A stroll along the promenade of the Aegean Sea, a morning treat with bougatsa and a strong Greek coffee, or an exploratory dive in the historical Ana Poli district, Thessaloniki doesn’t disappoint.
The second largest city in Greece, which also has the second-best developed startup ecosystem, is situated on the Thermaic Gulf, at the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea. Being famous for its rich historical heritage, archeological monuments, and sandy coasts, Thessaloniki is also a vibrant modern hub that maintains the balance between tradition and innovation.
Thessaloniki is the largest student center in Southeast Europe and is home to more than 150,000 students who pursue technical, business, economic, and social sciences degrees at the three biggest universities in town – the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University of Macedonia, and the International Hellenic University. University spin-off startups are far from being rare and Crunchbase counts more than 60 startups that have sprung from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The automotive software startup Exothermia is one of the spin-off companies from The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that has successfully established itself in the Greek market. The academic institution has its own Univation Hub (program for new startups) and Tech and the City (inspirational tech & startup event) to inspire entrepreneurship among students.
In addition to university centers, Thessaloniki is home to one of the leading research centers in Greece – The Centre for Research and Technology-Hellas (CERTH) which is listed among the top 15 EU institutions with the highest participation in competitive research grants.
From the research center to the market
Recognizing the innovation and tech potential of Thessaloniki in biotech, deeptech and research-heavy industries, Pfizer, alongside other global corporates, has made large R&D investments in the city. In 2021, the pharmaceutical company announced the establishment of a Global Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) and a Global Center for Business Operations and Services in town.
Thessaloniki will soon be home to the largest science and technology park (STP) and startup hub in Southeastern Europe – the Thessaloniki Innovation & Technology Center (Thess INTEC). The city already has one science and tech park – The Technopolis Thessaloniki ICT Business Park, which is the first private Business Park in Greece, designed to host high-tech enterprises and knowledge-intensive companies. The park also runs its own Technopoli Incubator and a Business Incubation Center which offers funding, hosting, support, and technical assistance to young entrepreneurs.
Other incubators and accelerator programs that help local founders kick off their early-stage ideas are the Thessaloniki Innovation Zone, a state initiative that aims to promote Thessanoki as an innovation hotpot by incubating a critical mass of tech companies. The initiative operates Thessaloniki’s leading accelerator program OK!Thess. So far, OK!Thess has incubated more than 100 startup ideas in 12 cohorts and has 30 active portfolio companies, among which Loceye, AidPlex, and Enchatted, which we will talk more about below.
Besides mentoring, incubation, and help with investor relations as part of its acceleration program, the Thessaloniki Innovation Zone, offers entrepreneurs access to its “Unicorn Zone”, coworking space and multiple event spaces where various tech events and meetups are hosted. Startup teams, freelancers, and digital nomads also hang out at and work from the modern business development and shared workspace in the center of Thessaloniki, coho. Another incubation and shared workspace organization is i4G, the first private incubator in Greece that has more than 15 years of experience in the local market.
Another acceleration path that local founders can choose is growing as part of the technology venture studio Ideas Forward. By working with various innovation organizations and service providers, the team of venture studio acts as co-founders, co-investors, consultants, and R&D partners of the portfolio startups. Ideas Forward was founded in 2020 by Dimitris Kourtesis, Nikos Tsoniotis, and Stefanos Tsiakmakis who were previously working together at OK!Thess.
The city even has its own tech annual event – TechSaloniki which has turned into the flagship innovation event of Northern Greece. For the engineers and tech geeks out there, Thessaloniki hosts Voxxed Days, a series of tech events on Java, Big Data, AI, and more.
Lots of spin-off startups. Deep tech. This is what best characterizes the local startup landscape. Having incubated a lot of startup companies in Aristotle University, the startup ecosystem of Thessaloniki jas already witnessed a couple of exits, including the graphics software company, Think Silicon, which was acquired by Applied Materials, and the cloud-based software or eye-tracking Loceye which sold to Neurons in 2022.
Founders: Harry Yeremtzes and Dimitri (Jim) Moustakas
Solution: AidPlex is a Greek HealthTech startup based in Thessaloniki, aiming to disrupt the healthcare sector. AidPlex provides innovative solutions in orthopedics such as splints for fractures, and a monitoring system for scoliosis, by bringing new designs and new materials to the industry. The startup has participated in the local OK!Thess incubator program has received a grant from the European Commission and a Proof of Concept Grant from Patras Science.
Founders: Nicholas D. Theodorakis and Petter Hederstedt
Solution: Athletopia is a spin-off company of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It has developed a platform for sports running events powered by data-driven technology with the vision to empower organizers and sponsors to create better sports events.
Founders: Machi Simeonidou
Solution: Founded in 2015 as a spin-off from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the company provides sustainable solutions for modern farming and agriculture. AgroApps uses mathematical models, machine learning, satellite, and meteorological data, and crop growth models, to offer personalized services to farmers, agricultural consultants, and agricultural insurance companies.
Founders: Dimitris Mertzis and Stefanos Tsiakmakis
Solution: Bio-based Energy Technologies P.C. (BIO2CHP) is a spin-off company from Aristotle University, that enables the use of raw residual biomass for on-site and small-scale energy production. Its goal is to transform waste into a valuable commodity by using raw residual biomass for small-scale and on-site energy production.
Founders: Konstantinos Stroumpakis
Solution: Apifon develops a business messaging services platform. It helps businesses grow their audience, create multichannel messaging campaigns, measure their performance, and enable marketing automation to increase their revenues and improve customer experience.
