Why and how expert freelancers are needed in Greece. what is mediation and how the digital age is going to need digital mediators

In a recent article I read that startups need freelancers. Read the post here ...

What is a freelancer ? See Wikipedia article here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freelancer
In short, it says "freelancerfreelance worker, or freelance is somebody who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer long term."

Now, how about Greece? What is the value of freelancers in Greece? Do the Greek Startups need employers or freelancers? Do they have a place to find some and rate them before they hire them ?

Lets talk about the Freelancers in Greece and the World,  in the past and in the future.

In Greece, during the past ten years, the Freelancer worker type was underestimated or greatly misunderstood.  Employers  were thinking of freelancers like some kind of  an exotic species. If you were a freelancer, you were though as having at least one of the two following attributes :

  • You could not find a decent job inside a company since you did not want to be part of one, OR 
  • You considered yourself too good and you thought that  sharing your expertise with your many clients is a more productive job.

Nowadays, freelancers are weighted in a very different way. A freelancer is something a business wants to deal with, a startup wants to find and hire, because costs are flexible and competition fierce. So a freelancer should be competing in the price race and could hence leave space for cost reduction during the crisis ages.

Well, not all of them. It depends heavily with who you are dealing with. An expert Freelancer is not cheap. He could be double or triple the price of a full time employee, and at the end the employer could gain more from such people. I have never thought of a "Commercial Director position" as a freelance job, but I would point to such jobs as a generic "Consulting freelance job".

The most difficult part in choosing a Freelancer for a specific project or position, is how one can evaluate his expertise and at the end his price tag of the person.

So, "Digital Mediation" is going to be a new kind of service, quite different from what most of us have in mind when we visit sites like "experts exchange" and oDesk.

These services, had a great success, but IMHO they are incomplete. They make good money till now, but they have a better future ahead.

Not a long time ago, I heart people saying : " The Internet is the technology that pushes the mediators out of the picture". Now, after some years, i think that  quite the opposite is true: " The Internet is so vast and complex that we all need a mediation service to find the right service for us".

Digital Mediation as opposed to good old Mediation?

Mediation is indeed an old art. It has been known to man since the very early years of his existence. According to historians, early cases of mediation have been known to exist in Phoenician commerce. But the practice of Mediation has been extensively developed in Ancient Greece, then in Roman Civilization (where the Roman Law recognized mediation) and since then, in all modern societies.

One of the fundamental laws in mediation is the existence of a third party, the Mediator, which brings the other two parties “face-to-face”, in order to find mutually agreeable solutions.

In the Digital Age, Mediation is known in many areas, mainly in e-Commerce, e-Law and other fields, and it is usually referred as “On-Line Mediation”. The most important points On-Line Mediation adds to the traditional Mediation process are:

  • Brings parts together even if they are in geographically distant locations, using new technologies and telecommunications.
  • The On-Line mediation process can commence almost immediately, without waiting for any previous meetings and can continue at any time between meetings.
  • The whole process can be monitored and accounted in every step of it, to ensure the integrity of the outcome.
  • It makes the usage of both parties’ time more efficient.
  • The process is completely based in the professionalism, the confidentiality, integrity and security of the Mediator.
  • It can use and enforce codes and best practices, at any time, on top of the basic mediation process.

Based on the previous points, a New Perspective was conceptualized by some companies and brought to life by developing  new and innovative technological methods to implement  flexible, extendable and solid frameworks for the new Digital Era.

We are now talking for a  "Digital Mediator" that will bring  parties together through networks and telecommunication technology and take the overhead of the payment and rating process off the shoulders of the Freelancers. Whatever job the freelancer is an expert at..  Scientist, Doctor, Writer, Translator etc etc.

Keep visiting this space for more ...


A possible Flight to UK spawns some thoughts.

We were talking about flyers lately..
Well, your wait is over. You can take a plane from Thessaloniki and try your luck at Dragon's Den (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden/), for only 32€ one way till end of September.

Is your idea worth more than what you could ever dream?
Then get the plane to London and try your luck in the UK innovation arena.

Seriously now, Thessaloniki must have a route to London with a minimum fair. A lot of Greeks are studying in the UK, and a lot of successful Greek entrepreneurs  took their degrees from British Universities.

