The entrepreneur and investor who is behind some of the most successful Greek start-up, talks about the rapidly evolving entrepreneurship in the field of technology, describes the principles of success of a start-up, reveals how he finds a way out of difficulties, emphasizes the importance of learning and adaptability in a world that is constantly changing and sends his message to every young person who wants to get involved in the field.
The "guardian angel" of Greek startups
By Christina Katsantoni
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
He has been described as a "serial" businessman and investor. His name is intertwined, like no other name, with Greek startups and entrepreneurship in the field of technology.
Apostolos Apostolakis, one of the most powerful people in the field of Venture Capital and founder of some of the most important startups of the country is an "angel investor", who as the title defines: guards, supports and leads the field of Greek startups to higher levels.
The establishment of the first startup
Apostolos Apostolakis was born and raised in Nea Smyrni, in a family that had strong connection with his parents' place, Crete. Their influence was decisive in his development. As a child he saw them struggling to create and grow in their job. The fact that his father grew up in a mountain village in Crete, in a house without electricity while working as a shepherd to finish school, made him realise the value of hard work and gave him the feeling that everything is possible when you set a goal and you work hard for it.
He didn’t know exactly what his goal was. At school he was good at maths, so he leaned towards his father's profession. He studied civil engineering and started working for his father but at the same time, business had already piqued his interest.
In 1998, when he was in the first year at the university, a fellow student approached him with the idea of the e-shop, the first online store in Greece. He had no idea of e-commerce, but he seized the opportunity and enthusiastically pushed himself in its implementation, dealing with everything – even with the packaging and delivery of orders. He learned a lot, he got to know the new field of electronic services, but he felt he was missing something. No matter how common is the assumption that business is common sense, the extra knowledge would be valuable for him, so he decided to go to study in America.
The difficult years
In the demanding environment of Columbia Business School in New York, Apostolos Apostolakis came in contact with different subjects. Later, he also worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting, but he realised that the employee status did not suit him. He preferred the feeling of freedom that entrepreneurship could give him, so in 2004, he returned to Greece and to the e-shop business which was already growing rapidly, and contributed substantially to its further development.
In 2008 he disagreed with his associates, supporting the sale of the e-shop. Three years later, the difficult period had begun for the company which lost 30% of its turnover within a month.
Having a sense of responsibility deep inside, he went through a very difficult two-year period trying to help the business balance. Stress and anxiety even affected his personal life and health. He found a way out of the quagmire in creation – where else?
The great success stories
Furthermore, he started working on new startups, such as e-food which was based on an idea he had in mind since he was still in America, taxibeat and doctoranytime. All three, although they seem different, are based on the same principles that bring the consumer together with the professional. All three have evolved into great success stories and continue to innovate and grow.
His next idea was the establishment of Venture Friends, a capital fund which came to support Greek startups as a guardian angel, investing not only money, but also advice and guidance in many companies such as e-table, Nannuka, Funkmartini, Douleutaras and of course Instashop, the most impressive big deal of the Greek business; within 5 years and having raised just $7 million from investors, it was sold to Delivery Hero for $360 million…
Often, the amounts that accompany the business career of Apostolos Apostolakis cause awe, in contrast to his approachable and low-profile figure which does not resemble at all that of the traditional, inaccessible or centralised businessman. Having learned how to operate in the clearly Democratic field of technology, he believes in participation of all in creating values. He is never proud of his success, he considers success a responsibility, and he is always open to something new, to the opportunity to learn and fulfill his potential, until the next goal; in a never-ending effort, as much as evolution ...