of hours. All teams had an operational manager in place, keeping track of who was doing what. Everyone, focused. Flawless.

One team came to me immediately after seeing that a team member was not engaged enough and placing the plan at risk. We handled it elegantly – “Stick around dear friend, observe but please don’t interfere and interrupt.” They moved on.

Day 2 and Vidar had done the magic and had arranged for Andrew Hyde, Startup Weekend’s founding originator to pay us a visit. Hats off to you Vidar. You are on fire my friend! I had last seen Andrew in 2009. He witnessed the birth of coLab.

Andrew came in and spent the day with us, reminiscing the first days of SW and revering its global success, while also doing some ad-hoc mentoring to some teams and some of us organisers too. What an amazing guy. I put up a pic on facebook and tagged it #MyStartupHero. He is.

Vidar and the team had pulled together a top-notch group of mentors and all of them took to the task with enthusiasm. I think both mentors and mentees learned a lot from each other this weekend.

Teams continued building, surveying customers, iterating their ideas. Some had started apps – All were efficient and driven. We continued well into the night until it was time to turn off the order again.

Day 2 Phase 2 – Did I mention there was a beer sponsor? Well, give Germans a little beer an ipod and a microphone and all hell breaks loose. Till 6am. Task number 1 of Day 3 was to destroy all video evidence and develop a new SW protocol. Henceforth, all camera phones at Startup Weekend will be locked away when phase 2 of day 2 begins. This type of disorderliness cannot escape to the masses. It’s just too disruptive. Society just isn’t ready.

Day 3 is delivery time. 15 teams had worked through the weekend to build out their ideas. Judges had by now shown up and everyone was gearing up to see the final presentations. Vidar and the team had secured an amazing judging panel. Unlike something I have ever seen. I was definitely punching above my weight (That is how you improve right?)

It’s 5pm and we’re ready to begin the final festivities. Seeing what teams have achieved during the weekend. There is a cheery environment, a sense of achievement, of camaraderie. This has been a long distance journey. In my final talk, I liken it to running a marathon together. “You make best friends with your co-runner during a marathon.”

Teams get ready and I announce the first presenter ……

That was part 1 ….. Part 2 tomorrow!
[picture credit to DaWaWas]

work 06 Dec 2011 05:34 pm

As close the the core as possible

Being at the hub of things means you get to touch, influence and be influenced by the most important spokes. See my earlier post on People Hubbing. With CoLab, Spiros and I are attempting to be as close to the centre as possible. I haven’t blogged in a while (last blog entry is Oct2010) That’s around the time Spiro and I started CoLab Athens after being nudged by so many GreekPreneurs. It’s been a great ride so far. We began this journey by pitching some bigshot money guys(and gals). The one main theme that came across was “You’re not proven” We needed to persevere to prove ourselves. 15 months later, and we’re still on the journey. We now host around 11 startups. Most are on the journey to success. We love playing our little part in it all. So far we’ve had about 2.5k people come to our community events, experiencing what CoLab aspires to be and things are going swimmingly! The bigshot money guys(and gals)are slowly being convinced. We too are convincing ourselves that it’s possible despite the circumstances. It’s a wonderful journey. We’re announcing important things soon. Watch this space.

Projects 06 Oct 2010 10:19 am – My latest pet project

Here’s a new pet project I’m working on:

After listening to Guy Kawasaki during the Influencer Project conference say that one sure way to increase your influence via twitter is to repost your tweets multiple times during the day, I thought :”That can’t be too difficult a service to build”

So our service watches your tweets for hashtags that indicate when to replay your tweet – so if you’re say, in San Francisco (that’s Pacific Daylight Time) and you add a hashtag #rpGMT, we will replay that tweet at the same time in Greenwich Mean Time – so now your followers in London can see your tweet when they’re awake. Likewise, UK twitter users that add #rpPDT will have those tweets replayed to Pacific Daylight Time followers.

We’re launching the beta in a couple of days so please do sign up and help us test it.

