Οδυσσέας Ντότσικας, TDG: Χτίζοντας το μέλλον της διαφήμισης
-Hello, Odysseas. -Hello, Panagiotis. -Thank you for coming. -I'm glad to be here. Where were you born and raised? I was born in Athens.
I grew up on the outskirts of Athens, in "exotic" Neo Psychiko. That's where I attended school. In regards to more practical matters, like many other children at that time, I found school very boring. So through various means, we had to find stimuli to satisfy our curiosity. Now, timing is important. For entrepreneurship, as well.
That was when the internet started to appear in various forms, such as bulletin board systems, forums and the like. -And chatrooms. -Chatrooms, IRC and the rest. That's how I initially entered that space.
So one of my major influences was my early engagement with that field. My other major stimulus has been present throughout my life. And that is my affinity for creativity in every form it takes, whether in art, culture or business. I believe that they all share the same creative element, but in different forms.
So I was creative from a very young age. I dabbled in a lot of things, such as business and writing. -As a child? -Yes, as a child. Were you in middle school or high school? From middle school onward, I wrote quite a lot and took my first entrepreneurial steps.
If you look at my trajectory and how I got started, I'm one of the few people who followed a continuous path. Many end up doing something different to what they started out studying. I think there's a continuity to what I did. Do you know what got you hooked on entrepreneurship and creativity then? My curiosity. My curiosity and my desire to create something, I think.
Your parents didn't work in business, right? My father was working in the business sector. But that wasn't what influenced me. I had the same upbringing as my brother and he didn't go into business. I would say it was mainly curiosity. My desire to learn how things work in greater depth, or to create something myself.
I embarked on my first business venture in primary school. We founded our school's first student newspaper in third grade. The whole setup was very simplistic. Looking back, it even seems ridiculous. Our only sources of information then were encyclopedias.
We would photocopy certain entries to use as newspaper content. Our other source was gossip. We would write out by hand pieces of news from around the school. We would photocopy this and sell it. Instead of buying a bread roll, kids would buy our newspaper.
We went bankrupt after three issues. So my first business venture failed, but I learned from it. Did you fact-check the gossip you published? Yeah, we fact-checked it to the best of our ability. There were only two of us. We were both journalists and editors. We did everything. But it was interesting.
-Very interesting. -It excited us. We were motivated to work on it. -You were already in the business field. -That's right, I was. Here's another example of a continuing interest. I have always been passionate about magazines.
I used to be a collector way back. I had hundreds of magazines. I started out collecting comic books. I later started collecting more mature publications, like "Babel".
So I started selling them around the neighborhood. I would turn an old fridge box into a newsstand. I did that every evening. Not for long, just for a summer. -But that was a business, too. -You didn't sell anything collectible? Well, I don't know. I might have. I've kept a lot of issues.
My parents keep nagging me to clear them out of their basement. I'll take a look sometime, I promise. Where did you study? I left Greece in 1996. I went to the UK. I stayed there until 2000. I graduated from the London School of Commerce. What I have ended up doing combines the subjects I studied.
I studied social sciences, which I later combined with a Masters degree in digital system analysis and design. What I ended up doing... combines communication and marketing with technology. So, basically what I studied. My Masters dissertation was about intermediaries and whether they would continue to exist within the internet as the latter developed further. This was around 2000, during the boom, but before the crisis.
-So your dissertation was spot on. -That's right. As I said earlier, I have always exercised creativity in its various forms, both artistic and entrepreneurial. I would have to track it down, but I would send letters from London to a local magazine of the time. The magazine was called "Oxy".
I sent them an article called "An Ode to Hypertext"<i>.</i> I was so impressed by the early internet that I wrote "An Ode to Hypertext". It's all about the magic of moving between texts and how close that journey is to human nature itself. -What is hypertext? -It's a form of text on the internet. A link can take you to another text. Thus the texts are interconnected.
Very interesting. When did you complete your studies? I completed my studies in 2000. I did a few interviews then. I worked in a research program at the university.
That's also interesting. It brought me into contact with another field which I consider very significant. At that time, we saw the emergence of the first major venture capital firms that took an interest in the internet.
So there was a research program which tried to facilitate these venture capital firms' evaluation processes. So over the six months that it lasted, we built a piece of software. By inputting certain evaluation criteria to assess a given company, a venture capital firm could filter out companies that had poor prospects. It was quite pioneering for 1999.
