Accelerate Athens provides seed funding and mentorship programs to startups and entrepreneurs in the rapidly-growing, regional economic and cultural powerhouse of Athens in the mold of Austin, Boulder, and Charlottesville.
Kudos from Larry Robertson, writing in A Deliberate Pause, an award-winning book on entrepreneurship and its moment in human progress, for Accelerate Athens visionary Stephen O’Connor.
"Now imagine what it takes to convince others to come along with you on odysseys...reflect on the quest undertaken by Stephen O'Connor and Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Prize winner) to change cultures, classes, and systems. Next, contemplate the need to act as a cheerleader, projecting hope, and providing momentum when the path gets rocky. Consider the sacrifice needed to produce any results at all -- let alone to generate enough value to compel others to change their habits, values, thinking, and actions."
Stephen is the founder and co-managing director of Accelerate Athens. An Athens resident since 2007, he has years of experience in entrepreneurial media startups, marketing, and branding. In 2014, he was the recipient of "The Global Entrepreneur Award" from The University of Georgia's (UGA) Grady School of Journalism / Advertising and New Media Institute, for his role in helping transform parts of the former Soviet Block by introducing independent investigative business press regionally supported by advertising. In 2005, the Government of Hungary awarded O'Connor its Medal of Economic Freedom for his role in helping consolidate the country's transition to democratic capitalism.
Stephen has been a regular business plan judge of regional startups for the local incubator Four Athens and UGA. He has also served as a past champion for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship where he judged business plans in Washington D.C. public schools, as well as at Georgetown University's MBA Entrepreneur program.
Earlier in his career, Stephen was one of the first American entrepreneurs active in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While in Europe he launched New World Publishing, a media and conference company founded around several highly-influential independent weekly business journals in Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague, working with investors including tech legend Esther Dyson. In parallel, he and his team were tasked with assisting in the rollout of Forbes Magazine Global into emerging markets.
O'Connor was the first investor in Uproar.com, the pioneering, publicly-listed interactive gaming platform company founded by fellow Budapest expatriate Michael Simon, who is currently chairman of LogMeIn.com, a NASDAQ-listed provider of cloud-based remote connectivity services. More recently, Stephen was Business Development Director for AIG/Lincoln Properties in Russia and Deputy General Director for the World University Games responsible for media and corporate sponsorship placements with Coca-Cola, Danone, Hyundai, McDonald's, etc. In Eastern Europe he served for years on the boards of the American Chamber of Commerce, Poland, Junior Achievement, co-founded the Russian Green Building Council and is past chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters Russia, among others.
Over his career O'Connor has worked to build a diverse global network of entrepreneurs, thinkers, mentors, and doers who share his enthusiasm for building companies from scratch, inspiring people and reinvigorating regional and national economies.
V.J is a successful executive focusing on media and entertainment start-ups in international markets. He helped launch Ron Lauder's private TV station (CME) in Central Europe shortly after the market opened. He identified further opportunities, some executed, in the region. From there, he became CEO/co-founder of a modern Cineplex chain (Palace Cinemas) that became the market leader in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, ultimately earning more than $500 million in revenues. The company grew through green-field construction and an aggressive M&A strategy. He led the launch of film distribution and ad sales units and internal management software. He also led the company into new digital transformation that occurred in the industry. In the US, he developed and tested big screen multiplayer gaming concepts to positive reviews and has worked as an advisor on other start-ups. Before business school, he served his country for 7 years as a diplomat.
He is a graduate of Clemson University and has an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.
Mr. Allen is a partner with Accelerate Athens (“AA”), a business accelerator based in Athens, Georgia, USA, with ties to the successful Boomtown Boulder accelerator program. Mr. Allen is working directly on AA's Eastern European strategic initiative initially in Lithuanian (the FINTECH capital of Europe) but will include Hungary, Poland, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Estonia, Romania, Russia, Bosnia, Serbia etc.
AA is working to identity promising companies in Eastern Europe that can create value through cross-collaboration with AA and the Southeastern United States. The program is called "East x Southeast" (“EXSE”). He is currently working to establish AA's European office in Vilnius later this year to begin to tap into the 30,000 start-ups reportedly across the region.
Prior to Accelerate Athens, Mr. Allen served as Chief Financial Officer of EvoShield, an Athens based startup that developed custom-forming protective gear and associated branded apparel for athletes – most famously used by baseball players in MLB. Mr. Allen executed the sale of EvoShield to Wilson Sporting Goods (owned by Amer Group - Finland) at the end of 2016.
Prior to EvoShield, Mr. Allen had 25 years of progressive financial and strategic responsibilities in Investment Banking (Salomon Brothers, PWC), Private Equity (Hutchinson Capital Group), Fintech (FFMC, First Data, Western Union, Global Payments), Telecommunications (Deltacom), and Industrial Materials (Vulcan Materials). His work experiences have included management and M&A roles in “Bulge Bracket” Investment Banking, “Big Four” Accounting, Fortune 500, S&P 500, and Inc 500 companies. Russ, a former Army Captain and helicopter test pilot, has an engineering degree from West Point, an MBA from The Wharton School and an MSBA in Management from Boston University.