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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!” 

Learn from the best aka Open Office Hours at Stone Soup Vol. 2

We open our offices to offer you value! In a previous article we introduced the philosophy behind our “Open Office Hours” initiative. We are excited that more professionals at Stone Soup are coming on board, making their time available to you and are happy to share their knowledge and expertise!

Today we will present Dimitris who is up for offering consultancy on web development and information architecture.

Technology is deeply rooted in our life and as we start a business, the online presence of our company and products is essential to make such business successful. A web developer is a crucial component to that success and for that reason our resident, Dimitris Perdikopoulos could help you understand the fundamentals and how you could move forward and evolve your online presence and most importantly your website.

Dimitris is a front-end developer with an professional experience of 8 years. He shares knowledge and studies both in web development and graphic design and has worked for several design studios like Bod Studio, G Design Studio, Kanella, before choosing to become a freelancer, and has had clients like ID&T, gregorys.gr, Eurobank.gr amongst others.

Through the lens of a specialist

Dimitris states that the most common challenge he faces in his work is that many clients ask for a website, because they believe they are supposed to have one, but without having first figured out what is the purpose of its creation. He supports that there are a number of questions we should answer before we decide to expose our business online.

Questions like; What is the need we want to cover when creating some digital appearance; what is the target group and what is the message we would like our audience to receive when looking at our page, will help us better organize and create our content as well as handle things like SEO. However, it takes a mentality of information architecture to transform in the most efficient way all this information, and present a customized interface that better suits each case.

Dimitris embraces this work-style and from the very first conversation with the person of interest he aims to understand their reason for entering the world wide web. Based on that he will come up with a unique system for them and visualize their requirements.

Thus, if you are in a point that you are looking for guidance in building your e-shop/ website from the ground up, optimizing/relaunching an already existing website, creating a platform of a kind, or SEO advice, gather your info and questions and wait for his availability to be announced.

Wanna learn from the best? Join the Open Office Hours at Stone Soup

In a recent post we touched upon the opportunities derived from the reversed brain drain, a very exciting process to witness happening in Greece the past year. Everyday we feel inspired by the people based at our coworking space and the example they set: fellow coworkers who are traveling around the world carrying with them their social and personal skills, transferring knowledge, and enriching the local markets they engage with.

We are happy to share the latest news from our community and the background of our highly skilled coworking members. We are also thrilled to announce our new venture that is designed to contribute to this positive change.

Open Office Hours

Open Office Hours are one-on-one sessions with experts in different fields. The sessions will take place at Stone Soup and they will be open to all, and fees won’t be charged. Their objective is to share the knowledge beyond our walls and to strengthen the Athens Digital Creative ecosystem.

Wanna learn from the best? Let’s cut to the chase, and introduce George Carey-Simos, a Stone Soup resident, and the first expert you are invited to visit during Open Office Hours.

George is a Digital Strategist and helps people and companies use the Internet to their  advantage. Born in South Africa and having spent most of his life in different countries; South Africa, Czech Republic, UK, and Greece, he eventually decided to anchor his life in Greece for good.

He has a solid 15 years of working experience gained from numerous positions in different industries and countries. He started his career in Sales and moved into more traditional Media & Communications and PR work – and worked in the field for several years. Then in 2013, he switched to a small digital agency, running various digital projects for SMBs and large multinational brands, also advising clients on social media and digital strategy as a whole. His passion to explore the cutting edge developments in the digital sphere, also led him to co-found WeRSM | We are Social Media at around the same time. It didn’t take long for WeRSM to be recognized for the value it provides to digital marketers of all kinds – and agencies – by keeping them up to date on the latest news, practices, and trends. WeRSM very soon became international.

For the past 4 years, George splits his time between WeRSM and working as a freelancer for his clients. His multidimensional experience gives him the advantage to provide holistic consultancy, project management, and custom training for his clients. He is well-connected, and has a broad network to tap into when he needs to recruit and orchestrate any project.

Apart from his freelance projects, he also runs custom training sessions in digital strategy, social media strategy, and growth hacking. His growth hacking course is taught as part of a series of seminars organized by KnowCrunch at Deree college. Finally, he is also a startup advisor, mentor at Founder Institute, a regular judge at social media awards and startup events, and a speaker at international conferences.

Book your slot!

Whether your business is up and running or you are just starting out, the sessions with George could give you valuable insights on your digital strategy, your resource and team management, but could also help you refine your pitch and develop your USP.

We will announce George’s availability and time slots next week.

Stay tuned!