It surely was. And who was it used by? -I don't know what happened. -You don't know. The professor who ran it went back to the US. He was a visiting professor from Stanford, I think.
-Maybe it's already in use somewhere. -It's very possible. I lost contact with him. But you encountered a field that's still relevant to the work you do. That's right. I learned about the other side of entrepreneurship.
And that's funding. So, I faced a dilemma. Should I go back or should I stay? I attended a few interviews.
I received job offers from a few financial services companies. I had a good relationship with Morgan Stanley at the time. But I chose to return to Greece. Along with a fellow student... George Saliaris-Fasseas, who I'm still in contact with, we founded a company called Yellownetroad.
It was one of the first digital agencies to be founded in Greece. I wasn't employed there at the time. While I contributed to the company, I wasn't officially on its payroll, because I chose to begin my career at Accenture simultaneously. -At the same time? -Yeah, I was pulling double shifts at that time. From 9:00 AM to 7:00 or 8:00 PM, I was at Accenture.
I worked on digital information projects. It was interesting. From 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 PM to 2:00, 3:00 or 4:00 AM, I worked at Yellownetroad, in an office that I still have pleasant memories of.
It was above Deals, an old café that used to be in Neo Psychiko. -Right above it. -OK. It was a small office, but many important developments within the field started in that office. -What did the company do? -It was a digital agency.
That was very exotic, at the time. There were no digital agencies in 2000. -In 2005? -No, we're still in 2000. We founded the company in 2001.
But there were many smart entrepreneurs at that time, as well as some international companies which noticed developments abroad and realized they needed a strategy for digital media. The things we were doing were quite groundbreaking, in the sense that we created certain concepts, like internet advertising. For example, Toyota, who were one of our global clients, might want to launch an internet campaign in Greece.
There were five or six Greek websites with no advertising space, -so we had to talk to each of them. -There were only five or six then. Right. So, we had to negotiate with them to create advertising space, figure out metrics and the rest.
That's one example. It was all a lot more expansive. We were among the first companies to use SMS for communication and marketing, for clients such as Heineken. We offered personalized, one-to-one communication via newsletters for Plaisio, back in 2001.
OK. Those were still the early days of the internet. -It was interesting. -And it went well.
It went well. The company was bought out after various ups and downs. It was bought out by the WPP Group, specifically by Ogilvy's Greek branch.
I think it was a beneficial decision for both companies. It got a lot of press coverage. This was back in 2002. -The buyout happened in 2004. -2004? It was one of the sector's first exits in Greece. I think we created a momentum that still persists to this day and drives what we can see Ogilvy doing now, the awards, the creative work and all the rest.
It's impressive. We're talking about Ogilvy. It wasn't a minor player who seized the opportunity. That's right. What I admire about many entrepreneurs is that some had the sense to notice how this field was developing. They invested early and are now reaping the benefits. You achieved a great success within one year.
You were hired by Sportingbet to do a branding campaign. That's right. This was a field we dabbled in very early, as far back as the Yellownetroad years.
The entire field of online entertainment and gaming. I still remember that our first business plan back in 2000, when the industry didn't exist yet, essentially outlined what would happen five years down the line. And we were correct. The business and the industry in general raked in massive profits at the time. The value of the business went from nil to 300 million at that time.
We created leading brands. Every brand we worked with, at the time we worked with it, was a leading brand in Greece. When did you decide to found ThinkDigital? What was the impetus? What was the main idea? We had an opportunity. Once again, timing was a factor. It's as I said earlier.
Microsoft approached us at Ogilvy. They were looking for a partner in Greece and other areas. We learned about the other areas later.
They wanted an advertising partner. That's when I saw an opportunity. I had helped to shape that sector, along with other people, over the previous five or six years. -From scratch? -Almost from scratch, in Greece.
A major player had approached us. So, I saw an opportunity to do something different. So the group, as it exists today, was born through my relationship and the relationship of ThinkDigital, the company we initially founded, with Microsoft and their advertising. The funny thing... is that this took us back to doing double shifts. The company launched when I started my military service.
The launch took place in September 2006. That's when I entered the Navy. So for a year, I was on double shifts. -In the mornings, I was... -On watch duty. Yeah, that's right.
