Voluntary Loan Fund Aids Flummoxed Greek Tech Startups with International Payments

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July 7, 2015; CNN Money

“Are you a Greek company blocked by capital controls? We try to help by becoming a proxy for your transactions.”

from the ZeroFund homepage.

As many readers will know, the Greek economy is in a corner right now. The banks and the government have limited the flow of money in ways that would make any enterprise stagger. But for tech startups in Greece, the fact that they cannot make payments outside the country as a result of the economic crisis is a major barrier, threatening the future of their businesses.

But Greek entrepreneur Panos Papadopoulos, now of San Francisco, still invests in the Greek tech ecosystem, and as a part of that he has helped start ZeroFund, which lends donated money to pay bills that cannot be directly paid by the small Greek businesses. Others involved in the fund are fellow tech entrepreneurs Jon Vlachogiannis, Wassilios Kazakos, Niko Bonatsos, John Dimatos, and Christos Perakis. Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen pledged to contribute with a prepaid card.

Those in need of a loan simply fill out a form on their operation on ZeroFund’s site detailing their monthly need, and ZeroFund provides the donation through prepaid Visas and MasterCards.

“We don’t take any stake in the companies. It’s a favor,” said Papadopoulos, and a way to give back. Almost eighty Greek companies have applied, and to date ZeroFund has helped around 30, but the cumulative amount is achingly modest at just $1,900 so far.

“Just a small amount for the time being, but it keeps them afloat,” said Papadopoulos. “We’re trying to prepare for a much bigger influx of requests over the next couple of weeks.”

Two of the requests

  • “All my Greek credit cards are declined, even for the small amount I need to pay (12.99 dollars). I requested time from my hosting company and they gave me two deadlines with the last one for tomorrow. As you can understand, I am very anxious about tomorrow, as my clients’ websites cannot be offline even for minutes.”
  • “We currently host around 150 websites on three designated servers with Hetzner (Germany). The billing is done on a monthly basis with an automated credit card payment. This will be rejected on the 12th of July with the current credit control situation. We are stuffed. If you could help us out, that would be greatly appreciated.”

—Ruth McCambridge