By Poly Pantelides
WHEN Greek Cypriots want to express sympathy they say “manamoure” – an ubiquitous expression of commiseration roughly translated as “poor thing”.
Your cat died? Manamoure…
Your bank card got stolen? Manamoure…
Your business failed? “In Cyprus, you’d be told, ‘manamoure’, not: ‘what did you learn?’”, said Paris Thomas, one of the founders of Cyprus’ first and only business accelerator Chrysalis Leap.
Chrysalis Leap comprises of a diverse team of lawyers, academics, consultants and entrepreneurs who have been making waves in Cyprus and abroad and have just finished their first round of nurturing clean technology startups who pitched some awesome business ideas to investors on Friday as part of a Demo Day.
Pitches included a way to use fallen leaves to create sound absorbing materials, a stand-alone mobile solar panel that starts producing energy within a minute of being plugged in to an online platform bringing together people with unwanted, reusable, furniture and the designers who can give them a new lease of life.
It was the culmination of months of work for the startups, but also a message of bigger things to come both for Chrysalis Leap and the blooming startup scene in Cyprus.
Thomas has been doing plenty of pitching himself along with environmental lecturer Alexandros Charalambides, the Chrysalis Leap founder who roped the rest of them in. Charalambides and Thomas are an award winning duo in their guise as ENERMAP, a team that was awarded a prestigious award last year via an event organised by CLIMATE-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership. ENERMAP plans to create an online map displaying the energy consumption of buildings and have been given tremendous access to experts and training.
Earlier this summer, Chrysalis Leap announced it was launching an accelerator programme to guide Cyprus-based people create fully-fledged business plans on sustainable and cleantech projects and hook them up with investors who might fund them. Sixty-five teams applied and five teams made it through the final stage. Sponsored by Ernst and Young (EY) who shared their know-how and experience, Chrysalis Leap – itself a startup – introduced the five teams to investors and professionals at the Royal Hall.
ENERMAP have just completed a tour of San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, darling of startups, involving two weeks of networking and more networking and pitching. This is what they learned: “you are a lion and you’re waiting for your prey,” said Thomas. It was a joke to describe the spirit of going for it that can get that coveted business card for Google’s green business guy, Rick Needham, who can put you in touch with the right people. Entrepreneurs need the tenacity of a lioness huntress.
The people behind Chrysalis Leap have played a major role in helping create a Cyprus’ startup ecosystem. Founders include Marina Theodotou, the woman behind the popular TEDxNicosia, and TEDxNicosia speaker Eloiza Savvidou who has been sharing her expertise in corporate, commercial, and intellectual property law.
Some of the teams that joined the Chrysalis Leap accelerator programme – going from idea to business plan over several intense months – have already received recognition abroad through global competitions.
One startup, Aqualligence, has designed a smart system to monitor water quality 24/7 via low cost online sensors that can have wide-reaching implications and tap into a multi-billion dollar industry. Another, MICAPE, that has developed a way to capture the wind power of cars as they drive in motorways, has won second place in an Athens’ based cleantech national contest.
The organisers, Industry Disruptors-Game Changers promote entrepreneurship in Greece, South East Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. One of its founders, Carla Tanas, said they will be launching more events in Cyprus early next year. They have already helped Cyprus join Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) that brought participants from 140 countries together in November, with a little help from the internet. Cyprus also hosted its first Startup Weekend in November, while the Cyprus Business Angels Network Cyban has been set up to fund high growth businesses.
Startups in Cyprus and the network that supports them has a global focus, and a requirement that many investors have, including Cyban, is that businesses have the potential to grow outside the confines of the island.
Chrysalis Leap themselves have just received funding from Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership, Climate-KIC. The Climate-KIC people are definitely impressed and have announced a partnership with Chrysalis Leap next year. Chrysalis will also be teaming up with SAP Startup Focus, an initiative from a leading business software manufacturer.
Chrysalis’ Charalambides said the catalyst for Chrysalis Leap was the knowledge and experience they were amassing through ENERMAP. “We thought, ‘why keep it to ourselves?’”.
Visit www.chrysalisleap.com or look for them on Facebook or twitter @chrysalisleap