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Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Click here to view Cyprus’s Startup Map.

Introduction to the Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean at the southeastern end of Europe right at the crux of the busy shipping and air routes linking 3 continents, Europe, Africa and Asia with a population just about 1 million people. The island with a rich history going back more than 10.000 years, has developed from a Stone Age settlement into a modern and thriving European Union member state with a host of opportunities and prospects for economic growth and prosperity boasting an ideal investment gateway to the European Union and a portal for investment outside the EU, particularly into the Middle East, India and China.  In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Cyprus ranked 68th globally.

The startup ecosystem is close-knit, dynamic and supportive, under the umbrella of Startup Cyprus, the local ecosystem organization actively engaged in policy  advocacy for startup policies in the country and Europe, a founding member of the European Startup Network and a member of Allied for Startups. Bustling, fun and friendly, the local startup scene is complemented by the local government’s commitment in doing their best to aid the ecosystem, having ratified and currently implementing the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship.

With various elements of the ecosystem swiftly falling into place, Cyprus is shaping up to be an up-comer in the European startup ecosystem. An island in the South Eastern corner of the Mediterranean, it enjoys an astounding 300+ days a year of sunshine making it a popular tourist destination. Coding by the beach? Not a dream.

Successful Startups in Cyprus

Avocarrot: (@avocarrot)  a mobile advertising platform founded by a Cypriot team with offices in London raised €1.90M, recently acquired for €20M by Glispa Global Group.

AdJelly: (@adJelly) a tool created to help designers and marketers get through the mental maze of online ad research and Boomtown Accelerator grad.

BugSense: (@bugsense) a leading analytics solution for machine data generated by mobile devices, acquired by Splunk in 2013 (Cypriot Co-Founder).

FlyNBuy/Cellock: a digital platform to accommodate
the air travelers’ needs preflight, in-flight and postflight.

Diyful: (@diyful) gamifying DIY calculations and DIY industry marketing startup.

Hellas Direct: (@hellasdirect) (raised €8M), online car insurance with Cypriot founders, and Cypriot regulated company in Greece. (@investdotcom) a fintech company specializing in automated alternative investments that raised €20M recently.

Pollfish: (@pollfish) (raised $2.5M), a survey platform that delivers surveys online and via mobile apps on a global scale, Cypriot Co-Founders with offices in Greece

Viber: (@Viber) free text, call and picture sharing app based in Limassol, acquired for just under a billion by Rakuten in 2014.

Wargaming: (@wargaming_net) global headquarters now in Nicosia

Strengths of the Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Cyprus is an amazing place for any startup to be at the beginning of their lifecycle as you get the benefit of 5 times cheaper running and living costs than most other major cities. With a thriving and buzzing supportive ecosystem Cyprus is committed to drive its growth through innovation and entrepreneurship. It is shaping into a hot European startup ecosystem driving change, supported by a liberal economy with probably the most competitive startup and investment incentives in Europe.

Cyprus offers an attractive and transparent tax regime, fully compliant with EU, OECD and international laws and regulations. Among the main features are one of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the EU at 12.5%, dividend participation exemption, exemption on disposal of “titles” (e.g. shares, bonds, debentures), no succession and no withholding taxes, attractive IP regime (provides for an exemption from taxation of 80% of the gross income), Tonnage tax for shipping companies making Cyprus an international shipping hub, notional interest deduction and personal tax exemptions for new residents and non-domiciles. In addition corporates, business angels and VCs investing in innovative startups or funds investing in innovative startups registered in Cyprus can benefit from one of the highest tax relief discipline in the European Union – factors that make it appealing for startups to setup and have a base here at a minimum.

A dynamic business center, Cyprus offers an abundance of highly educated and skilled individuals, ranking 2nd in Europe for tertiary education per capita, multilingual in their majority boasting an over 75%+ of the population as English speaking, ready to serve the needs of any business.