I mention  that with all due respect to Greek Universities. But we still have a long way to go..
It is true that Institutes like the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CE.R.T.H.), or Informatics and Telematics Institute (ITI - CE.R.T.H.) have quite an impressive record lately, and they capitalize on the great research work of Greek University Members.

But otherwise, our Educational Institutions lack the power to compete in the new era.
The World's TOP 100 University rankings  unfortunately do not include a Greek University. It doesn't really matter, you'd say, Greeks excel abroad. Well, it does matter. Because education mirrors the future of a country and our mirror is lying to us, saying we are still young and strong and beautiful.

Now, enough negative thoughts, let's get positive. What could we do to reverse the route?
We should consider making Universities a place where innovation and entrepreneurship flourishes, not an elephant graveyard (I sadly think of  old and rusty ideas waiting for a pension).
Now, education feeds research , research spins innovation and innovation brings value back to the country and back to education. Or not?
Anyway, that's the way it should be. I am not the person to show what has to be done. This is really the job of  Wise men and Education ministers. But I could propose some ideas, similar (why not) to what other Top institutions are already applying.
Take an Example:

The University I have made my final studies (EdUNI - Edinburgh Univeristy) has a great record in innovation and it even funds the E-Club (Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club). Edinburgh University is at the Top of the UK institutions in Computer Science and IT field. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2010/jun/04/university-guide-computer-sciences-and-it).

It takes innovation seriously and continuously tries to teach Staff and Students about how to become more linked to the Industry and produce real market value. I remember that it always brought  futuristic projects from Top Industry Enterprises and created beautiful challenges during the courses so that we could awaken our minds. But it was never raw data. We had to work with the market, with real money (funds) and with the competition of other groups that would also like to get to the prize first.

So, let's try and post a challenge for Greek Universities now.
I will take a "Green Development" path - chic-  and propose something that is both innovative and brings a better future to the world. The last few weeks, I am intrigued by the possibility of a large scale project about building a cloud service (SaaS you may call it) that would collect smart meter data  from consumers, public organizations and businesses and would be able to get statistics about the use of electricity in our homes, businesses and organizations with the goal of making people aware of how much energy they spend and how they could minimize the impact to the environment.
I searched quite a lot and found hundreds, maybe thousands of small or big applications, but most of them are limited to only reading the data and producing stats.
Now, I think the innovation would be to be able to actively interact with all these smart devices, wherever they are and be able to turn them on or off. This eventually becomes a different challenge, since all the complexity of the networks comes in and new parameters have to be studied.
This massive network of devices is what some may call a subset of the "Internet of Things"  and great challenges come alive. But IT IS DOABLE. Google has launched the Google Powermeter which is a great project and could eventually become a gigantic collector and switcher of such devices. But the aforementioned network complexities must be thought, solved and executed.
What would this mean is a HUGE saving  in energy power, money and finally better control of our pocket. At the end, an important environmental impact that would help governments reach the targets about CO2 emissions till 2020 faster than they though.
The technology is there. The prices of such devices have to be dramatically reduced, reaching the point of less than 10$ for hardware per home. And they have to be SIMPLE, EASY to be installed by anyone and eventually AVAILABLE  at the Super Markets or newspaper stands.
When they become a commodity, everyone (in the Developed countries)  would buy such devices, plug them at a normal electricity plug at home, pair them to their Router / TV / Set-top-box or Mobile phone with WiFi or Zigbee or other means and  take control of their expenses.
Sounds futuristic or impossible ? Nothing is Impossible !!!

Don't rush and post comments about similar projects with the tag "already done"... I told you, I have seen hundreds of similar projects, but nothing quite touched me yet so to say "This is the one".  What is missing is the TOTAL solution up in the cloud INCLUDING the UNTROUBLED  REMOTE CONTROL. Show me where I can get my washing machine turned off from a cloud service with a nice Gui from my iPhone, Android or Blackberry and  tell me is costs less than 50€ to buy the solution for a year's period and I will quit this idea.

I can help you with some links about Greek (or not) efforts in this direction or otherwise nice products and services in the right direction.

But still, something is missing from all these... to complete the Picture.

Global simplified interactive connectivity might be the solution for some cents a month maybe?

And after you read them, think WHAT the missing LINKS are and e-Mail me with your startup plans :)

Just kidding ...

Be well


Startups : two ways to fly

In a humorous post by Charlie Wood, i read a very true fact about startups in the States.