It wasn't so tough, but yes. In the morning, I was on watch duty. I wore my Navy uniform and my hat, ready to sail the seven seas. I spent afternoons and evenings at the office, only leaving at the end of the day. Did you start the company on your own? -Did you have someone else with you? -That's right.
Some people who had worked with me at Yellownetroad followed me. We were a small team of four, to begin with. And it grew from there. The company ended up representing Facebook and bringing Facebook advertising to Greece and beyond.
We started entering other markets, as a result of our success. We began looking for other partnerships. In addition to Microsoft, we were partnered with Facebook across six European markets.
-From the start? -From the start. We were one of Microsoft's six or seven partners. We represented Facebook globally.
We were one of Facebook's first few partners in Europe and globally. There were various other platforms which some of us may remember, such as Myspace. We brought them to this region and gave companies the ability to advertise in ways that differed from what was traditional and familiar to those markets. The good thing is that we learned a lot from this and were able to teach our partners in turn. In short, our group's trajectory is founded on very successful partnerships.
We learned how to cooperate with third parties. It's not obvious, nor is it easy for Greek companies to cooperate with major foreign companies. We've observed it ourselves, when pursuing partnerships on a local level. In part, it's because every country has a sense of its own uniqueness. In every country you go to, they say "It's different here".
"We know the local market". That both is and isn't true. We learned how to develop a successful partnership.
We used this in our relationships with future partners. Our experience helped them set up their own partnership programs. I think that's defined your journey. Since your earliest steps, you've had to collaborate with major international companies. You had to turn your attention abroad from the very start, because the Greek market was tiny. The internet market was up for grabs back then.
Whoever managed to corner it first would get all its value. You were among the first few movers. Do you believe that this extroversion, this need to work with major multinational companies on a broader spectrum has helped you develop your strategy, your team and your mentality? Absolutely.
Looking back at it all, I wish we had started being more extroverted sooner. We do one fundamental thing... to this day.
We do what I call "future arbitrage". We see what's going to happen five years down the line and try to find ways on a local level, in accordance with the particular conditions within each country, for our partners to benefit from it. That is a valid way of developing a company. There are no truly novel ideas.
The ability to observe patterns in other, more developed countries and bring them to a local level in a way that is appropriate for that locality is a valid form of resourcefulness and entrepreneurship. Absolutely. And it's very common. It's a model that works. Many people use it. Which were the most significant points of your journey, from 2006 to today? Which were the most critical points on ThinkDigital's journey? What were the pivotal moments? I don't remember if I mentioned it already, but we started as a single company and later became a corporate group. We're essentially a holding group, with two main areas of activity. Firstly, we invest in companies within the marketing, commerce and tech fields and manage them.
Each company is distinct from the rest in terms of shares, management and goals. There are also Chinese Walls between these companies. They're completely independent. All they have in common is a shareholder.
Our second activity category is investing in third-party companies, which we do not manage. Because there is synergy between them and our other companies, and because we know the field well and can add significant value, we invest at a very early stage, usually as angel investors. You announced two investments recently. Our most recent example in that direction is our investment in Convert Group. They are a Greek company, but they are active globally in the digital self-analytics field, which concerns how retailers can monetize their data. We made another investment recently, one that is very interesting because it's helping us accelerate various movements we're planning.
We have invested in a fund which is vertically focused on the field we move in. They are based in London. They are our co-investors. This gives us access to things that are happening within a wider geographic area, covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. -That's the fund's scope. -That's the scope of the fund which we have invested in and which co-invests with us in certain companies.
That's a very progressive strategy. Do you think it's a tactic more companies should adopt? Is it effective? Our competitive advantage, which I believe is what has allowed us to reach this level, with all the positives and negatives that brings, is diversity. We have invested funds and efforts into different projects, though always within the field we know.
But we invest in different companies, with different specializations, geographic scopes, services and client bases. Over the years, this has given us the ability to adjust to any and all crises and changes within the ecosystem or on a macro level. So if a company does badly, you can focus on one that works. Yes, but diversity requires agility.
You have to make quick decisions about what you should focus on or where you should invest more. That's what we do. And we still see that today. As we're speaking, despite the crisis we're seeing now, primarily in Europe, we have a large business in the Middle East that's doing better than it ever has. They're expecting 3,5 trillion in revenue over the next five years, on top of what was expected for that region. Consumer trust is at an all-time high. -That's just one example. -Exactly.