A services hotspot, spread over a small island in the Mediterranean, provides fertile testing ground for startups. In fact, its small size makes MVP testing really lean and mean, while your funding carries you longer with significantly lower rental prices and availability of highly educated talent well versed in English.

And if you are thinking of relocating its not just laws and business environment that interest you. Cyprus offers a wonderful living experience combining a comfortable, stress-free quality of life with a modern and sophisticated environment, ideal for people seeking the perfect balance between business and pleasure. Low crime levels, year-round sunshine, extraordinary natural beauty, complemented by centuries of art and culture and a delicious gastronomy all contribute to a high quality of life. The island ranked 5th best relocation destination worldwide by the 2013 Knight Frank Global Lifestyle Review. Cosmopolitan, buzzing, culturally rich, Cyprus offers a variety of lifestyle options that caters to all tastes and desires. Small is beautiful indeed.

Weaknesses of the Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Did I mention small? While being a multi-industry pilot market definitely has its merits, access to growth markets and capital is at a minimum an hour+ flight time away and won’t negate the need to have a sales presence close to your market when the time comes.

Startup Resources in Cyprus

  • Works: (@ImpossibleWork) Cyprus news portal and web tv for startups, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship

Biggest Players in the Cyprus Startup Ecosystem

Startup Cyprus: the ecosystem umbrella, founded by 13 entrepreneurs to support the ecosystem and advocate for policies to startup Cyprus. Authors of the Cyprus Startup Manifesto.

Cypriot Enterprise Link: (@CyEntLink) youth-led organization aimed to connect and support the Cypriot entrepreneurial talent in order to form a local and a global entrepreneurial network supported by events, meetups, workshops and projects.

Cyprus Business Angels Network:  Angel Investment Network in Cyprus.

Chrysalis Leap: (@chrysalisleap) started in 2013 – cleantech accelerator in Cyprus, runs the ClimateLaunchpad for ClimateKIC in Cyprus and Greece.

Founder Institute Cyprus Chapter: (@founding) global accelerator Cyprus Chapter and startup Launchpad, started in Cyprus in 2015.

Gravity Ventures: (@GravityCyprus) next generation venture building incubator that fosters and propels innovation through constant interaction, empowering founders to make real impact and create the world of tomorrow. New approach to building startups from early-stage to a mature venture.

IDEA: (@ideacy) Bank of Cyprus backed accelerator started in 2015

Hack Cyprus: (@hackcyprus) created by CEL, with a clear ambition in mind — putting Cyprus on the technology map.

Startup Events in Cyprus

Numerous meetups, workshops, demo days and events such as: Hack Cyprus Annual Hackathons, Cyprus Startup Weekend, Cyprus Startup Live, Startup Academy Cyprus, Techcrunch acknowledged Insights Conference, Disrupt Cyprus Ideas Forward, and the numerous events organized by the Founder Institute Cyprus Chapter

Most recommended resources:

About the Author:

Stavriana Kofteros (@Stavriana_K) Startup Catalyst. Stavriana is Cofounder of Startup Cyprus, Director of the Founder Institute Cyprus Chapter, Curator of Cyprus Startup Digest, Organizer of Startup Live CyprusStartup Weekend Cyprus, Cofounder of Startup Academy, Mentor of Pioneers Festival, National Coordinator for the Startup Manifesto Policy Tracker, Board Member of the Research Promotion Foundation, Advisory Board Member of the European University Cyprus Business School, Entrepreneurship MBA Lecturer, Cofounder of the European Startup Network, member of Allied for Startups and the Cyprus Entrepreneurship National Policy Statement Implementation Committee. She is experienced in management positions in telecoms, startup support and incubation and actively advocates for entrepreneurship enabling policies to enhance the Cyprus and European startup ecosystem and drive entrepreneurial growth. Stavriana is primarily a connector, helping startups by working with them on strategy, operations, UX and partnerships. She advises startups and is on the advisory board of a VC fund.