Hunting Greek Unicorns #5

Launching a maritime marketplace startup amidst a pandemic, 238 startup jobs, news and more

I hope this email finds you in good health. Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #5. I’m a startup guy based out of Greece, and every two weeks I will share news, jobs and more from the Greek startup ecosystem, and not only.

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🎙️ Launching a maritime marketplace startup amidst a pandemic: A fireside chat with Agapitos Diakogiannis

This week I'm doing my first fireside chat for Hunting Greek Unicorns with promising early-stage startups. First guest is Agapitos Diakogiannis, founder and CEO of Seafair. Agapitos decided to leave a job in VC and launch a maritime crewing marketplace in the middle of the COVID-19 era. We discussed about:

What is your story before Seafair?

I was born and raised in Thessaloniki. At the age of 18, I dropped out of medical school in Brussels and went on to study engineering. That decision was liberating and really changed my trajectory, as I was very close to following a medicine career just because my whole family are doctors. The following years I had fun working at Rocket Internet and advising companies as a consultant at BCG. Right before Seafair, I was investing in startups with FJ Labs, a fund focusing on marketplaces, while studying for an MBA at Columbia Business School.

How did you come up with the idea? Why is the maritime crewing industry waiting to be disrupted?

While working at BCG, I came closer to the maritime world and found it exciting. Later when I came to the US, I saw a new wave of online labor marketplaces in traditional industries, like Oil & Gas, manufacturing and construction. I studied their models and became curious as there was no startup addressing maritime crewing. Through customer discovery, I understood the industry is huge, fragmented and structurally opaque – these are key characteristics of spaces where marketplaces thrive.

There are 1.6M seafarers who earn ~$50B in salaries annually and intermediaries (agencies) earn ~$2B in revenues annually. These agencies match their shipping clients with the best available seafarer. But the process has several gaps:

  • agencies do not have the infrastructure to store & access data in an efficient and smart way

  • there is a lack of transparency in communicating seafarers’ skills and capabilities both from the agencies but also from the shipping companies

  • while there is regulation that does not allow an agency to charge seafarers, most agencies exploit them either through unpaid work or getting a cut from their salaries.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity launching Seafair amidst a pandemic?

Around 70% of a vessel’s regular Opex are crew-related expenses, without taking into account additional expenses (e.g. machine maintenance, delays) that also stem from human crew error. Given the pandemic, shipping companies will have to rethink several operating processes that they have in place and rationalize them. It’s vital to shipping companies to find good quality crew members at a reasonable cost, and this is what Seafair will offer them. Our model makes it easier for us to acquire seafarers in a scalable way through digital streams, while our ranking algorithm and processes set by market experts help us match seafarers with vessels and positions where their experiences are more relevant.

How is the chicken-and-egg problem cracked in a maritime crewing marketplace?

This is a demand-constrained marketplace, given that supply is easier to onboard on the platform. We already have several seafarers who have joined our waitlist and are waiting for us to go live to find jobs. Even in the case of a demand-constrained marketplace, supply retention is probably the most important metric in our business. If we manage to retain good seafarers we expect that shipping companies will come to hire them through our platform.

Who else is behind Seafair?

We currently have teams in NYC and Athens. I am very excited that my friend Byron Antoniades, a very talented engineer, will lead our engineering team in Athens. We also closed our first round from FJ Labs and Fabrice Grinda, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor in companies such as Alibaba, Airbnb and Uber, joined our board of directors. Fabrice is one of the most knowledgeable people on marketplace startups in the world, and I am excited that he believes in our vision.

What are your plans to grow the team? Why did you decide to build your engineering team in Athens?

Engineers in Greece are very strong and I’m just lucky that I speak the same language with them. It makes almost no sense to build an engineering team in NYC or SF today. In our case it’s also important that our engineers understand the problem in depth, so it’s an additional advantage to be close to one of the largest maritime hubs in the world, Piraeus.

We’re currently looking for full-stack engineers and account managers with experience in maritime crewing and we plan to keep on growing our team in Greece.

When shall we expect to see Seafair live?

We are currently beta-testing. We expect to be live at seafair.io late August – stay tuned!

You can learn more about Seafair and why the maritime crewing industry is broken on this medium post or you can get in touch with Agapitos on LinkedIn and Twitter.


🦄 238 jobs from 72 startups

Greek startups are hiring! I created a new list for June with 238 jobs from 72 startups. As I wrote in a previous issue I keep updating this list, first because many companies are growing fast (especially those in industries “positively” affected by the COVID-19 outbreak) and need great talent to take it to the next level. Second, there is an increasing number of jobseekers out there, some affected by the recent layoffs and others looking to join a growing sector. The list was created on the 3rd of June.

👉 You can find the detailed list with 238 jobs here


🗞️ News

During a videoconference with Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and representatives from Greek tech companies, Charles Lamanna, Corporate VP at Microsoft, said the company is planning to create a Microsoft engineering hub in Athens. You can see more details here.

Greece was ranked 20th globally in top scientists for Computer Science & Electronics according to Guide2Research. This is very positive news and indicates the great engineering talent the country has. Here’s the detailed report.

Booking Clinic, a Greek healthcare marketplace startup, has been selected by
EIT Health, the European Institute of Innovation & Technology, to participate in their annual acceleration program with other 88 European healthcare startups.

The 16 teams for the next acceleration cycle of OK!Thess were selected with teams from various industries including tourism, nutrition, education and more. Here’s the relevant press release.  

Accusonus launched Mauvio, a new product to help people make their mobile videos sound more professional.


💭 Reading or listening

An article about how some of the Greek startups funded by EquiFund contributed to the fight against COVID-19 during the past months.

Antonios Chalkiopoulos, CEO and co-founder at Lenses, shared his thoughts on the value of data and data ops for companies to be able to respond to new challenges fast and forge a path towards long-term opportunities.

Michael Petychakis, CTO at Orfium, discussed all things Orfium in a recent interview with Fortune Greece.

Nikos Fertakis, Tech Lead at Skroutz, wrote about how the team is currently running its interview process remotely to hire new engineers.

Lenny Rachitsky (ex-product lead & head of consumer supply growth at Airbnb) and Casey Winters (CPO at Eventbrite) surveyed 20 growth experts and created a nice summary of what is considered good and great product retention across several industries.

A report by CB Insights and FastCompany with a list of 50 future unicorns. They have a 52% and 34% success rate since publication for their 2015 and 2019 lists, so it’s worth checking out.

Ben Thompson, one of the most popular independent business writers and the guy behind Stratechery, talked about platforms, aggregators and the future of tech and media in a really interesting 1hr podcast with Patrick O’Shaughnessy.

When do epidemiologists & infectious disease specialists expect to get back to normal and continue doing certain activities from attending weddings to travelling by airplane and getting a haircut at a salon/barber shop? A survey by The NY Times.

A quite long but super nice read on mental health by James Beshara (startup investor and ex-director of product at Airbnb). tl;dr is invest in mental health the same way you do with personal finance, career and physical health. Hence using the term "mental wealth", focusing on prevention rather than cure.


I’d love to get your thoughts and feedback on Twitter. If you find this newsletter interesting, consider sharing with your friends or subscribing if you haven’t already.

Stay safe and sane,

Greek Startup Pirate 👋