Reflect Festival 2023: Expat Founders Panel Insights

Reflect Festival 2023: Expat Founders Panel Insights

“Cyprus is so welcoming, and I believe that this is a great advantage for anyone relocating.”

Reflect Festival 2023 has concluded a very successful event in bringing together thought leaders, experts, founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs where they shared their insights, ideas, and products and services in a series of panel discussions. 

Among the many intriguing panels, one that stood out was the discussion on "Expat Founders in Cyprus," featuring prominent speakers Diana Verkhotourova, Mariano Kostelec, and Natallia Miranchuk, moderated by Capacitor Partners founder and Managing Director Michael Tyrimos.

Challenges Faced

The panelists were asked to share challenges they faced in establishing their businesses in Cyprus. On this point, Diana Verkhotourova, co-founder of Anymaster, pointed out that while hiring employees from third-party countries was relatively easy and fast, navigating the bureaucratic processes of banks and visas left much to be desired. She expressed hope for Cyprus to join the Schengen agreement, simplifying the visa process for foreign entrepreneurs.

In terms of bringing talent to Cyprus, Mariano Kostelec, co-founder and CEO of StudentFinance, noted the difficulty in the efficiency of airline flights to and from the island. This challenge poses a threat to the straining talent pool in Cyprus, urging organizations to come together and help in finding a reasonable, quick solution. He stated, “Cyprus airports’ connectivity is lacking, fixing that would create more opportunities for itself and for entrepreneurs and founders looking to relocate.”

Positives in Cyprus

Despite these challenges, the panelists highlighted several positive aspects of launching or relocating a business to Cyprus. Mariano emphasized the welcoming and connected nature of Cyprus. English proficiency, innovation, and global events like Reflect Festival made it an attractive destination for both business and personal growth. Additionally, the sense of community in Cyprus was a significant draw for many expats, offering a feeling of belonging and a shared journey toward success.

Nathallia Miranchuk, founder and CEO of Soula Care, emphasized the extensively welcoming society in Cyprus, as well as the island’s culture, which both play an integral part in creating a sense of a pleasant and enjoyable life for expat founders and business owners. Diana also elaborated on how important the sense of belonging and community is, and its profound presence across the island, stating that “Cyprus is so welcoming, and I believe that this is a great advantage for anyone relocating.”

The Road Ahead

The panelists also shared their vision for the future of entrepreneurship in Cyprus. Mariano emphasized the need for government officials and processes to become more English-friendly, addressing a common hurdle for expat founders. He suggested that adopting digitalization practices similar to Estonia could streamline various processes, making them faster and more efficient. Furthermore, improving airport connectivity was seen as crucial to attract more entrepreneurs to the island.

Natallia, who relocated due to conflict and found Cyprus a convenient destination, highlighted the role of education in the decision to move. She praised the rapid pace of change in Cyprus and its willingness to embrace innovation, sharing that “The speed at which things are changing here is really huge. We built a school in 86 days. We got great support from various stakeholders including both the private and public sectors.” However, she also stressed the importance of preserving the unique culture and spirit of the island amid these changes.

The panel discussion on Expat Founders in Cyprus at Reflect Festival 2023 shed light on both the challenges and opportunities that come with establishing a business in this Mediterranean haven. 

While hurdles like bureaucracy, complicated banking procedures, and visa processes exist, the welcoming community, English proficiency, and commitment to innovation make Cyprus an attractive destination for expat entrepreneurs. As Cyprus continues to evolve and embrace innovation, it remains a promising base for both local and global business endeavors.