Startup Life/Hiring & Workforce/Analysis/

Move to the Med and get a free motor

Tech companies are offering talented techies cars to get them to move to Cyprus.

By Andrea Busfield

Tech companies in Cyprus are offering incredible incentives to talented techies in order to get them to pack their bags and move to the sun.

With the Mediterranean island promoting itself as a technology hub, a host of major players have recently set up shop in the capital Nicosia and the coastal cities of Limassol and Larnaca.

However, the sudden influx has left many firms fighting for top flight talent – leading to a rash of promises to future employees that include personal trainers, private tuition fees for children, free food and dance classes.

The forex firm Exness even offers every expat worker a Mini Cooper Countryman.

Constantina Georgiadou, PR manager for Exness, said the incentives fulfilled a dual purpose by helping to get the right workers into place and then keeping them there.

“On a company level we try to make Cyprus and working for an employer like us as attractive as possible through all the incentives and benefits we offer,” she said. “Among the incentives we give is a Mini Cooper Countryman to all expat workers as well as benefits for their spouses or families.”

While the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) issued its first forex brokerage licence in 1988, it is only in recent years that the country has witnessed an explosion in the number of fintech firms and ICT companies taking up residence on the island – partly helped by the Brexit fallout, the island’s corporate tax rate of 12.5% and more than 320 days of sunshine a year.

Today, more than 250 regulated Cyprus Investment Firms are listed on the CySec website, up from 129 back in 2012, the vast majority of which are forex businesses along with 55 international ICT companies.

Venture capital firms have invested €50m in Cypriot startups already this year, according to Dealroom, putting the country on track for a record year. The country attracted €53m in all of 2020.

In July, the information technology company, Odyssey, became the first in Cyprus to be included in a Gartner’s Magic Quadrant industry report.

Also last month, the mammoth Cyprus-based video game developer Nexters Global secured the necessary funds to proceed with a Nasdaq listing by the end of September, giving it an enterprise value of $1.9bn.

Meanwhile, in another tech coup for the island, The Embracer Group acquired the Cyprus-based mobile game maker Easybrain earlier this year for $640m. Another Cyprus-based company, LearnWorlds, also procured a $32m minority investment from global venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners, following an impressive year for the company which included a growth rate of more than 300%.

George Campanellas, CEO of the national investment promotion agency Invest Cyprus, said: “These are exciting times for Cyprus and for investment opportunities in Cyprus.

“Having steadily positioned ourselves as a potential technology hub for both the EU and MENA regions, we are now seeing concrete moves towards realising that ambition, which, of course, makes working in Cyprus not only an attractive proposition in terms of climate and lifestyle, but also for anyone looking to build a career in the fields of fintech and technological innovation.”

For the past three decades, Cyprus has largely been associated with tourism, with the number of visitors reaching record levels in 2019, before the pandemic all but wiped out the industry.

However, while the coronavirus has been devastating for tourism, it has fast-tracked the island’s technology ambitions, and companies have been quick to respond.

“We believe Cyprus has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean,” says Constantina from Exness, admitting that this had led to companies like hers offering ever greater incentives to expat workers.

“The tech sector in Cyprus is fast becoming a major pillar of the Cyprus economy and offers an abundance of opportunities for career growth and development not only to local talent but also to expats from all over the world,” she explained.

“However, at this point in time there needs to be a shift in focus to attract specialised human resources, something that is difficult to find for the tech sector in the local market.”

As well as offering a Mini Cooper Countryman to all expat workers, Exness offers personal trainers and nutritionists, gym facilities and dance classes, Friday parties with live music, complimentary drinks and catering, a corporate doctor in addition to medical insurance, flexible working hours, including the option to work from home and private tuition fees for employees’ children. All of which appears to be the norm among the island’s big tech hitters.

Yiannis Tinis, CEO of the leading software and services supplier, Amdocs Cyprus Center, says his company offers expat employees a full relocation package, including six weeks hotel accommodation, as well as covering flights home once a year. On top of the usual insurance benefits, employees are entitled to breakfast and lunch at work, as well as drinks and snacks throughout the day, and membership to one of Limassol’s most prestigious gyms.

Amdocs office workers also get retail discounts, regular company parties and entry into a weekly raffle in which prizes range from Apple AirPods to 55in televisions.

Another fintech company, MUFG ISFT, recently acquired by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, has also found it necessary to offer similar incentives in the hunt to find developers with experience in both finance and software.

Maria Stylianou, head of human resources said: “It’s very difficult for us to source developers from forex companies here on the island. Our focus at the moment is to provide more benefits, and also create a relocation package so that we can bring people in from outside. So, we offer as many perks as we can.”

Among the perks offered by MUFG ISFT are gym membership as well as free meals and beverages.  However, many firms have been calling on the Cyprus government to help them lure greater tech talent to the island.

In response, the government recently speeded up the process allowing third-country nationals to establish new businesses on the island and bring in specialised employees. Invest Cyprus also operates a one-stop shop for international ICT companies to help them set up operations.

“We continuously strive to make Cyprus an even more attractive destination, both for existing international high-tech companies looking to scale up their operations and for new companies,” Campanellas said.

However, with the pandemic creating a global talent war for white collar workers, firms in Cyprus are asking the government to bolster company incentives with state sweeteners.

Amdocs’ Tinis, who is also Vice President of the Cyprus Tech Association, said: “I think Cyprus has a lot of potential and we are trying to find a channel to tell the government that we are here to help you to improve because we also want to help ourselves at the end of the day, and keep building our businesses here.”

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