Another example here in Greece is tourism. A significant part of our companies' business comes from tourism. Despite the impact of the crisis on other sectors, tourism hasn't been affected yet. Are you planning any future investments? Are there other areas you plan to invest in, without assuming control? We operate in a specific sector, which is demarcated by the fields I've listed. Marketing, commerce and technology. That is our triangle of disciplines which demarcate our investments.
There are companies we are interested in. We are already in talks with such companies. These are their characteristics. Firstly, we are able to add value to them.
I'm not talking about monetary value, about putting funds into them. -You mean economies of scale. -Yes, scaling up using our network and the knowledge we possess.
Secondly, there are synergies between these companies and the rest in our portfolio. These are our main criteria. We are in talks with various companies. Hopefully, we'll announce a few soon. Tell us about the group. You have four incredible companies with different areas of focus.
You spoke about Chinese Walls, so their scope and management differ. Tell us how you developed the group. I'll start from Project Agora.
It's the largest company which we have invested in and are currently managing. Project Agora is a company that essentially provides services to media owners. Media owners can be digital publishers, such as journalistic organizations producing content on a local level, or they can be retailers. Examples include e-shops and other retail organizations which sell their services via digital media. Why does that sector interest us and Project Agora? Because we see an opportunity there.
The sector is quite large. -The industry is large. -And growing quickly. It's growing alongside digital content consumption and e-commerce via digital platforms.
But we also see a challenge there, which Project Agora is trying to meet. On the one hand, there is significant pressure from major global players such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and the rest, who are cornering the market and leaving less for local players. That's one challenge. Secondly, there is a paradox. While we're seeing great development in technological solutions, media owners, for various reasons, such as their size and their ability to approach talent, are unable to implement digital transformation. They can't use the available technology.
Project Agora essentially creates services related to digital transformation for media owners. Project Agora currently works with 3,000 digital properties within a wide geographical area, including Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. In the past two years, they have expanded into Latin America, particularly Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. It's currently in a phase of development.
It started out as a company with 150 employees, with a revenue of approximately 30 million. It's reached a new inflection point. We expect that within three to five years, the company's workforce and revenue will have multiplied significantly. So you're anticipating a scale-up in your portfolio.
That's correct. These aren't common figures, on a global level. -Exactly. -Project Agora is a unique case. -You said they have 150 employees. -That's right.
-With an annual revenue of 30 million. -Correct. A significant part of their growth over the past few years has been focused on R&D. Of all the companies we invest in, Project Agora is the one that is creating technology at a faster rate than any other. Proprietary technology, mind you. What we did initially, which I would say was crucial, was build a technology hub outside of Athens, specifically in Patras, to absorb the local talent which we believed existed in the area.
We started out with one person in 2006, who was on the founding team. Now we have over 100 employees. They're currently one of Patras' biggest employers. 98% of the staff are engineers. Many are graduates of the same university. Patras is a very good hub. It boasts a significant workforce.
Everyone took notice ten years after we started. Now Patras is the hub for PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and more. Companies which have been around for a very long time. It's clear that development around universities is important. It's also massively untapped in Greece.
We haven't really done it. There are regional opportunities. We're seeing developments in Thessaloniki as various companies tap into that resource. I hope to see more of that in the future.
Let's talk about Greece. You're one of the people who entered the ecosystem early on. As early as 2006, even as far back as 2001 with your previous company. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the ecosystem.
-But we were talking about the group. -That covers Project Agora. It's in a scale-up phase. It's reached an inflection point which will multiply the company's value in the near future. The company is conducting a funding round at the moment. Despite the current situation, we believe that the company's size and success will help it to secure funding soon. The second company which we invest in and manage is called TailWind.
TailWind's focus is what we call... digital experience. It mainly operates as a consultant and integrator of marketing technologies for major companies. These companies include brands with major advertising campaigns as well as retailers. So what is the problem it endeavors to resolve? The problem is that to this day, the main technology buyer in any given company has always been the CTO or CIO. That has changed since then. Now the biggest buyers are CMOs.
Chief marketing officers now have the largest technology budgets. Or the largest appetite. In many companies, they also have the largest budget. The chief marketing officer's role has expanded to encompass the entire spectrum of contact with consumers, including raising awareness, the customer experience and more.
