Coworking Spaces in Athens Update

This is an updated version of an older post about coworking spaces, since I get asked a lot by people where they can find them in Athens here’s a few ones that I’ve visited.  If there’s a new one you know of that I have missed please let me now. Impact Hub Athens:  One of the most youthful co-working spaces, this outpost of the international co-working Hub brand, is in the Psyrri neighborhood, a couple minutes walk from the Monastiraki metro.  The focus on this space, which also hosts frequent event and seminars, is social enterprise, where members work in a renovated Athenian neo-classical building. Found.ation is the the new project of the 123P  team- a bustling co-working space with a focus on the technology sector.  Located in the artsy, industrial Gazi-Petralona neighborhood on the third-floor of Thission Lofts.  Orange Grove is a space focused on facilitating Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs and collaborations in Athens.  Quite a lively space with a program, events and speakers overseen by the Dutch Embassy. The Cube is in the Exarcheia neighborhood, the lively and edgy student area of central Athens. Colab Workspace:  The first co-working space to open in Athens a few year ago, located a couple minutes walk from Syntagma Square on Petraki Street.  Colab is home to several young startup companies and also some new teams working out their projects. Synergy Project is an interdisciplinary coworking space near the Panormou metro stop, which people working on a wide-spectrum of creative, tech and individual...

Opinion: Spending More Time In Each Destination And Less Sightseeing

I was out with a group of friends at a pub chatting the other night when the conversation turned to traveling.  I mentioned a few things that impressed me about Japan and a girl who I had just met and had also been to Japan quizzed me, “Did you climb Mt. Fuji, did you see a sumo wrestling match, did you go to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market at 4AM?”  I hadn’t done any of that stuff, and it didn’t occur to me, as I was more interested in meeting some local friends and talking to them and meeting their friends, over shochu drinks and sashimi dinners in the cozy Tokyo neighborhoods of Shimo-kitizawa and Kagurazaka.  But her comment made me think about how we all view traveling with a different purpose.  She then went on to mention, “I’ve been to thirty-three countries.”  I have been on quite a few interesting trips, but I have never actually counted the number of countries I’ve been to, nor do I really care to. I’ll be honest, I do roll my eyes at people that name-drop and country-drop like that.  In the past two years, I have spent two months in India, one-month in Tokyo and a bit more than a year in Athens.  That’s just three countries!  The “I have been to 33-countries person” could have just taken a three-week Euro-rail trip hitting up Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czech and then over to  Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.  That’s almost ten countries, but what does that even mean? I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with this trip (and I...

Strategies for modern social movements: orchestrating and swarming

One of the most enlightening and refreshing academic speakers I have recently heard is Charles Heckscher, professor of labor relations and organizational behavior, from Rutgers University.  He gave a lecture at the LSE about how contemporary social movements are operating today and the misconceptions about social change and modern forms of solidarity. In outlining his theory, Heckscher repeatedly used a few key words: swarm and orchestrators.  Today’s key players in social movements are not necessarily the front-line demonstrator, petition-signing activists of previous generations.  Neither do today’s activists specifically exhibit a lot of direct power.  What they do have is influence and connections.  They are effective at pulling together disparate groups of people that may not have collaborated together otherwise. Their infrastructure is not to build hierarchies and control social activism in a federation-style from the top-down.  Today’s strategic orchestrator-coordinators have their pulse on the psyche-of-the-street and are able to maneuver the undercurrents of participants’ energy to potentially develop into swarm activity.  This is similar to the natural phenomenon seen in fish colonies or flocks of birds and a swarm, in a different context, is a strategic tactic that the US Army also uses in today’s security threats. Heckscher goes on to outline the three key factors that are necessary for this orchestrating and swarming to take place: (1) purpose (2) platform (3) process. The first thing a group needs to develop is a purpose- an image of a desired shared future.  This is an active, continuous on-going dialogue that the participants join in on because they identify with it. Before continuing to the next point and in order to put...