Charlie says that according to him,  there are two ways to fly:

  1. Design and build an airplane, fuel it, and take off.
  2. Stand in a field, flap your arms, and wait for a tornado.

And he finishes by saying "Humorously, it’s the arm-flappers who seem to get the most attention in the tech startup world."

Well, there is almost the same trend in Greece. Apart from the point that startups in Greece tend to be a very rare thing, most of the young people think that they have an exceptional idea. Of course they do. But chances are, that somewhere else in the World, thousands of people also have the same or a very similar idea.
Now, this is where other tools come handy. Patents, copyrights, capital, effort to produce a prototype,  etc has to be considered in the very early phases.

Most people in Greece also  think that just by having  an idea, this can make  them high flyers.
Well,  sometimes this  may be true. But most of the times this is just not enough.

They have to

  • describe the idea
  • form a solid Business plan, 
  • look at the competition
  • reach out for VC (any form of it), 
  • form a Group with a Team that has even some experience in Financial and Business aspects, 
  • search if their idea has already been a product / service in the Global market,  etc.

I tend (and really like) to chat a lot with young people during some sessions we have in  SEPVE (the Association of Information Technology companies of Northern Greece) and they seem to lack all the information on  how to get there.
Sometimes I also detect to them only a need  for getting the big money, without the internal balance to know what to do when they get there. Of course, I understand that it is the passion for getting away from the misery of the region. But they have to have something solid in their minds.
I suppose, mentoring is their first  need, and the lack of fast track Angel Capitalor V.C.  in Greece, made them believe that they should be doing this effort on their own.

So, in general, they start with their tech idea, find a couple of friends, justify a market need (as they see it) and start develop code for some kind of global product. they usually do all  that,  without looking around. This  leads them to a lot of time spent in the wrong track and  make the whole situation be like an awful burn-out.

I can therefore see the above efforts as the first way to fly: "design and  build the airplane, fuel it (with their own fuel) and try to fly".

So the question is : "do they just need to stand in the field, flap their arms and wait for the tornado?"

Certainly not. Because in Greece there are no tornadoes, there usually is a  nice breeze (in the concept of innovation).

What we as a country have to do is :

  • Get all together, 
  • getting help from Greeks and in general people with Innovation experience abroad, 
  • design and plan a solid platform for creating airplanes, 
  • get investors to trust us as a country and give us the fuel and ... finally.. 
  • try to fly, each idea with its own airplane.

It sounds like an Airplane fair, but IMHO, this is what it really has to be.
A Total Innovation strategy for helping startups ground off.

May the wind be with you...

Technology Strategy for Greece. See what the UK is doing

I made some comments in a LinkeIn Group I am a member of, the "GREEK IT Network".
You can see my comments in Greek here http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2099362 (you have to be a member of  LinkedIn).

For all of you that cannot read Greek, I will summarize here:

For innovation strategies in Greece to succeed, there has to be a SINGLE organization that will draw the Digital Strategy of the country. It  has to be either a dedicated Ministry (because in Greece other type of organizations do not usually have the power to pass legislations and speed things up) or some kind of  "Technology Strategy Board" with the public AND the private sector being present.  

Greece could watch closely and see what others are doing, especially what the Tech savvy countries like UK.

A simple paradigm is "The Technology Strategy Board" of the UK, (see a Video and its presentation here: http://url.ie/7jkj ).

The Openfund IV - Call for proposals opens

The OpenFund  announced the opening of the call for proposals for their fourth round of operations. The reopening of the call coincides with the beginning of OpenFund's  second year of operations and the announcement of a significantly improved proposition for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Read more here: http://bit.ly/d8iJkw

Greece says : "I Will Survive"

I started this blog after thinking that Greece has still a chance to survive, innovate and excel in the Global market. Not because I myself am Greek, but mainly because I do believe that this country has great minds and it is a pity to let them burn in the IMF fire.

Greece and Greeks have a great opportunity to prove to themselves and to the World that they are really capable of surprising everyone and  getting over the dark future that many think follows.

Anyway, I am not the only one that says "Greece will survive", 

So my first post has the title "I Will Survive" and if I'd like to give to it some color, I would definitely give it RED for LIFE  and wrap it with the infamous song that everyone knows.

I will constantly post thoughts, opinions and links in this blog that will show the potential Greece has to innovate.