THE CYPRUS STARTUP REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN! PART 2

In a recent article (http://cyban.com.cy/?p=531), I wrote that Nicosia’s ranking amongst the next potential “Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, or East London’s Silicon Roundabout” is justified. This is part 2 and I will start this article by repeating the last paragraph of the last one:

For all the ingredients in the startup ecosystem to blend well, the state should create a startup and investment-friendly environment, offering the right incentives to both sides of the equation. In today’s challenging times bold moves are needed for Cyprus to survive yet one more blow. The Cyprus Startup Revolution is unfolding fast and can undoubtedly play a significant part in the next economic miracle in Cyprus.

But, nowhere in the world has a startup revolution succeeded without the right environment supporting it; and indeed bold moves are needed by the state to create such a favorable environment. Although many countries now aspire to become technology hubs it seems that very few are succeeding. The problem for governments is that they often try to define where and when innovation will occur, through for example, the creation of expensive technology parks. Some attempt to pick and fund winning companies. Such efforts have rarely worked well, says Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School. Governments can play a role, he says, but they should limit themselves mostly to “setting the table”: create laws that don’t penalize failed entrepreneurs, reduce taxes, and spend heavily on R&D. Then get out of the way. Indeed these are bold steps and the kind that Cyprus should take. We should avoid making the same mistakes as others did: most who fail, are either going top-down by focusing primarily on infrastructure — e.g. building a technology park next to a university — or bottom-up by focusing on just the entrepreneurial networks. None of these efforts successfully pursue both paths at once, with government, academia and entrepreneurial communities proceeding together in lockstep, as was the case in the development of Silicon Valley.

In order for Cyprus to become a “silicon island” we all need to work in sync. A nation-wide effort to change Cyprus should begin. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to alter the course of our future, now that we know better… Starting from the family, the school, the University, the startup communities, the entrepreneurs, the investors and the state, we need to work hard at eliminating all the mentalities that led us in becoming an island of importers/merchants/real estate sellers on one hand and over-borrowed public servants/consumers on the other. We have to create an environment that encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity. I believe that one of the curses haunting the Cypriot economy was the misuse of the phrase “Epaggelmatiki Apokatastasi” which is the Greek translation of “Vocational Rehabilitation”. Vocational Rehabilitation means “providing training in a specific trade with the aim of gaining employment”. How on earth did we go from that, to meaning “a job for life” in Cyprus? Somehow, the Greek word “Apokatastasi” which literally means “Restoration”, or “Rehabilitation” ended up meaning “Guarantee” in the particular phrase! The phrase ended up implying “lifelong guaranteed job” which in almost all cases, was not linked to productivity! The misuse of this very phrase, has led to great inequalities and distortions in the job market and consequently in the economy of our island. I know this may sound provocative to some, but I believe that most of us are now waking up to the fact that this may be one of the main reasons that led us all to comfortably act in ways (such as excessively borrowing) that brought our economy to where it is today.

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Recently a major leap towards the right direction was taken by the Parliament of Cyprus. An amendment in the Income Tax Law makes any investment made by an investor in an “innovative company” tax deductible! Even though it still needs a lot of work to make it workable (I will come back to this issue in a future article) it is a bright light shining in the right direction. It shows that some of our politicians are realizing that to get out of the current mess, they need to act to help change the rusty mentalities of the past.

Thankfully, our great youth is also showing significant signs of a major mentality shift towards “achieving great things through hard work”. Many young Cypriots are proving that they have what it takes to succeed in business. Entrepreneurship is a calling NOT a job. You need to have the right DNA combined with the right education, guidance, mentorship, capital and environment to make it. You don’t simply study “Entrepreneurship” then graduate and get a job as an “Entrepreneur” and expect to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Far, far from it. Being an entrepreneur means doing something that you can’t wait to go to work in the morning, and be prepared to fail, get up and repeat it next day! Sounds crazy, but you need to have those crazy genes in your DNA to start up a business. And thankfully, I meet more and more young Cypriots in their twenties and thirties with those crazy genes! That’s why I am still hopeful that the next Cypriot miracle is closer than most of us believe; all we need to do is collectively, as a nation, draw the right path towards it. I can guarantee you that hundreds, even thousands of young brilliant Cypriot minds are quietly waiting for their opportunity to jump into the path and succeed!

Ανδρέας Κουππάρης

Δημοσιεύτηκε στο: CYBAN.com.cy

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