Japan: Perfecting Everyday Details & Reverse Culture Shock: Toto Shower-Toilets

Toto shower-toilet: The Japanese are quite inspiring at perfecting everyday details which may be why they have such an enviable high quality of life.  This collective effort shows in their high levels of public safety, their social etiquette, courtesy, pleasant customer service and efficient public transport. And one of the everyday details that they have not overlooked is their bathroom hygiene. One of the understated rich-world technologies of the decade right now has to be the Japanese electronic toilet made by the Toto company.   Its quite a transformational product, like the difference between using a black & white or color TV.  If you were in prison and you only had the option to watch black & white you probably would.  But if you sat down on your couch and binged on back-to-back Will Ferrell comedies in color would you ever go back to watching black & white again? My first Japanese toilet-shower experience and how it works: My first few days in Tokyo I was hesitant to fiddle with the electronic panel of the Toto toilet.  It’s tucked to the side like those hard-to-reach TV remote controls on your airplane seat.  My fear was that if I pressed the ‘water-spray button’ too long a fire-truck-pressure jet-stream would eject me off my seat and I’d have to run out of the bathroom of the Tsutaya café, with my drenched pants around my ankles in a disheveled panic and cry to the hip-Japanese baristas that something had gone terribly wrong in the bathroom. The jetlag and initial Tokyo culture shock had worn off by Day 4 and I decided it was time to...

My Greek Army Service Summer ’13: talented people in failed institutions

There is a scene this summer during my Greek army service that I won’t forget.  About 200 of us had returned to Kalamata Military Base, after a four-day break at our homes and having completed our five-week basic training.  Today was the day we were going to get our transfer papers, to be redeployed: some would be sent to the border with Turkey, others to the Greek islands, perhaps an inland army base or to Athens- where the cushier postings were, back in the capital. After our 7AM roll call, a sergeant began to call out the names of the first group to be sent off.  Most of us were a bit anxious, because we had no idea how far and for how long we would be gone for.  On that list was our destiny in the surreal adventures of Greek military life. The first few soldiers of this first group gathered in a small circle, in front of the rest of us as they heard their names.  I quickly recognized a couple faces, a mental connection sparked in the back of my brain, and I recollected a new word I learned this summer: “visma.”  Visma is not one of those eloquent Greek words that a Philhellene professor at an American university will ask you if you recognize its ancient Greek roots.  Bit less sexy.  Visma means plug-outlet.  But it wasn’t being used in reference to where you charge your iPhone.  A visma, in the world of the deep Greek bureaucratic state, is your connection, your contact, that “plugs-you-in” to the connected world. The sergeant called out a few...

Deciding between Mediterranean lifestyle or expat career?

I met up last Sunday with my Greek-American friend, Evi.  She, like myself is from the US, but has now made Athens her home.  Fresh from her two-month trip to Boston, I was looking forward to hearing some new perspectives from New England.  I haven’t been back to the US in a year, and after my surreal 3-month army experience at Kalamata Military Base and the Defense Ministry in Athens this summer, I am getting a small dose of Greek cabin-fever. I barely let her take a sip of her coffee before I started with a barrage of questions: “So, what is the vibe like in the US right now?  Did you want to stay more or are you glad you’re back in Athens?”  I asked her, like my one-year stretch in Greece had given me amnesia to thirty years of living in America. “Yeah, I’m glad to be back here.  But it’s really good over there too.  You know; everything works. Everything is easy.  Customer service is good.  You do things online.  You run errands in like fifteen minutes.  It’s not like here, where you spend a half-day, running from office to office, paying bills in-person, getting signatures, asking for sealed-stamped certificates, like we’re still living in a 1970’s cult TV comedy series.” “I took my mom to General Mass Hospital to get an x-ray on her wrist.  When I asked the nurse when we should come back to get the diagnosis, you know what she said?”  My lower lip quivered and I raised my eyebrows in anticipated fear, not so much for the results of her mother’s...

Greece’s young start-up entrepreneurs: a positive case-study

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the Greek business climate has little in its recent history to look for in successful case studies and inspirational role models.  But there is an exception, and this is precisely why the fairly small, but growing start-up ecosystem in Athens is so critical, economically and symbolically for the country. Out of the dozens of events, groups and individuals I’ve come across in my time in Athens the past few months- the start-up community is the place I gravitate to, to meet enthusiastic, savvy and outward looking young Greeks. In short, these folks “get-it” – they have serious CV’s, they can hold their own, with investors in San Fran and marketing their products, internationally, from Rio to Mumbai. Indeed though, it will take more than a few tech companies to put a dent in Greece’s 30% unemployment and revive a country six years in recession.  But that’s missing the point and the big picture.  The young entrepreneur community here is a healthy, young embryo that needs to be highlighted and cultivated, as it holds the key fundamentals to rebuilding Greece. These are the strengths that make it the exception, not the norm in this country:                        (1) Innovation (2) Global outlook (3) Positive spillover across industries    (4) Highly-skilled human capital (5) Role models  (6) Community building. 1.    Innovation: for a generation now, many Greek oligarchs have posed themselves as pseudo-businessmen, while it was good connections = government contracts that made them their fortunes, not innovation.  Further below, on the food...

