Tag Archive for: interview

Startups in Athens: Innovation made with ROKOKO

Petros Stone Soup Athens Coworker

Have you ever wondered how your favorite animation or video game is so life-like and realistic? Well, it’s probably because the developers used motion capture hardware and software, like the ones designed by Rokoko, our latest members!

We had a chance to speak with Petros, the Administrative Director of the Greek tech hub of Rokoko in Athens. He shared with us how it’s like to work with Rokoko, the competitive advantages of their tech products, and how online platforms help to build a digital community of creators.

The mocap technology 

Motion capture is the process of making human (and sometimes animal) motion digital. With the help of optical sensors or in Rokoko’s case, small sensors, an actor transmits the motion data to a computer. The captured data is then used for animating 2D or 3D models. In-game development and filmmaking, motion capture is an unparalleled method for making animated characters move more realistically. Rokoko has developed the Smartsuit Pro and the Studio software in order to deliver a complete service.

A Danish Startup in Athens

The Rokoko headquarters and the company’s supply chain are based in Copenhagen, while in Athens there is a tech hub focusing on tech support and software. Petros explained how the Greek branch sprang in Athens back in 2015. It all happened by chance! Some members of the Danish team visited Greece for a private event and met a Greek developer. At first, they started a loose freelance collaboration. As the time passed, the team grew organically from five to twenty people! The Greek company was officially set up in 2020 and has been expanding since then. 

So what’s it like to work for a tech startup in Athens? Petros noted that Rokoko is a startup in a scale-up process. Growing “from 5 people to a village” means that things are constantly in flux. A tech-oriented and relaxed work environment in the center of Athens proves truly exciting, especially for young professionals. Another appealing asset is that working in a creative tech position means that one must take ownership of the projects. It’s also really interesting that Danish and Greek cultures clash so it’s kind of a shock for Greeks who are used to a hierarchical system in the workplace. Adapting to a horizontal work culture means that team members can go with the creative flow and enjoy a relaxed environment. 

Some ongoing research projects might be used for commercial reasons or might be thrown away. That’s how innovation works and this is one of the most exciting aspects of working for a tech startup like Rokoko, according to Petros.

Making technology accessible to all creators

But how is innovation transferred into the market? Rokoko’s main competitive advantages are accessibility, affordability, and the way it offers a full-body tracking solution, covering body, fingers, and face. Big studios use point systems of reference that a camera has to detect for motion capture. Rokoko, on the contrary, developed hardware that uses sensors on the  Smartsuit Pro and the Smartgloves, which do not require a camera. As a result, the whole operation is much more affordable. This is the reason why Rokoko equipment is accessible to small and independent creators who make up more than 80% of the company’s customers. In addition, using their Studio software to gather all the data, you can get hyperreal results straight into your screen! Petros also revealed to us that we should expect much more to come in the future.

One such upgraded product is the Smart Suit Pro II that will be out in early 2022 and anyone can pre-order already! 

Can you imagine being able to impersonate your favourite video game character? Well, Shutter Authority’s VFX videos are #madewithrokoko!

Are you a fan of Lil Nas X? His video clips are #madewithrokoko!

Building a community

How to bring creators together? Petros underlined the importance of scaling up the digital community that Rokoko has been building. Users share stories on Instagram adding the hashtag #madewithrokoko while all creators can interact and share tips through a Discord channel. Rokoko’s customer base consists mainly of independent creators so bringing them together in an active and sharing digital community is crucial for strengthening their voices. Apart from learning more about possible ways to create content, another incentive for creators is the chance to win hardware and software prizes (last year the company awarded one of the biggest bundles ever)! In a digital world, there is no need for a formal submission so #madewithrokoko is all that it takes to register! 

What’s coming up?

Rokoko established a tech hub in Athens just before the pandemic. Because of that, they didn’t have the chance to host any networking events. Open innovation is one of their values, so Petros highlighted their effort to cooperate with universities. They try to approach educational institutions so that students can do their academic projects while getting professional experience in Rokoko. The buzz expected from the launch of the Smartsuit Pro II is going to be huge so more events are coming both in Athens and abroad! We are beyond lucky to have them in our workspace and we can’t wait to see what realities they’ll take us next!

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

We would like to focus this week on stories of Greek startup companies that inspire. Stories of teams coming up with new tech solutions to solve existing problems and manage to disrupt a whole industry.

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.

Ferryhoper: a new way to book your tickets for the Greek islands

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

Ferryhopper is a platform that 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.

Disrupting the tourism business

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 has achieved its 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 found themselves constantly frustrated by the difficulties of traveling 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 that 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 for their startup

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 that will allow the company to further bolster its tech infrastructure and support its international expansion.

Advice for pitching your business

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 for the Greek startup?

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!

Getting started with my internship at Stone Soup, by Valesca Ribeiro

Hello, my name is Valesca, I am 24 years old and I live in Brazil. I have a bachelor degree in Organizational Communication and now I am studying Marketing Management. I got my internship at Stone Soup via AIESEC, a global platform that aims to cultivate leadership amongst young students.

I arrived in Athens this week and I will stay for a couple of months. I love to explore new cultures and meet people; that is why immediately after my graduation I traveled to Australia. I stayed there for a year and a half studying and working. When I got back to Brazil, I decided to continue with my studies and traveling plans. When I saw the opportunity to come to Greece I applied without hesitating. Now I am here ready to learn and collaborate with the Stone Soup team.

Being in a different country may be challenging, but it is also a great opportunity to push my boundaries and mature professionally. Stone Soup is a coworking space and consultancy firm and their vacancy caught immediately my attention. When I first heard about the coworking concept, I found the idea intriguing, because I thought it could shake down traditional market models. I believe that my internship here is going to be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and get connected with people in different areas and learn about marketing and beyond.

 

 

 

The Coworking Space Concept: Through the Lens of an Intern

After working at Stone Soup for the past 2 months, I can easily say that the community of people working in this space are welcoming, kind, and made the transition into an entirely different culture, almost effortless for me. I was introduced to many aspects of the local culture through food and drinks, by my coworkers – which is reflective of the kind of place the Stone Soup is.

Throughout my stay, I conducted interviews with several Stone Soup residents, which gave me a more specific insight into what they were doing and what lead them to their current position. This also gave me the chance to properly meet the people in the office, that I was seeing every day, in an organic and informal way. To a college student like me, hearing about how career paths can differ so drastically, is knowledge that both placates my worries about the future, and excites me for what’s to come.

                                           

I also gained experience with SEO marketing, which I previously knew nothing about. My understanding of SEO is very multi-faceted in the way that I was taught about it – I learnt about SEO from many different people around the office, who gave me many approaches to tackle SEO, which I could look at and consider on my own. This form of interaction, in which ideas and knowledge can be exchanged at many levels, with different attitudes, is something that about the coworking space concept that I highly appreciated.

My unique experience here can be attributed to a variety of factors, but an overarching theme revolves around the different kinds of people that I have continually met throughout my stay. The diverse job-fields that I encountered within Stone Soup, broke down the preceding connotations and traditional assumptions that I had about the “work place”. The benefits of a coworking space span a much larger scale than I had previously anticipated – the framework is not limited to startups, but is rather a window into the way that different local and social networks can function.

Many aspects of my experience here have been shaped by, and are a result of Stone Soup, an environment that fosters inclusivity in every sense of the word. There is no way for me to show my appreciation for what Stone Soup has shown me, and the kinds of opportunities that have begun to form as a result of my time here, other than by thanking each and every person that I came across during my stay. I am excited for the future of Stone Soup, and for anyone that has the chance to be a part of the community, even if for just a short while.