Greek entrepreneur and innovator Stavros Tsompanidis, a 24-year-old who discovered an innovative method to productively utilise washed-up seagrass from the Mediterranean Sea and manufacture mobile accessories, gift boxes and sunglasses, has made it onto this year’s prestigious Forbes list of 30 European entrepreneurs under the age of 30 in the technology category.

“I must admit I was rather surprised to be selected amongst 1100 entrepreneurs in Europe but at the same time I am very excited with the result, particularly taking into consideration that our company was only established a few years ago,” says founder of PHEE, Stavros Tsompanidis, who recently received a second award for best start-up company in sustainable development at the Start-up Greece Awards.

“After attending a series of TED talks in Greece on innovation and entrepreneurship, I realised that my dream was to set up my own start-up and I was particularly keen to explore possibilities that would allow me to turn dead seagrass leaves into products.

“I researched for two years and discovered that there was a gap in the market and after a few failed attempts, I teamed up with an engineer from the University of Patra, Nikolaos Athanasopoulos, who shared my vision to use the dead leaves of Neptune Grass (Posidonia Oceanica) and turn them into wonderful useful consumables.

“Nikolaos is currently my business partner and PHEE’s production manager,” says Stavros, who is also PHEE’s CEO and Head of Marketing.

Based in Rio, a town in the western port city of Patra, the company manufactures a series of modern design products using phee-board, an innovative cellulose-based material made of seagrass with multiple applications.

“Among PHEE’s best-sellers are its cell phone cases, luxury gift boxes and beach tennis paddles, while it recently launched an eyewear line in cooperation with Zylo, another Greek start-up that produces wooden frames and is based on the island of Syros.

“We are now even looking at using our phee-boards for furniture manufacturing, but quite frankly, the sky is the limit with this incredible material we have in our hands. Our goal is to introduce and promote the principles of recycling and reusing materials that are found in abundance around us in a global market,” says the University of Piraeus financial management graduate.

“We have been very lucky to have the financial support of organisations such as the Angelopoulos Foundation, The People’s Trust Foundation (Laskaridis Family), Papastratos and BlueGrowth Piraeus who saw the company’s potential and its positive environmental impact and shared our vision in utilising thousands of tons of seaweed that washes up on our beaches every year in a sustainable manner.”

“We are blessed to be born in a country with so many hidden treasures and it’s up to us to discover them all,” concludes Tsampanidis.

27-year-old Yale University graduate Kristina Tremonti was also awarded In the Law and Policy category for developing the crowdsourcing platform Edosa Fakelaki (I Paid a Bribe), which enables citizens to report corruption in Greece.