The service is free during beta and then once we launch proper, we will have two pricing models, 25 free replays/month for free or unlimited replays for a small monthly fee.

life 03 Sep 2010 10:04 pm

Positive Scaffolds

Times are tough. The experts say they’re going to get tougher. I’m encouraged by the fact that in many conversations I’m hearing people offer eachother the phrase “How can I be supportive?”. It comes early in the conversation, probably the second question asked. Right after “What are you working on currently?” Most respond with an empassioned rant on their current project. Some answer that they’re not working on much but are looking for an opportunity. The response is still fitting.

It’s great that people are interacting like this. Using the word “support” rather than the word “help” implies success rather than failure.

In tough times like these we need to be scaffolds for eachother.

Projects &Social Nets &work 24 May 2010 08:53 am

On being a hub

people hub

People Hubbing

Organisations that fail to realise the importance of being a hub will simply fail. Call it what you like, a marketplace, a center of excellence, an agora whatever, it’s a hub. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject you’re hosting but you need to have the skills to get people to share and interact, meet and greet, exchange views and practices. Not all might share the same objectives with you nor serve exactly the same ideals but if you can’t get them into a room together you won’t ever get the chance to learn from them or even convince them of the merits of your position.

If you yourself don’t have the skills to encourage hubbing, hire someone to do it or better yet partner up with someone who can. It’s far worse if you fail to realise the benefits of hubbing. Hubs are great for reporting good news stories and “embedding humanity”. Remember, new technologies give anyone the tools to create, publish or broadcast. Ineviteably, people are like moths around a flame. If the flame is bright enough, i.e the subject is attractive or offers value.
Electronic word of mouth has given power to smaller hubs to
connect people to stories they have created. Today it’s cheaper to connect, create communities and empower niches. So go ahead and be a hub. Don’t fear it.

life 22 May 2010 04:37 pm

Importance of siesta’s without clocks

I’ve just woken up. It happens so often that I wake up during sleep and wished I’d had a notebook by the bedside to jot down what I, at that specific point in time, think is an incredible idea. I don’t have a notebook and naturally, overcome by the desire to nap for a few more minutes or get back into that nirvana mode where I came up with that idea, I forget the idea. Today, I beat nirvana and jotted down an incredible idea.

I get my best ideas while sleeping, that’s why siesta’s are important.
I wish I had more of them!

life &work 02 Apr 2010 10:28 am

Be professional but be a little amateur too – Don’t lose the love

It’s been a tough couple of weeks and we have been at the mercy of some cold, hard balled professionals and the impact has been devastating but we will overcome. I wanted to make a point regarding professionalism vs amateurism and how one without the other will most likely lead to failure of some sort. The last few weeks’ events have resulted in a few people being hurt, productivity is in the doldrums and work morale is at almost zero. It’s going to be an uphill battle to encourage the troops again and some valuable soldiers are likely to desert.

To make my point: The difference between professionals and amateurs is that amateurs exhibit love for what they do.

Yesterday, I advised a young colleague with a bright future that while being professional is important, it’s equally important to be a little bit of an amateur. A professional places less value in the human cost of decisions than an amateur will. I hope he takes my advice and when it’s his turn to advise those more senior than him on the best course of action, he’ll be a little bit of an amateur as well as a professional. This will transform him from a good manager to a great manager and eventually into a great leader. A leader who will have troops that return that love and will be ready to follow him into any battle. Battles that’ll then be easier to win because love is hard to beat.

There are too many professionals around lately. They’re not really producing more than the amateurs were. I’m seeing more destruction and less construction. Play a little tetris people.

Etymology of Amateur
In Greek: Erasitechnis < erasi- (eramai-to love) + -technis (techni) In English: 1775–85; < F, MF < L amator lover, equiv. to ama- (s. of amore to love) + -tor -tor, replaced by F -teur (< L -tor-, obl. s. of -tor); see -eur

Uncategorized 12 Oct 2009 10:01 am

Forces in play during Football Practice

Our firstborn had his third football practice today. He’s enjoying it. The second one was easy but the first was a nightmare for both parent and child.

