In case you missed it but on the back of its strong US expansion, Blueground has raised a solid $20 million round and has also added Kevin Ryan, a renowned US entrepreneur, as an investor and on its board of directors. This is a huge win not just for the company but also for the local ecosystem that stands to reap immediate and medium term benefits. text
The main benefit is that the success story will reinforce locally the cycle of startup creation
An international scale up like Blueground supports the notion that it is possible for founders who start first at their local market, to create global startups. This success is a testament that will inspire more people to start their own startup, or at least take the first step of working at a startup. In Greece, we already had some cases like Beat and Workable but we need more success stories in order to curb risk aversion that characterizes most people especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. More visibility on success stories more examples for people to relate to and take the leap. Successes also bring the spotlight to the local ecosystem inducing investors to take a closer look at founders from peripheral markets. This increases the supply of capital but is also educational for founders as they interact with experienced investors from more mature ecosystems like those of London or Berlin.
Local ecosystem gets the benefit of increased employment
Blueground may now have presence in 9 cities and is building its main business in the US, however Athens remains the tech and operations hub. The company employs over 300 people and around 40% of them are based in Greece. As the company scales, those teams supporting the growth will also expand in size increasing the high quality employment in the country. The same has been the case for other successful startups like UIpath in Romania, Booksy in Poland or Spotahome in Spain. They have expanded internationally but on parallel also increased employment in their home countries.
A final important benefit is the local human capital upgrade that takes place through a transfer of work ethic, culture and knowledge
Many people working at startups in local ecosystems lack a sense of urgency, of higher responsibility and exposure to diversity. Local employees at international successful startups learn and adapt to a different environment. As a member of a startup with global presence and ambitions, an employee is required to operate at a higher standard inherent to a globally competitive company. By definition the sense of urgency and responsibility required in those companies is higher. Apart from that influence in work ethic, people working locally also learn from international team members who bring different experiences and know how. Those “upskilled” startup employees, that also get the chance to travel for business internationally, will then share their experience and affect peers working at other local startups. A few years down the road some of them will be part of new startups either as founders or early employees further disseminating their learnings and work ethic.
I have already been part of a Blueground all hands meeting in Athens which was attended by 20 senior members of the management team from all 4 countries where Blueground is present, and the difference compared to other startup meetings was evident. The interaction among driven, capable people sharing a global vision and who have different backgrounds and nationalities leads to increased learning for all and better outcomes for the company. Everyone raises each other’s bar.
Taking a company from a startup to an international scale up is a very hard job and should be celebrated not just by the company. The milestone achieved by Blueground is to be celebrated by the Greek tech ecosystem and by all peripheral ecosystems that have another example of what can happen outside the “usual suspects” tech hubs in Europe and the US. There are now a few Greek startups that against the odds created global successes, but we clearly need more examples.
Let the Greek startup (r)evolution continue, taking advantage of the momentum that is building up!