(as published in The Cyprus Weekly, Saturday November 23rd, 2013)
2013 has been an interesting year for entrepreneurship and startups in Cyprus. There are a number of interrelated reasons why. Firstly, our economy is shrinking. GDP continues to decline and as we all know, the economy will further contract in 2014.
Consequently, the only realistic variable that can reverse the trend is to generate revenues from startups. As a result, the government, researchers, business consultants, investors and the like, are all gradually turning their attentions on stimulating an environment disposed for startups, albeit doing so slowly, and more often than not, unproductively. In other words, a quasi-entrepreneurial ecosystem, as it is known in the literature, is indolently being created.
Secondly, and related to the first reason, Cyprus in 2013 has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. Many unemployed are qualified, talented university graduates who are motivated and bursting with creative ideas. This particular demographic group has interesting characteristics. At the risk of oversimplifying I will mention only several that are important for this particular piece. They are more technologically advanced than other cohorts. They understand the significance of communication and transparency; and they are apathetic to bureaucracy and corruption.
Thirdly, 2013 has been a year in which entrepreneurs, the people that make the core of a thriving and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, have increased their activities from the bottom up. They have not waited for the ecosystem to mature. For a while now, they have gotten on with undertaking financial risks and innovations sometimes with the support of sporadic entrepreneur-friendly pioneers and sponsors. They network, they reach out to each other and they actively practice the collaborative ethos that they are so well known for. 2013 has been the year in which the startup community has introduced many collaborative events and even has interesting success stories to present. ‘funifi’ and ‘pollfish’ spring to mind here.
In June the first ‘Startup Live’ event in Cyprus took part, and on December 6th – December 8th the first ‘Startup Weekend’ event will be held at the University of Nicosia. ‘Startup Weekend’ is the largest event of its kind in the world and has helped thousands of entrepreneurs create their own successful startups.
Before that event, Friday 22nd of November will see the 8th ‘Open Coffee’, Cyprus. ‘Open Coffee’ has brought together the core of the startup community for a while now.
Now therefore is the perfect time for other sectors of the ecosystem to up their game, reach out and lend a hand in creating a more robust and thriving ecosystem. This is exactly what the University of Nicosia Communications Department is striving to achieve by supporting ‘Startup Weekend’ Cyprus. We see our students time and again create brilliant projects that are used in lectures only, for them never to be taken advantage of again. Our goal is to bridge our students and graduates with mentors, coaches, accelerators and venture capitalists that can fundamentally support them while also staying in touch with academics that can keep them grounded and assured. Consequently, universities play a huge role in the overall growth of entrepreneur ecosystems and that is precisely our role today in these initiatives.
Nicholas Nicoli, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nicosia and coordinator of the PR, Advertising and Marketing Programme of the Department of Communications.