Now during round three, having overcome the anxiety of the first ever practice, where Panos was “expected” to join in, accepting orders from another adult, in a team environment. The biggest anxiety was one imposed on him by his parents, the pressure we as parents unwittingly exert on him, expecting him to perform normally. in this new environment. Naturally since it was all so new, he didnt want to join in so we in turn become agitated. We ask ourselves why is my child not enjoying this? He enjoys football when we play together, is he not normal, Im dissapointed, let me pressure him a little (big mistake), now i’m embarrased. Lets just go home. If you dont play we’ll go home, if you do play I’ll buy you xxxxxxxx.

The coach was wise, “dont even mention it to him, he’ll play when he’s ready” I’m beginning to understand it now, while watching another parent go through the same motions.

Evolution is a wonderful thing.

life &work 03 Aug 2009 01:13 am

And what matters is:

My (slightly modified) view on what matters is:

* An alternative culture, a brighter light
* A tight relationship with stakeholders, partners and the wider community that all give us permission to talk with them
* Doing business in a remarkable way that’s worth talking about
* A story that spreads, a tale that sticks
* Leadership

Projects &Technology I use 04 Apr 2009 11:48 pm

Twitter & Google search greasemonkey addin

screenshot of twitter search addinI use twitter’s web interface more than anything and I hate the fact that I have to scroll down the page to go to to do a search on a hashtag or on a user or even myself. I’ve seen the experimental twitter search box on other accounts but it’s not appearing for mine yet so tonight with the help of a few friends, I modified an old greasemonkey script to add a twitter and google search box on the top right of the main twitter homepage. Suddenly my twitter experience is so much better. If you have firefox and greasemonkey installed, you can try the script here or if not, download and install greasemonkey then try the script. Let me know if you like it or if I can change it in any way. In the next version I plan to add a feature that will turn all hashtags into url’s pointing to their respective twitter search url’s. I’m also hoping to include the latest treding topics under the search boxes.

Uncategorized 01 Apr 2009 05:24 pm

dooped !!

shameful 30 Mar 2009 01:37 am

Citizens filling the gap

The number of example cases are growing, Faliron, Goudi, Villa Zographou and more. Cases of ordinary citizens taking matters into their own hands when local government has failed them.

The latest of these has been the Info Cafe campaign running at Gardenia Square in Zographou where ordinary citizens took back a large space once used as a coffee shop. Apparently the previous tenant had not paid rent to the council for several years and has left a bill of several hundred thousand euros.

Local residents have since occupied the space and have turned it into a self run “Community run cultural centre”. The city council is against them of course since they just want to find another tenant who might (or might not) pay rent. It’s a funny place, Greece. Nevertheless, the group of organisers involved here are getting things right, arranging several cool events, using the internet to announce, co-ordinate and organise more generally. Take a look at their google calendar here.

Today, while walking through Exarcheia, one of Athens’ more run down districts, I came across another citizen run action I had heard about. There is a plot of land off Navarinou str that was destined to be made a parking lot but through pressure and action of local citizens, the space has been taken back and is slowly being turned into a park. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s the city council doing the conversion: No, it’s the citizens. Today I witnessed guerrilla gardening at its best, ordinary people, fed up with urbanisation, planting trees and shrubs in the center of Athens. The day had street theater, childrens activities and more. Here’s a few pictures from there today (I didn’t take too many since Exarcheia is a risky place to take pix)

Now while on the subject of citizen action, another place that is in dire need of such activity is the Athens City Council’s Library at Agios Thomas square. The place has been closed for over two years and has at various stages been under threat of being turned into a cafeteria. I’d love to see citizens of the area take over the place and run it like the ex Info Cafe in Zographou. The place was recently broken into again and is in a truly sorry state. Take a look at the pix and judge for yourself.

life &Social Nets &the net 16 Mar 2009 04:17 pm

MediaCamp Athens ’09

We vs Me - The defining statement

We vs Me - The defining statement
credit to peter michel heilmann

It’s been 2 months since I lasted blogged and I apologise for that. Tonight has been special in that I have had the privilege of attending MediaCamp Athens ’09.

I took a lot of photo’s, some quite good, others not too good. They’re on Flickr so take a look if you like.

