​The Greek tragedy continues: Why so many of Greece's tech firms may abandon its shores

Although large companies are holding on, small and mid-sized tech businesses are struggling to cope with Greece's economic environment.

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Only 19 percent of Greek tech companies intend to stay in the country.

Image: iStock

Greek entrepreneur Orestis Matsoukas, founder of Orama Group, a business and community development company working with startups, plans to relocate to Estonia or to Ireland. "The situation is very harsh for companies in Greece," he tells ZDNet.

"The biggest problem is taxation, linked with the attitude of the state towards entrepreneurs. The Greek state considers entrepreneurs as de facto tax evaders. We even got taxed on a loss, because according to the state we must have somehow found that money."

Matsoukas says dozens of his friends who own tech companies plan to leave the debt-stricken country and set up shop elsewhere.

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A survey conducted recently by non-profit organization Endeavor, Greek Business Exodus, shows that only 19 percent of tech companies intend to stay in the country. All the others plan to transfer their headquarters or operations abroad, or have already started the process.

"[IT companies] are the most willing to leave, because it is easier for them, and also they can access smart capital more easily in the US or Western European countries," Anna Zilakou, communications and partnerships manager for Endeavor, tells ZDNet.

"For tech companies, tax instability is the first reason to relocate, followed by high taxation," she says. Next in line is a lack of access to funding, followed by bureaucracy. All these issues outweigh the country's assets, which include high-quality and reasonably priced skills, she says.

Endeavor's study covered small and mid-size organizations, as well as giants operating in Greece. "Larger companies are sometimes more hesitant to relocate abroad because they have been operating in Greece for many years and have a good knowledge of the market," Zilakou says.

That's the case with telecoms giant Vodafone, whose director of corporate affairs Matt Peacock makes it clear that it has "no intention to leave Greece whatsoever".

"We've supported our customers, employees, and suppliers through the worst years of the financial crisis, and indeed for many years before that. We continue to invest in building our business in Greece and we remain as committed to the country as ever," he says.

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The Endeavor survey finds that, across all industries, 15 percent of companies have recently moved abroad, while an additional 39 percent are considering transferring their headquarters, operations or both.

That finding is twice the figure recorded in a similar study that the non-profit conducted in July 2015, soon after the capital controls were enforced. Inevitably, the firms that are less likely to relocate are operating in agriculture and consumer goods.

Adding insult to injury, business leaders in Greece are becoming increasingly pessimistic. Only nine percent of them hope things will improve in two years' time, while 35 percent believe that between two and five years are needed for the economy to get back on track.

The survey also shows that 56 percent of businesses believe that their situation will take more than five years to improve.

Endeavor also notes that over three-quarters of the respondents say if they started their business or career today, they would be doing it abroad, rather than in Greece.

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