So while many companies have both appetites and budgets, until now there were no resources to assist chief marketing officers in taking correct decisions in regards to technology. There was also an excess of legacy systems and point solutions, which are technologies that only address a single use case. It was also hard to form a coherent picture and unify all actions under a common axis. That's where TailWind comes in. A tailwind is a favorable wind. Obviously, it doesn't replace the work a company does internally.
On a consulting and integration level, it helps companies make correct decisions regarding which marketing technologies they should use, how they should implement them, which processes and operations they should create to utilize these technologies and how to measure the results. The main bulk of TailWind's business comes from the Middle East, as I said earlier. They work with major organizations, such as top telecommunications clients, major automotive companies, real estate corporations or retailers. They even work with major corporations such as PwC in the Middle East, which outsource parts of their business because TailWind specializes in handling them. They also work with retailers. TailWind in particular has gained significant expertise in a field that is very hot at the moment.
That's the field of retail media and commerce advertising, which is concerned with the ways in which retailers are able to absorb advertising costs from their suppliers. The best example is Amazon, which is currently a 30 billion dollar business. In a few years, its advertising costs will exceed those of Facebook. Essentially, Amazon is paid by its suppliers to advertise their products in its digital marketplace.
TailWind has cultivated relevant expertise and is essentially working with retailers, both in Greece and abroad, to help them establish that income stream. So that's what TailWind does. We've also invested in two other companies with similar areas of focus, but with a more local character, in regards to the clients they work with. One is ForestView, a marketing consultancy agency which provides services to brands who want to grow by achieving a better understanding of their consumers' needs and desires.
So they essentially use data to understand what the consumer wants and help the brand to grow in that direction. They manage the entire consumer journey, the entire spectrum of a brand's consumer experience. They have been doing that successfully for years now. They're one of the most successful, award-winning agencies in Greece.
An example of a similar investment is in the Romanian market. The Romanian market is developing quite rapidly. This is especially notable to those who have observed it for as long as we have, since the early 2000s. The market has grown massively, in terms of its GDP, technical know-how and sophistication. ThinkDigital is among that market's major digital players. How many people does the group employ? The group employs around 250 people in the companies we manage.
-That's a large workforce. -You asked about milestones earlier. We reached a milestone this year, in 2022, when the group was listed among the top 10 employers in Greece. The group in its totality was recognized as one of Greece's top 10 best workplaces for the first time. This shows that our investment in developing our human resources is paying off. -It's earning us awards and much more. -Exactly. It's a prestigious accolade.
All companies should strive to be the best workplace for their staff. Here is my next question. What do you think has helped you to reach this level? What has made you one of Greece's top employers? And how do you develop your strategy? How do you hire people? How do you build your work culture? Tell us about your group's people culture.
That's a big discussion. Given the ongoing conversation about hybrid working and other new ways of working, it's a very interesting topic. We have worked in accordance with the following logic and will continue to do so. There must be alignment between your corporate vision and your employees' personal development.
We're essentially talking about a contract between company and employee. We, as a company, have a vision as to the direction we want to take. You, as an individual professional, have your own aspirations. We have to find a common path to attain both our goals.
Beyond the theoretical aspect, we follow a specific procedure. We monitor, delineate and record our employees' development as time goes by. But not in surface terms. We work to obtain a realistic picture. The company invests in training for its employees. There is a certain term that is often used in such cases.
The Employee Value Proposition, which we make as an organization is fostering the development of our staff. We devote a lot of time, thought and resources to improving that development. You asked about our culture, which is a misunderstood word. Last week, we held a company town hall meeting. One of the topics our staff brought up was how work culture is affected by the rise of hybrid working and the lack of day-to-day, face-to-face contact.
I'm not talking about work culture, as a theoretical construct. I'm not talking about ping pong tables. I'm talking about the bond of trust between us. And that's the most important thing.
To me, culture is a bond of trust between adults, which serves as the foundation for achieving a common goal to the best of each individual's ability and need. So, we've defined culture. The challenge is finding ways to cultivate that bond of trust. We have various initiatives to strengthen that bond with every passing year. That has to be an ongoing effort for an organization.
-That's right. -I really liked your definition. I think it was quite spot on. -We'll remember that. -Good. Looking at your milestones again, we haven't discussed your fundraiser. You conducted a fundraising round in 2017.