For the most part I have enjoyed the event (and although there have been one or two negative points upon which I’ll expand on below) first: a few notes on what was presented on this second day and what I enjoyed “consuming”

Morning demo sessions I followed were Udrive,,, greekstartups. All good but was exceptional. Better than Google. Real potential here. I loved the bit about placing advertising in a 3D live rotating view. The execution of this will be tough though, someone mentioned that advertising might appear on the Acropolis, imagine that!

The round-table Social Networks “A model for analysts” provided some heated discussion. As far as I understood, we have the potential to become less social by using social networks. (fair point if you consider we might have less physical contact if we’re constantly tweeting.

Joomla dominated today while apparently Drupal dominated yesterday. The uptake of Joomla seems fantastic. Greek company is well placed to provide services.

Vicky Kolovou and I held a discussion on TeachKidsTech – interest was good and we’re going to have a followup meeting in a couple of weeks. Join the Facebook group Teach Kids Technology if you’re interested.

And now for some comment.

The Web Startup/New Media/Social Network community or family in Greece is growing. This is a relatively young family and it is growing fast. Naturally, as families grow, the children develop and mature. They get opinions, they prefer more independence and don’t really like sharing toys. There are growing pains, jealousies and intrigues that develop too. Sometimes there are bullies about.

There is clear evidence of this happening in this family. It’s natural and there is nothing to worry about. Evolution and natural selection will occur.

Evolution is a wonderful thing. In the meantime, let’s spread the love people. Try not to be a blue meanie. The events that provide value will endure. They will survive. We should try not to stand in the wings and criticise, if we see something we don’t like, let’s lend a hand to fix it. I spoke to one person last night who felt it could have been better, but he stayed to the end, and contributed from the beginning. If you’re irked by a naturally obnoxious self promoting person or someone you feel constantly talks total crap (and there are some of those around believe me(perhaps I may be one of them)). Let the system phase them out. It will happen. Don’t worry.

I must say well done to the organisers (all of them) for their hard work in setting all this up. It was very well run. The sponsorships came through, the event was fun. Some opinions were questionable and there are more “experts” than letters in this post but you’ve got to take the good with the bad. I’ll be there next year – for sure.

Did you attend? What did you think?

Uncategorized 01 Jan 2009 07:56 pm

3 words for 2009

My three keywords for objectives for 2009 are: WRITE, LEARN, SCAFFOLD

I’m blogging less, Twittering more. 2009 should be the year I blog more, twitter less. 2009 – objective 1

In 2009 I need to use that precious commodity we have called time to learn more stuff.

Support structures as bases to new platforms, new projects, perhaps new businesses?

Projects 24 Nov 2008 12:09 pm

Athens Startup Weekend

– What an amazing experience. We presented our hastily hacked together solution, the most coherent part being the coding done by Jim and Nick who took the bull by the horns and delivered on time. I remember the last half hour where we badgered each other constantly :”Where’s my button, where’s my embed code, can I commit this version, is the blog up, what about the team photo” Then an internet outage. These last minutes are crazy. We’re still putting final touches and Jim is still coding right into the presentation prior to us. On presentation, my laptop runs out of battery. Patrick looks at me in terror – “Stavro !! Have you got battery !?!?”

“No worries!”, I lie. “I’ll wing it!”. Jokes about using openoffice ensue. We quickly connect Jim’s Macbook to the projector while I wiggle my way out of the situation with some “jumble, jumble, bla, bla” – Hand over to Jim for a demo. Goes down rather well. We got four questions from the crowd and Alex adds some important info we forgot to mention.

Andrew, Alex – Thanks for the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Learned a ton of new stuff and have made some lifelong friends.

We aim to continue developing blognudge with weekly updates and a view to open an invite only beta in about three weeks. I think we all have indicated we’re very committed. Patrick has promised to open up the domain so it will move from to We hope to see you in testing or Beta within the next few weeks.

Thanks again.

