Interview with Christos Kyliakoudis (DEREE ’04), entrepreneur, digital analyst & marketing specialist
What is your fondest memory of your DEREE College days?
I have a lot of memories from DEREE, academically and extracurricularly. When I was at DEREE, I took a lot of degree courses and general courses, and was going to study accounting and finance. I took a course at PASCAL with Professor Vagianou, and that changed my mind and I studied Computer Information Systems (CIS). This was much more creative than just accounting and finance!
I also remember the gym.
One of the most decisive turning points for me at DEREE was the PASCAL course. I remember it was summer and it was such a nice thing to be in this classroom learning about algorithms and how to automate information. For me at that point, my mind just clicked. I have very good memories of DEREE. It gave me my fundamentals for my Master’s at the University of Lancaster and for my later career, because it had a blend of business and technology, as well as a lot of teamwork and practical applications through team courses. I would recommend it to everyone.
I remember I had to work in the morning and go to DEREE in the evening. Most of my classes finished at 10 o’clock at night and I was exhausted, but I was very satisfied with my classes.
Where were you working while studying?
I was working in my father’s business. We had an auto repair shop.
You were the recipient of the International Propeller Club of the United States – Port of Piraeus Scholarship for Excellence in the School of Business Administration and distinguished yourself during your graduate studies at the University of Lancaster as well. Can you tell us what drives you to excellence, what inspires you to succeed?
This changes over time. For every year, it’s different. My driving force while at DEREE was that I wanted to learn how businesses operate and how I can help the community through businesses and have a career, and have a job. My motivation now is to help the world have a better life, change the world, make it a better place for everybody. Furthermore, I want to be a good investor, build a sustainable business that also creates value for its shareholders and have fun doing that. People should work and put their main focus into places and things they really enjoy.
Were you technologically savvy from a young age – that is before you took the first computer course at DEREE?
No. I remember I was in the lab at DEREE, and I didn’t have a computer at my house, and there were people at the computers and they were browsing the net. I remember sitting at the computer and how I couldn’t do anything, and I didn’t know how to even browse the net – how to even get to YAHOO. I had to ask someone to show me.
You’ve come a long way since then…Is there an aspect of your work you enjoy more than most?
Originally, I was an analyst – more concerned with numbers and analysis, but I really enjoy the interaction with other people and how we can cooperate to make something meaningful. I also enjoy learning about new tech things.
Are you working on something new? A new project?
I want to get into venture capital.
When I left here and went to the UK for my studies and later work, I didn’t want to come back. My father was an entrepreneur in Greece and I saw that you couldn’t really do this in Greece. But, living in the UK, it was a very entrepreneurial country. Even the academics are somewhat entrepreneurs, even the analysts are somewhat entrepreneurs, so little by little I became an entrepreneur.
But you chose to come back to Greece?
I didn’t like London then. I figured your friends would only be your friends for one to two years. It was too fast-paced which wasn’t compatible with my culture. You should be able to have the same friends in five years. I liked the smaller cities in the UK, however.
Have you kept in touch with your DEREE classmates?
I have kept in touch with a lot of people from DEREE.
Can you tell us about your present project with SantoriniCarHire.Com/Santorini Car-Rental.com?
I started it as a side project, but it went very well. I cooperate with local car rentals. They get the reservations, and I get a commission from that. I market, I promote the site, and I spend a lot of money on social media, but mostly Google advertising.
How has the market downturn in Greece affected your work if at all, as I assume you work with tourists mostly and tourism hasn’t really been hit that hard, in fact it’s picked up a lot now…?
It hasn’t affected it, as more and more people are booking online – so it’s actually much better for us.
Did you find the car rentals on Santorini or did they come to you?
I found them and set the whole project up from scratch.
Are you planning on branching out to more islands with the same service?
Not at the moment. I want to move into another area, and I want to do investments full time, that is to become the General Partner – the middle person – between those who need venture capital and those who are willing to provide it. I want to be looking into investment opportunities, including start-ups, full time.
Have you been in touch with Venture Capital people? How far along are you in your new project?
I am very new to this. I have been doing this for two or three months, and putting all I have into this, while hoping it goes well.
Are there specific fields-sectors where you see more opportunities?
I see opportunities in the tourism industry and in the tech sector. There seem to be some opportunities in the agricultural sector, but they are not so mature as to receive funding. However, I believe that the main export of our times is the creativity of our people going global. We cannot look at just doing things in Greece. We can use the web. We can use all other distribution outlets, retail, etc., but we don’t know them very well. Through the web, you can get one billion users on their mobile devices, and two billion on their computers. It’s a very good distribution outlet!
You’ve been involved in many projects and have created an award-winning startup Yumm.ee/Yummymomy.com. Can you tell us about it? How did you come up with the idea?
Yumm.ee was created in 2012. We won second place at the Athens Start-up Weekend 2012. The idea was a peer-to-peer market place for homemade food. So, I could search in my area and see who was cooking. We didn’t continue, however, as we had trouble with the funding…
Is that why you want to get into Venture Capital? To help good ideas like yours get off the ground?
