Ferryhopper: Enabling you to hop on any island you want!

Over the next few days, we will be focusing on stories of startup companies that inspire. These are stories of teams who have set up their operations in Greece and have managed to scale up quickly.

It may not be easy to start a business, especially when it deals with new processes or technologies. Moreover, with so many successful examples coming from countries abroad, it can be discouraging always reading about companies thousands of miles away. However, the good news is that such stories are occurring right here in Athens too, and we would like to share one with you.

Today we will introduce you to the story of Ferryhopper; one successful business which was founded right here in Athens, Greece.

Ferryhopper is a platform which allows travelers to find and purchase tickets from over 30 different ferry operators. Founded in 2016 by Christos Spatharakis, Vasileios Lahanas, Panagiotis Sarafis, and Aiden Short, the company has managed to sell over 200,000 tickets to over 160 destinations on its platform. At the forefront of the growing trend of the digitalization of travel services, the company seeks to revolutionize the way people travel by ferry.

How It All Started

Ferryhopper currently operates from Stone Soup’s office space, and we are very excited to have them here with us and to get to know the team better. To understand how the team have achieved their successes, we had a conversation with Vasiliki, their marketing manager.

 

“It started out with four guys. Two of them were electrical engineers from NTUA, in Athens and they later met again in CERN during an internship.”

The four founders were avid travelers who they found themselves constantly frustrated by the difficulties of travelling between islands in Greece. The team created Ferryhopper with the goal of developing a single platform that would streamline the island hopping process. They consolidated all of the ferry operators and developed an algorithm which allowed travelers to choose routes between islands, even if they were not directly connected. With an emphasis on providing great customer service and user experience, Ferryhopper allowed travelers to book tickets directly on the platform with no service fees.

As Christos explains, when entering a mature market filled with established players, without having prior experience or market experts amongst your team it is essential to focus on creating a solid product that solves an actual problem. What is also important is to find the right people for your team who are willing to explore solutions and experiment with novel ideas. In Ferryhopper’s case, once the platform was launched, they received more demand that what they projected – quickly validating their value propositions and paving the way towards receiving funding.

Securing Investments

As Ferryhopper scaled up over the years, the team began pitching their company to various investors. They received a 30,000 euro award from the Stelios foundation, and more recently, they raised 600,000 euros through a funding round including Metavallon and easyGroup in 2018.

“Our procedure was to create a pitch deck, and approach some possible investors. It was time consuming because we wanted to create a very strong pitch and we wanted the investors to understand exactly what our product was about.”

Although the company faced challenges during the pitching process, it ultimately paid off as they were able to negotiate an amount and secure the final investment from Metavallon – an investment which will allow the company to further bolster its tech infrastructure and support its international expansion.

Advice for pitching

For many companies, particularly younger startups, pitching to investors can be a daunting endeavor. As demonstrated by Ferryhopper, this is a very involved process can take a long time, so it is extremely important to persevere and keep the end goal in mind. To help businesses who are interested in securing their own investments, Vasiliki also shares another tip:

“The perfect tip would be to meet people who could consult you, give you real-time advice, and provide feedback on your pitch decks. We have many incubators here in Athens, and a lot of people who have done this themselves and successfully received investments. You need to have somebody with experience that you can turn to.”

At Stone Soup, we offer such business advice. You may opt in for the Open Office Hours. They are one-on-one sessions with experts in different fields. The sessions are free of charge and are open to all. Our objective is to share the knowledge beyond our walls and to strengthen the Digital Creative ecosystem in Athens.

What’s Next?

As for what’s down the line for Ferryhopper, the company wants to continue adding new features to its platform, and expanding its presence both at home and abroad.

“What we have in mind is an expansion towards the mediterranean this summer. Not only Greece, but Italy, Spain, and more.”

What are you waiting for? Hop on to Ferryhopper’s website now to plan your summer vacation in the Mediterranean today. You never know, you might just get inspired to build something new!

 

In union there is strength

Hey! Do you know the slack community ”Freelance Athens“? If you are a freelancer in Athens you should definitely go check it out! It is an initiative started by two digital nomads, Kim Gillick and Lucy Xu, based in Athens and its aim is to give the freelancers of Athens a nice, tight and functional online community to turn to when they are in need of some support!

Recently, we hosted their first event: “Staying Social as a Freelancer” here at Stone Soup. At the event, Kim and a very active nomad, Nathan Sudds, shared some useful insights and experiences relevant to Athens freelancers, helping the community to expand beyond an online-only presence! It’s been a successful and well organised event moderated and facilitated by Karolina Sieler, who recently joined the Freelance Athens’ team remotely.

Who is Karolina?

Karolina is from Poland and she has 6 years of experience as a teacher and a public speaker in England and Scotland. She used to be a university lecturer and – occasionally – a speaker at conferences all over Europe, until she realised she was craving a new challenge. After exploring new professional options for a bit, she initiated her first business by setting up a community for entrepreneurs, start-up owners and freelancers in London, called FBIZZ Freelancers Hub. She spent 2 years running events for the community, inviting speakers and facilitating panel discussions. She used the community’s platform as a ground for creating a business blog while she took her first steps as a freelancer. Two years ago, she decided to start a new chapter in her life and become a digital nomad.