Projects 23 Nov 2008 07:37 pm

Athens Startup Weekend

Andrew from StartupWeekend is currently in Athens and we’re all located in the Microsoft Innovation Center on Vas. Sohias str hacking away at our new baby “BlogNudge”. An idea pitched by Patrick Malone of Microsoft Hellas that he has kindly let us take forward. BlogNudge’s tagline is “Motivating Lazy Bloggers” and the motivation / incentivization aspects we’ve come up with are just superb. We’re going to launch an Alpha version tonight and have asked a few key bloggers to install and test our tool. We aim to go to Beta within the next two weeks.

Technology &the net 05 Nov 2008 11:21 am

Supporting WikiPedia

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.

— Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

I use wikipedia a lot. Today, I donated a small sum in support of this great service. If you use this service, please join me. Click on the Support Wikipedia image and make your contribution so that wikipedia can continue to be excellent.

From Wikimedia foundation : “Your generosity helps ensure that the Wikimedia Foundation continues to make human knowledge free and accessible to the world. The Wikimedia Foundation operates some of the largest and most popular collaboratively edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, one of the world’s top ten most popular websites. Our work is important: we are grateful you have joined with us to help make it happen.”

Uncategorized 21 Oct 2008 09:44 pm

On Meeting Tim O’Reilly and Dan Gillmor

It’s been a great couple of weeks for Athens, technology wise that is. We’ve had a great group of visitors come and visit our city. Besides Jason Calacanis, Tim O’Reilly has been in Greece attending Stream08 and holidaying. We had the chance to meet and chat to him last week and he shared a bunch of insights with us on the future of the industry. Today we had the privileged of meeting and listening to Dan Gillmor. It’s been a great couple of weeks. I’ve learned a lot. I’ll post some notes here over the next few days.

the net &work 16 Oct 2008 03:00 pm

OpenCoffee Athens featuring Jason Calacanis

George and his crowd scored a real hit with the latest OpenCoffee. I witnessed one of the most inspiring talks ever. Direct, to the point. Jason was superb.

In summary:

  • Entrepeneurship is like going into battle. It’s tough and not everyone is cut out for it.
  • There are two types of people, those that are entrepreneurs and those that wish they were.
  • The only thing that stops us from starting up our own company is fear.
  • Everyone wants to be their own boss
  • The route to success is often via failure, there are always lessons in failure
  • You need to step up. Swing the bat and keep on swinging.
  • You will not hit a home run each time, but when you do it will be great
  • Share Knowledge: Give everything and you will receive much more in return
    Within the next month:
    someone to start an EC2 meetup
    someone to start a design meetup
    someone to start a Google App Engine meetup
    Next year:
    At least 5 Greek startups to present at TechCrunch50

    I’m happy to help on any of the above. Email me and we can get started. Though I’m no designer.

    Blogger Breakfast
    I was very privileged to attend a blogger breakfast the next morning that Jason kindly hosted where, Besides the opportunity to meet fellow Greek bloggers, we had the chance to bounce some ideas off each other. Thanks guys, Thanks Jason. We hope to see you back in a year!

    Books &Social Nets &Technology &the net 11 Sep 2008 11:53 pm

    Mygazines is a real winner and a game changer

    The perception we have regarding cost of magazines is that the cover price is the cost of the content within the magazine. The truth is that the cover price of a magazine these days reflects little more than the cost of printing and distribution. Few magazines actually make money from the cover price, they make money from selling advertising.

    I detest having to pay for a magazine that is 80% advertising. Add to this the hassle of us having to go to the newsstand to purchase the mag and we have a very expensive product, much more expensive than is apparent. So here’s a model that covers all the bases. Free shareable magazines. All my favourite titles are here as well as some I would find very difficult to find at any local newsagent.

    Advertisers can still advertise, adverts will still be seen. The internet and my browser takes care of the cost of distribution and the content creation is transferred solely to the advertiser. I pay for nothing but electricity and bandwidth. My end of the bargain is that I have to be exposed to the ads and if I like something, I might buy it.

    I have all the choices in the world conveniently delivered to my browser. It’s social in that my friends can suggest content that might be interesting to me and I can in turn suggest stuff to my friends.

    This is a great model and it’s truly a game changer. What do you think?

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