Founders: Evdokimos Konstantinidis, Panagiotis Bamidis
Solution: CAPTAIN Coach is a spin-off company of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The company uses AI movement analysis and other technologies to turn the homes of the elderly into places for healthy and independent living.
Founders: Andreas Symeonidis and Michail Papamichail
Solution: Cyclopt is a software and quality management tool and a spin-off startup from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It provides solutions in the area of software quality as, an as-a-service, and helps software companies develop and maintain software products easier and faster.
Founders: Costas Malamas
Solution: Dataviva is a low-code, real-time planning platform that uses AI and decision algorithms to help human experts optimize processes. The startup builds retail supply chain planning and optimization solutions for some of the world’s leading retailers.
Founders: Evangelos Mitsakis
Solution: deeptraffic is a deep-tech spin-off company of The Center for Research and Technology Hellas. It provides solutions and technologies that enable dynamic traffic management as a service, focusing on connected and automated vehicles.
Founders: Stergios Tegos
Solution: Enchatted is a conversational software that creates engaging digital experiences. The startup uses a series of conversational UI best practices, an expert panel, and crowd-based metrics in order to offer actionable feedback and optimize conversational interactions.
Founders: Thanasis Pantelis, Afroditi Zisopoulou, Chrysa Karakosta
Solution: Fertil.ai empowers fertility specialists & embryologists to generate machine-learning models in order to fight infertility and improve women’s health all around the globe. The company’s vision is to democratize the use of AI for IVF specialists and patients.
Founders: Grigorios Tsoumakas, Anestis Fachantidis
Solution: Medoid AI is a machine learning agency and an AI products lab. The company develops a portfolio of enterprise AI solutions to help enterprises optimize their forecasting, do advanced customer intelligence and fraud detection, and more.
Founders: Panagiotis Katsaounis
Solution: Metabio is a biotech startup that provides a spectrum of IT solutions for biobanks. The company allows biobanks to collect and store longitudinal data associated with human biosamples.
Founders: Theocharis Vlachopanagiotis, Aimilios Mouchtaropoulos, Yannis Kalenterides, Dimitris Kontosfyris, Konstandinos Grizos, and Georgios Kostalas
Solution: Rhoé is a mobility and green energy startup that aims to catalyze the transition to carbon-neutral forms of transportation and energy. The company develops software products that bridge carbon-neutral forms of energy with transportation technologies. Rhoé started as a sustainable mobility research group founded by students from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s civil engineering department.
If you want to recommend startups that should be on the list please reach out to [email protected]
Who are the ambassadors and builders of the startup ecosystem there?
Founder and CEO at the software messaging services startup Apifon. He was on the40 under 40 Fortune list for 3 years in a row and has been recognized as one of the most promising and visionary young CEOs in Greece, having managed to close deals with two of the world’s largest tech giants: Google and IBM.
Managing Partner of the technology venture studio Ideas Forward and a telecommunications R&D Engineer for over a decade. Nikolaos is a serial entrepreneur with experience in Mobile Apps, SaaS, Social Good and Hardware startups as well as an active business angel and a Founding Member of HeBAN – Hellenic Business Angels Network (Association)HeBAN. He has also been a coach at OK!Thess where he trained more than 40 startup teams.
Dimitrios is a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Ideas Forward. He has been working in technology research, software system design, and new product development since 2005 as an R&D software engineer, Ph.D. researcher, technology and product innovation consultant, company founder, and advisor to startups. Dimitrios was also a Program Manager and Startup Coach at OK!Thess. He has worked with more than150 early-stage startups as a trainer, coach, advisor, or angel investor.
Theo is an Open Innovation Lead at Crowdpolicy where he organizes and runs Innovation programs, including accelerators, incubators, hackathons, and sprints for corporates and global organizations. He is also the Program Manager of the Visa Innovation Program, the 8-month fintech accelerator, powered by Visa for Southeast Europe.
Dimitri is the co-founder of AidPlex, the startup that develops orthopedics and patient-centered and eco-friendly products. He is skilled at entrepreneurship, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, and 3D designing. In 2016 he was awarded by the president of the Greek Republic Mr.Prokopis Paulopoulos, for his contribution to the country as a scout. He is also named in the Forbes 30 under 30 ranking.
Costa is the co-founder of VisualEyes and Loceye, cloud-based software companies that enable UX/UI professionals and marketers to run eye-tracking experiments with remote participants. In April 2022, both startups were acquired by the Denmark-based applied neuroscience company Neurons. Costas was also the Community Organizer of the local chapter of the Product School for technology and business.
Theocharis is the CEO and co-founder of Rhoé, the transportation research group turned award-winning startup. He has worked in multiple fields ranging from education and science to public matters and business. Theocharis is also a Fellow of Sigma Squares Society, the global community of 1000+ entrepreneurs who are on a mission to transform broken industries and create a positive impact.
Sotiris is the CEO and Chairman of Venture Stories Partners AIFM. The company manages TECS Capital, an Alternative Investment Fund for startups at the seed stage. He is currently a high-level Jury member of the EIC Accelerator of the European Commission.
Sotiris is an angel investor and Chief Innovation Officer (Digital & Commercial Innovation, Global Markets & Startup Partnerships) at SPACE HELLAS, the leading Greek ICT system integrator. He has more than 35 years of experience in the software and AI industry and is also a Founding member of the New “Hellenic Business Angels Network / Advocates for Growth” Association.