Being a digital nomad: dreaming it vs living it

“My vision was to start from London and spend 5 years there, then go to Hong Kong for another 5 years, then New York etc. I was dreaming about living the big city life but only after a year and a half in London I realised it wasn’t right for me. Therefore, I decided to keep my work life in London and explore my opportunities in different places, including Athens.”

Being a freelancer may become frustrating and lonely. The reason Karolina appreciates Athens so much is for the vibrant city life that gives you the opportunity to build deep connections with local people, as well as, with other expats. This is the main reason she seeks for opportunities to engage and comes back whenever she is able to.

Karolina’s business and vision

Over the years, she has finally figured out the ideal business model that makes her happy and at the same time supports her financially. Karolina has built her own online platform supporting law students in the UK called 1stClassLLB. She creates online courses and runs a YouTube channel.

Both in London and in Athens, she tried at the beginning to work from home. She soon realised that she was missing the sense of belonging to a community or organisation. She was set out to find a coworking home and to be able to share workspace, initiate activities with other coworkers and potentially work on a common cause. 

Karolina drops occasionally by Stone Soup and has joined Kim and Lucy, to fulfil their common vision, that is to unite the Freelance Athens community both online and offline.  “I am very satisfied with my decision to work from here. Ever since I started I feel part of a big family, plus I witness myself being more productive!” 

Starting a new summer internship with Stone Soup in Athens!

My name is Alex Huang, and I am a 21-year-old student from Toronto, Canada. I wanted to gain marketing experience and improve my leadership skills, so naturally I turned to my local AIESEC office where I was connected with a Digital Marketing internship at Stone Soup.

My Role

As the Digital Marketing Intern, I will be working on increasing the company’s online presence and managing its social media channels. Stone Soup’s vibrant, friendly, and community focused culture appealed to me from the start, and I look forward to working with the professionals at Stone Soup and around the local community!

Traveling Abroad

This is my first time in Greece, so I am excited to travel around the country and explore its various destinations. Coming from Canada, I am greatly appreciating the weather so far, and as someone who has been interested in photography for most of his life – I am very excited to begin capturing the beauty of this country with my camera.

Being able to travel and gain professional experience during university has always been a personal dream of mine, and I look forward to making the most of my summer here in Athens!

Join AIESEC

AIESEC is a non-profit organization which promotes youth leadership by facilitating internationals exchange opportunities to young people across the world.

The expat experience: How can you stay happy in the here and now?

A new start may be full of new experiences but may also be stressful and affect our psychology. How could we overcome our negative feelings and open ourselves to every new encounter that awaits for us?

Electra Matsangou is a psychotherapist and psychologist from Greece. She grew up in Volos and then moved to Thessaloniki to study psychology. Thanks to the Erasmus exchange program, she first went to the Netherlands in 2008  and completely fell in love with the country and people. In 2010, she moved to the Netherlands to get her Master’s degree in Health Psychology. After completing her MSC, she started training in Gestalt Psychotherapy.

Living in a different country for six years had Electra facing the challenges that most expatriates have to go through, as well as all thoughts and feelings that are common amongst people that live in a new environment. “The Gestalts of an Expat” was an article she wrote while living abroad, for the Dutch e-journal “e-awareness”. She was an expatriate herself, so she knows that sometimes it can be really hard to adjust in a new country, being away from your family and trying to adapt to a foreign work environment.

Her passion about understanding one’s emotional state and working with people, plus the first-hand knowledge of the life of an expatriate made her want to work with internationals who live in Athens.

“I know sometimes it can be difficult to talk to a Greek therapist. Besides, the cultural differences and the language barrier, perhaps it is uncomfortable because you might want to complain about Greece or Greeks!”.

However, having this experience herself and talking about it with her patients made things easier and much more comfortable.

Greece, a multicultural destination

After 6 years in the Netherlands, Electra decided to reunite with her family and start her life again in Athens, Greece. She was also longing to come back to the Greek nature, the islands and the beautiful mountains that make her home country a place of many colors and shapes.

Electra has opened her new office in a coworking space and her aspiration was to consult and support international people that have decided to start their life in Greece. The coworking environment is what she was looking for, as being in touch with so many different people with diverse backgrounds and cultures is very refreshing.

“I like meeting people coming from different countries; it can be quite challenging, as people’s behavior and personalities are influenced by their cultural context, so it takes some effort to familiarize oneself with these contexts. But I personally find it to be a very beautiful and enriching experience. Having my office in a shared environment gives me the opportunity to spend some of my time between sessions with lots of multinational people and talk about politics, philosophy, or just personal stuff. That  boosts my energy and spirit in a whole different level.”

As a psychotherapist, Electra emphasizes the importance of surrounding ourselves with an environment that makes us happy. Athens is a city of  great vibes which can come alive day and night, making it absolutely a place to feel welcome! She also highlights the significance of making conscious choices in the here and now.

“Every choice we make doesn’t need to be always right for us or permanent. We need to revisit our choices in order to see if we still stand by them. Many times as expats we can have mixed or even contradictory feelings and thoughts regarding our experiences or the decisions we need to make and that can be distressful. In those cases, it can be very helpful to reach out to a specialist. Through counseling you can clear things up and get the support you deserve. You don’t have to do this alone!”

We would like to thank Electra for our beautiful chat, you can go ahead and check Electra’s coming workshop and further work on her website.