Yes, it was our first time doing something like that. The group had been profitable for years at that point. We are a services company.
We have been investing increasingly in our technology over the last five or six years. Project Agora, in particular, is investing in emerging technologies. The group was profitable. So it always invested its profits in growth.
We had 18,000 in starting capital in 2006. We did not ask our shareholders to give us funds again. We always reinvested our profits so that today, we are a group that exceeds 50 million in annual revenue.
In 2017... we foresaw a need to create a relationship with the Greek venture capital ecosystem. Not because we needed funds for Project Agora. Project Agora completed a seed round with an investment from VentureFriends.
We wanted to cultivate a relationship to benefit from in future. Indeed, Project Agora in its current phase will need to raise funds to accelerate its next steps. Our relationship with VentureFriends and their team is very useful for that.
That's how we learned about the other side of fundraising. We learned how investors view their relationships with companies which they invest in. -That's another useful experience. -Absolutely. It was a smart idea to involve an investor in this trajectory and gain more input. -On a board member level, yes. -There's a network effect. If money is invested smartly, such investments can be critical for a company's trajectory.
What excites you about the future? As a group, what plans do you have that most excite you? Due to the group's structure, that's a question with many layers. There are things that excite us in regards to companies and each company has its own excitement factor, which is cultivated by each company's managing director and teams. And I share their excitement. On the group level, there are certain megatrends, as you mentioned earlier.
There is also excitement in regards to those. But I would say... that while there are megatrends which other players observe, we have recently realized that what ultimately excites us is continuous change.
Continuous adjustment is part of our organization's DNA. We didn't start out recently. We've been around for 15 to 16 years. Continuous change in Greece, for better or worse, has taken place to a greater extent than in other countries. Though it may sound strange, that's something that excites us.
We believe that these changes bring opportunities. These changes must have accelerated considerably during the pandemic. -Yes, significantly. -What trends have you observed? How are advertising and communications changing? How are you adjusting your strategy to these changes? We discussed that a bit at the start. The main difference we observe is that sectors which were previously completely separate... are much closer now.
So you have your skillset, and you have your starting point, which is the needs of brands, media owners and retailers. You need to find more complex ways to satisfy those needs. That's the biggest trend I can see.
For example... even within our own industry, there was division between companies. Some focused on consumer awareness. Others focused on consideration and driving purchases. Others specialized in commerce and services relevant to the final stage of the consumer journey.
While the consumer journey obviously has many phases and aspects, it is not linear. It's a lot more like a pinball machine. Consumers bounce from phase to phase. They might see a product, come back later, read a review, consult a friend and then buy the item five days later because they saw it being advertised on television. It becomes a more complex process. There is a need for many different skills within the same team to effectively utilize data, on the analytical level as well as on the action level, through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
I think that's the megatrend within the organization. There are certain demographic and behavioural trends that always remain the same. Human nature doesn't change within ten or 15 years. Other things change. For example, the increase in e-commerce penetration. E-commerce is relevant to my next question. How is the scene changing? E-commerce is bringing some disruption in the form of digital shopping baskets.
How do you see brands responding to that? How do you see brands and retailers responding? What about your rivals, the startups and tech companies that occupy so much of the market? Much of the system is dominated by oligopoly. Tell us about commerce more specifically. We were talking about things that excite me. I'm very excited by developments in that sector. Let's start with brands.
Brands have to handle many touch-points through which they come into contact with consumers. This is true for the initial stage of the consumer journey, when someone is still considering if they are interested in a product, as well as for later stages. So there is a proliferation of the touch points which a brand must use to talk with consumers. That's the first major trend.
And new trends are constantly emerging. Nobody was aware of TikTok five years ago, but now it's at the top of every marketer's agenda. Everyone is looking for ways to utilize it. Secondly, there are attempts by brands, media and retailers to shorten the conversion path. For example...
TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Google and the rest are trying various ways to allow customers to complete transactions and purchase products on the actual social media platform. Look at what's happening in Asia, with live shopping. That's even easier to see. People are buying products because influencers are making posts to promote them.
Minimizing the path to conversion is another megatrend. Thirdly... it's becoming hard to separate the roles of the three categories of players which I mentioned. Brands are the first category.
Media and platforms are the second. Retailers are the third. Retailers, as we said before, become advertising media. Many of them produce content. So what are they, ultimately? Retailers or advertising media? Then you've got platforms becoming retailers and selling products. Meanwhile, brands are becoming media and creating their own content.
