Andreas Stefanidis is co-Founder and President of the Academy of Entrepreneurship, Euclid’s newest member organisation. The Academy Of Entrepreneurship (AKEP) is a non-profit organisation based in Greece, aiming to meet the new challenges of the modern labour market.
Andreas, as a lecturer of management accounting, experienced the lack of entrepreneurial training in formal education and non-formal education. AKEP was then founded to support young people who wish to make their innovative ideas come true and to create a healthier entrepreneurial environment by cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in public and private organizations.
The story of AKEP is very much the story of Andreas, who co-founded the organisation together with the historical Educational Association of Athens (HFAISTOS) and the founding President of the Federation of the Hellenic Associations of Young Entrepreneurs, Theodore Alexiou, in 2007 just when the economic crisis hit Greece.
Our interview with Andreas
What does AKEP do?
AKEP seeks to improve the eco-system of social and sustainable entrepreneurs in Greece and beyond. In practice, we do so by running several projects on a national, European and Global level. At European level we are involved in various projects on green entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship training amongst refugees and the SEEDplus programme, which facilitates the exchange of young social entrepreneurs across Europe. We got to know Euclid Network through the SEEDplus programme. At AKEP we aim to share all our experiences from European projects with other networks in the country in order to create a multiplier effect for all stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
What’s the start-up environment like in Greece at the moment?
The eco-system of social entrepreneurs is getting better and better every day. When we founded OESYNE, the pioneer Federation of Hellenic Associations of Young Entrepreneurs back in 2001, no one was listening to us. Even my friends thought that I was crazy to invest so much of my time in entrepreneurship development in Greece. Yet, now the world is different, you can see a more systemic change towards innovation. The need for innovation is becoming widely accepted amongst politicians, academics and the society overall.
Does that mean that (social) start-ups no-longer face challenges in Greece?
I wish! A big challenge in Greece is the bureaucracy of the public sector which slows down processes of innovation. Also, unfortunately, there is still widespread corruption and limited availability of financial resources. I think Greece would benefit from a more collaborative mind-set. Start-ups can gain from working together instead of just competing with each other.
Is further cooperation the reason for joining Euclid Network?
It is one of the reasons indeed! We have worked together with Euclid Network for two years now and I very much like our collaboration. Other reasons for joining are that we wish to increase our network of social enterprises and increase our visibility at European level. This visibility is important to us because we want to display and transfer our good (and bad!) practices. It also helps us to find more like-minded organisations across Europe with which we can apply to calls for proposals and to tenders. We do not only want to be a member of Euclid but also an active partner!
What are you excited about this year?
I am happy to take part in so many European projects and deliver good quality work together with our partners. Solidarity, unity and cooperation is what will make us, as AKEP, citizens of Greece and citizens of Europe survive in the long run. Brexit is a little hick-up this year, but it also demonstrates how important it is to work together.