There are a lot of Venture Capital firms in the tech sector, but they aren’t that open for funding in other areas.
The idea for yummymommy was simple. I went for jogging Sunday morning. When I came back, I was smelling lots of nice aromas in my area, and I thought to myself “they will have some fantastic food for lunch, whereas I will go home and don’t really cook.” I couldn’t order from other people’s houses, so I explored it and saw there wasn’t another company doing this. The planning was good, but the implementation was not so good. Like every start-up, the initial implementation was not so good. It was a minimum viable product, which we developed, but it wasn’t polished. This is the mentality of start-ups. They do something that isn’t perfect and then they evolve.
In this startup, however, I got experience in what startups are, what I want to do, etc.
What inspires you at the moment?
It inspires me that we are a global village and technology allows us to create products and services anywhere in the world targeting the global market.
You need to create value. What you give is what you get.
What would advise graduating DEREE and ALBA students? Should they stay in the country or go abroad in search of work during this crisis?
My advice is to take the advice that comes from the heart at the moment. People should focus and do things that they like to do. It’s a better way to create money. Do what you love is my advice, from somebody who doesn’t like advice.
I had the same question in 2004. I don’t believe that there is an easy answer to that. There are balances and each case is totally different. If you think you’ll be more creative and have more fun abroad, then go abroad. You can always change your mind.
But do it for your own reasons. Don’t go there with the mentality that because of the situation in Greece, that is why you are there. Think that it’s your choice instead, and not because of the environment. You will not succeed anywhere with this mentality.
Don’t say somebody kicked me out. Accept it as your own conscious choice and you will be happier.
By going abroad, I learned a lot personally. I think that everybody should live abroad for some years, but not that that the opposite route is wrong.
As you are so technologically savvy, did you ever think of moving to Silicon Valley?
I have friends in Silicon Valley, but I haven’t been. For the time being, I am here. As long as I can do what I love here, why leave?
What do you think is needed to change the economy, make it more entrepreneurial, digital and outward looking in Greece?
I believe in entrepreneurship and I put my all into this. There are a lot of political, social and economic factors that contribute to the current environment. I mean not so long ago, we had the Civil War, where the Left and Right went to war…
Yes, Nick Gage the author of Eleni, says that the Left may have lost the Civil War in Greece, but it won the hearts and minds of the people…
Aristos Doxiadis has also written about this in The Invisible Rift. There is a lot of analysis.
The thing is: are we going to do something to move forward? Or are we going to live in our memories and in the past? I think most of the time that we’re going to live in the past. I am an optimist, however. I’m not going to be disappointed because of circumstances. I can’t control those. What I will do is what I can control. I cannot fix the economy. But, I can make a business or help businesses, which is a small thing. I think that if tiny things operate well, even the tiny parts in the body, then the whole body can work well.
Yes, we are going to change. I don’t see us changing at this point of time, however, from our effort and conscious choice. I think that change is coming because someone else tells us to change. I don’t like that. I believe that, instead, we can change overnight if we decide to change from a victim to someone taking our fate into our own hands.
Entrepreneurship has really changed the way I see things. I used to be very shy. I couldn’t go to networking events and speak to people! Being an entrepreneur changes you, your philosophy and outlook. I believe in the dialectic and the synthesis. The Socratic method. That you get into something without preconceived notions. That is the same with entrepreneurship. You don’t have to do it this or that way. You see what needs to be done and go with it. This helped me understand what philosophers were talking about!
Christos Kyliakoudis (DEREE ‘04) is an entrepreneur, digital analyst, and marketing specialist with experience in helping start-up businesses succeed online. He creates web-based marketing campaigns and has won second place at the Athens Start-up Weekend 2012 for Yumm.ee – a startup he created in 2012 with the aim of bringing local homemade cuisine chefs in contact with the community, in the style of airbnb, although the project was never developed further.
Some other projects are SantoriniCarRental.com and SantoriniCarHire.com, which he developed from scratch, working out online marketing strategies, as well as booking systems, fleet management, pricing, and supplier networks to help the local low-tech car hire companies – and made half a million euros worth of turnaround within two years.
During the last seven years, Christos has also worked as a freelance online marketing professional, consulting for the hospitality industry, such as at Aeolus Hospitality.
Before that, he worked for industry leaders in London as an analyst: mainly analyzing scores of customer data and reviewing the performance, design, and usability of online marketing sites, working as an insight analyst at Logan Tod and at Dunnhumby.
Christos Kyliakoudis earned his BSc degree in Business Administration with a Major in Computer Information Systems from DEREE in 2004, with a high Distinction (GPA 3.62). He was also the recipient of the International Propeller Club of the United States– Port of Piraeus Scholarship for Excellence in the School of Business Administration, and was also active in the IT Society Governing Body, and in the Debate Club at DEREE.
He earned his MSc in Operational Research from the University of Lancaster in 2006, and performed in the top 1% at the International Data Mining Cup 2006 regarding the prediction of sales revenues of eBay auctions; He also won – after an interview round – first place in a Simulation Project on the Colworth Corporate Research Center for Unilever Plc.