TEDx Athens 2012: Inspirational Ideas in Land of Potential

The other week, I was glad to keep the good Athenian vibes going by attending the annual TEDxAthens.    I never had the urge to go to a TED event in America, but in Athens on the contrary, especially in today’s often cynical environment, it was a reassuring sensation of camaraderie to be in an arena with 1,500+ crowd of optimistic, full-of-life, inquisitive youngsters who are trying to make their mark in re-building Greece. TedxAthens was founded by Dimitris Kalavros  in 2009, with just four volunteers.  In its fourth year now and with sixty-five volunteers, the theme of this year’s TEDxAthens was the “doers” — a very timely concept for setting the tone for the can-do-attitude that will get Greece out of its stagnancy.   The speakers weren’t necessarily jet-set millionaires, but they were successful and talented individuals in their own right and had great stories to tell.  They ranged from a wide-spectrum of disciplines: MIT biomedical engineer, London fashion designer, AOL digital marketing guru and even a teenage, mute girl from Florida who overcame her limits to become a professional motorcyclist. The schedule took up an entire Saturday, which after almost thirty motivational speeches over sixteen hours, niche analysis by experts and an array of unique perspectives,  the post-experience felt like a “mental orgasm.”  Many of the speeches are being uploaded on video on the TEDxAthens Facebook page.  There were numerous fascinating quotes and lessons from stories, but I want to specifically point out the speakers and themes that stood out to me and which made connections to the depth of Greece’s current socio-economic predicament. One of these speakers was...
What’s Next For Athens Center: Next Berlin or Next Beirut

What’s Next For Athens Center: Next Berlin or Next Beirut

[slideshow]Athens Center: Cheap rents, junkies, artists, homeless, hipsters and start-ups, mixed in with a splash of anarchy and a sprinkle of fascism – the recipe for next cool urban, European hot-spot or the next explosive civil conflict zone? The center of Athens has a bizarre, almost bipolar identity.  The city could probably win the award for graffiti capital of the world; it also has a visible increase in homeless and junkies and many of the retail corridors of the city have an eerie feel to them, as relics of the splurgy consumer-era.  Behind these disturbing images though, on side-street after side-street, across Athens, bustling city life continues and Athenians are living, working and playing in Athens 2.0. I was relieved to hear a similar account reiterated by a non-Greek journalist, Feargus O’ Sullivan, who is based out of London/Berlin and writes for The Atlantic. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/10/athens-still-athens/3409/. He describes how he was taken aback by the exaggerated images from the international media and the reality of what he saw on the ground on a recent visit to the city- “given how dire Greece’s situation is, one of its paradoxes is that it still appears so normal, with cafes, bars, museums and theaters still full as if nothing has changed.”  He adds, “the city’s often narrow streets are attractively alive day and night almost year round with people of all ages, making Athens still surprisingly safe and well monitored for a city supposedly hurtling towards Armageddon.” This past weekend, I got the chance to see some of the neglected neighborhoods of the center on a stroll organized by urban volunteer and advocacy...
The Greek Psyche: Going through Rehab Phases of Denial to Acceptance

The Greek Psyche: Going through Rehab Phases of Denial to Acceptance

Since I’ve been in Greece I’ve made an effort to look for positive movements in the country: entrepreneurs who want to remain in Greece and build innovative businesses here, young community activists who are trying to be the change they want to see in their society, and a silent majority that is persevering, despite their frugal budgets, with dignity, respect for the law and an optimism in their daily lives. Although on an individual basis, there are good examples happening in Greece, the collective psychology of the country hasn’t come to terms with the real issues: how will Greece be rebuilt, what is the vision that will motivate its youth, entrepreneurs and citizens, and how will the country establish a relevant identity for the beginning of the 21st century.    The big questions remain in the background: What is causing business after business to shut down and companies to relocate abroad?  Does the tax system and bureaucratic process give incentives to independent professionals, small business owners and large corporations to invest, hire and be productive? How large does an efficient civil service need to be to serve a country of eleven million people?  Can the state afford to pay all of these workers without winding up in the never-ending circle of more taxes and more debt?  Is the role of civil servants to help their country or to be a burden to its taxpayers? Can any of the tens of thousands of professional Greeks scattered across the globe and working in shipping, law, finance, media, technology and academia be lured through incentives to work in Greece part-time, seasonally, or permanently and...