Formerly distinct roles within that ecosystem are no longer so easily distinguishable, which is another trend. -That's very interesting. -Yes, it is. It's interesting to think about what they need to do. It all hinges on trends and hype.
These behavior patterns manifest as waves. Fourthly... this is something we discussed a bit earlier. There is a trend towards market consolidation. Due to economies of scale, this is increasingly accelerating. But let's not take a unilateral view. Look at what's happening in China.
A book I'm reading at the moment is all about Tencent and its influence over the Chinese market, the degree to which it can expand beyond it and the degree to which this is part of a broader strategy for China to expand its business beyond its domestic market. Amazon isn't alone. There are players in other markets. -TikTok is also a player now. -True. So these are the four main megatrends.
If we look deeper, we'll find more. But these are the trends which excite people like me, who see the game more macroscopically. And it's even more exciting because you're well-positioned to capitalize on changes. You can identify them faster and adapt accordingly.
-We can engage in arbitrage. -Exactly. That takes us full circle. You've probably seen that the Greek market is usually slower to absorb and utilize these changes. How do you think the Greek market is doing? I would say that historically, we have always been four or five years behind on all such developments. Sometimes, that can be good. By observing developments that don't go so well despite their hype in other markets, you can evaluate them all from a more critical perspective.
On the other hand, I would like to expand the topic to include startups, scaleups, new technologies and the rest. An ecosystem is beginning to form which after several years is reaching maturity. An early stage of maturity, actually. An adolescence. Certainly, if we compare that ecosystem to those of other countries that are of comparable size, there are still opportunities to bridge that gap. You don't need to look very far. When we first joined Endeavor, the ecosystem was totally different.
Startups were incredibly hard to find back then. There were no scaleups at all. Now we have an excess of people who can generate new technologies, ideas, businesses and more. -Plus, there were very few funds. -True. -And they were much less active. -They were slow. I think Greece is an example of supply creating demand.
The injection of funds accelerated the growth of entrepreneurship here to a greater extent than in other countries. In other countries, that growth was a lot smoother. I believe it's a good thing that here in Greece there was an excess of funds in relation to startups. That's starting to balance out now.
-And it's continuing to do so. -It's all good. What challenges does the Greek ecosystem face? Speaking as one of the ecosystem's first members, what opportunities and challenges do you foresee in the future? I won't say anything that hasn't been said before. To start with, Greece must compete on a global level. If you look at startups and scaleups who only aspire to be the best in the Greek market, they may be sensible from a business perspective, but they don't create jobs. That's what we need. My opinion is that to this day, there is an excessive emphasis on startups.
At this point, in order to create jobs, we have to think about scaleups and growing our businesses, which will absorb more workers than a startup with a team of five to ten people. Alternatively, we need to scale up startups. But right now, I think we need to play the scaleup game. This is how you evaluate whether an ecosystem is mature. Firstly, to what degree are its activities driven by R&D? How many different IPs does it have? What is the depth of its research? How many patents does the country generate? You need collaboration between researchers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. That's a sign of maturity.
Another thing that I consider a sign of a mature ecosystem is its approach to B2B. Business-to-customer issues are more easily navigable. Most people are able to handle them. How able is an ecosystem to tackle business-to-business issues, which typically involve large companies? That requires experience.
Such issues can usually be tackled by experienced entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who have run up against such problems as employees or company owners, who have had the necessary epiphany to identify the problem and its solution. Maturity requires both these things. B2B also requires scale.
Having many businesses isn't enough. We need a few global players. -That's right. -World-class stories. I think that, in the wake of the first wave of poster children and iconic exits that have taken place, we need a new wave now. We need companies that are more focused on B2B, and R&D.
They will show everyone who is just starting out what direction to follow. I think that will be the next step for the Greek ecosystem. It's an incredibly challenging sector to exist within. Especially when you're working with huge companies and demanding clients across many different geographies, it's very difficult to achieve that.
That leads us into another big topic. To what extent is Greece a destination for talent? How much talent do we produce, as a country? We need to transform our education. But I think that we especially need to try to become a market -that attracts talent from abroad. -Certainly. Do you have any views regarding the current market for talent? It's very challenging. It's an issue of supply and demand.
Right now, demand outweighs supply. As for the supply... That's a dehumanizing term. People who are just starting out at some company or other after graduating from university need two years of training. That highlights the current gap within education. We need to connect higher education in its various forms, even technical training, with entrepreneurship and the real business world.
Right now, these are two separate worlds. At some point, the two will meet. It will take a long time for them to coexist harmoniously. There's a question which I think is always interesting to ask founders.
It's a difficult job. It demands time and devotion. Do you have children? How connected are they with what you do? -What's their position? -I have two sons. They're twins.
Now, that's what I call efficiency. They're 11 years old. They're in fifth grade. It took them a while to understand everything that we do. It's not the simplest thing in the world. They are proud of the fact that their father is someone who creates things and enjoys what he does, without sacrificing quality time with them. I spend time with them.
Not as much as I would like, but the time I spend with them is always good. I think it helps them. I obviously receive a lot of support from my wife.
She has taken on most of the responsibility for their education. But it's very interesting to observe children. Through the education system and the things they're exposed to, they sometimes develop stereotypical notions of what an entrepreneur is or what work is. For many years, they believed that I was a head teacher.
They would say "You're a head teacher, dad". That's a stereotypical, outsider notion of how the hierarchy works. They were describing it in terms they were familiar with. In a school, the person in charge is the head teacher.
I think that my children's current age and onward is a good time to instill ideas of entrepreneurship. There are certain relevant clubs at the school they attend. They have a business club, which one of my sons wants to join this year. They also had an advertising club. They also wanted to join that, probably because of their dad's influence.
I think that such activities... -It's a good age to pursue them. -Right. Do they visit your office? They haven't visited in a while, even though I live relatively near the office, mainly because their schedules don't permit it. But they do visit every once in a while.
We even organize events so that children can visit the office. Very nice. That allows all our employees' children to see their parents' workplace, which helps a lot. Are you reading any books that have influenced you? Throughout my life, I have read multiple books at the same time, at any given moment.
I read in three directions. I read on the macro level, to form a broader view of what is happening in the world. That links back to what I said about Tencent, which is part of the bigger picture of China's activities and industrial policies in regards to technological development.
I'm reading books that will help me to understand the disruption on a value level across the world, not just in terms of energy and political crises. I want to understand Europe's position in all this and what will happen in the future. That's another topic that interests me and which I read about extensively.
On a more micro level, I read more industry-specific or more business-specific material. I'm reading less and less about technology and more about culture. Hybrid working is a topic concerning which I am trying to absorb many viewpoints at this point in time, from people who have researched and written about the matter.
I also read a lot of non-business-related material. I feel that I should urge other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid obsessing over one thing. They should read about more than their field or business. The best examples of entrepreneurship and creativity are found in literature, poetry and art.
And they're equally important. They are different ways of expressing creativity. I read a lot of literature and poetry. I devote time to art.
That helps to center and ground me. Have you watched any series or films recently? I don’t have time to watch series. The last TV series I enjoyed had nothing to do with business. Don't expect me to mention StartUp, Billions, or anything like that. I recently watched "Normal People". The story takes place in Ireland.
It's a young adult drama set in a university. It's a romantic series. My other outlet for grounding myself and escaping from daily life is playing basketball.
So the only TV show I watch is Euroleague. The only things I watch regularly on TV are Euroleague and NBA matches. Is there a particular founder whom you admire for their traits or leadership style? Is there anyone you look up to? I haven't hung posters on my walls for a long time. I don't idolize anyone. And if I did, they wouldn't be a business founder.
There are founders who have created greater things, with greater potential to influence the world in other fields. I'm trying to learn things from many different sources. More recently, as part of my activities outside of work, I have taken a great interest in the history of religions. Those are good examples which modern founders should study.
Both in terms of communications and how those religions have spread. -That's a scaleup. -The ultimate scaleup. -The ultimate scaleup. -It's worth studying how they started, how they have evolved, how they still survive and what their role is today. We end every interview by asking everyone the same question. What do you believe makes an entrepreneur an outlier? I'm going to cheat a bit.
It's a combination of curiosity... and ambition, but not ambition in the sense of vanity. Ambition as in the desire to leave something behind that will ensure people remember you or that will benefit others. You also need persistence and endurance.
That's what you need, I think. -Thank you, Odysseas. -Thank you. Take care.