Stories Talk | Presentation Skills and Effective Storytelling
#technology #entrepreneur #innovation #futurist
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
Stefanos Loukakos is a genius of technology. He knows very well how to study, process and introduce to the market everything new in technology. He can see the future and open new ways, currently for his own company, Connectly, a multi-national company with no homeland, offices and nationality.
He has worked alongside Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in California and has experienced a lot in different parts of the world. What characterises him, apart from his sharp mind and knowledge, is his perseverance. Stefanos Loukakos has dealt with more rejections and losses than we can imagine but he never buckled. He considers them as part of the process, he overcomes them and finally wins!
- What studies have you done?
I studied civil engineering at the Polytechnic School, following my father's profession, as many children of my generation did. Then I went to the US and did postgraduate studies, first at Berkley and then at Stanford. The first postgraduate course was close to my studies as an engineer and the second was about mathematics and economics. This helped me chart my personal path. America can pave the way for young people, which back then at my time was something that Europe couldn’t offer. It was there that I became very interested in finance, business and technology.
- Was this new field that you finally followed something that you always wanted or did it emerge along the way?
I discovered it along the way, because if you don’t try something you can’t know if you are good at it. However, what I realized through my work at Google and Facebook, and I would like to pass on as advice to young people, is that it is very important to focus where you are strong and not to try to improve your weaknesses.
When I was in school, if someone was good at math and not good at writing, the greatest effort was given to writting. But for me, things should happen the other way around. You have to invest in what you are good at, so as to become even better. The world has changed and specialization now plays a very big role.
- How did you continue after your postgraduate studies?
I worked in finance, in banks in New York and then did an MBA at INSEAD in France. I continued to work in banks but I always liked the field of technology. So, my first move was to telecommunications, which was a very interesting field at the time. I worked for a while at Deutsche Telekom in France and then returned to Greece and became the CEO of Hellas on Line. It was an experience with many positive aspects but also with many negative points, because in Greece, changes are very difficult: many things are controlled by very few people…
- So you chose the field of technology because you were strong at it. What does it mean to be "strong at technology"?
It means you have to study. Even after university, we have to constantly read and learn new things. Also, I wanted to do something different from what was then the main trend in our country. After Hellas on Line, I went to Google in Greece, which was a leading company. I realized there that technology was something different from what I knew until then, because it was something global - which means you can be in Athens and sell a product in China or Brazil or anywhere else. This, on the one hand, gives you huge prospects and on the other hand, makes the field very competitive. I also realized that technology can bring about catalytic change in society if you think about the things that have happened in our daily lives over the last 30 years.
My next thought was to go to the source of technology. It wasn’t easy to go straight to California where Google is headquartered, so I started by going to London, where it is Europe's headquarters and then Facebook in Dublin, as general manager for all small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe.
-How did you get involved in these jobs? Did you make an application, they evaluated it and they hired you?
No, I have never applied for a job and been hired just like that. There are many doors open, but you have to try hard and find the way to the one door that will eventually open for you. I have heard many negative answers in interviews, but I was never intimidated. Now that I have my own startup, the motto of the company is "always move forward". To learn from the past, but not to let it hold you back.
- So you were in Facebook in Dublin. Did your goal for Silicon Valley remain?
Of course it remained. At one point, I spoke to someone who had a very good position in the company and asked me to be interviewed immediately. I was offered a video conference. I remember it was Friday and I told them I would be there on Monday - that was very positive for me.
- Is all this luck or is it the chasing of luck?
It’s both. Tennis player Bjorn Borg was once told, "You were very lucky in this game." And he replied, "yes, and the more I train the luckier I get."
- So you succeeded and reached the source of technology…
Yes, I did get a very good position as a Messenger manager in the business part. At the same time, of course, I realized that working for Facebook in California is like working for OTE in Greece. It's just a very good job. After four and a half years there, I also decided to enter the world of startups. So I went as a CEO to a startup called HeadSpin. It was a great experience, but the company had a lot of problems and that was when I thought that it is nice to work for others but is always better to work for yourself.
I started my own startup, Connectly, with all the responsibilities and difficulties that such a decision carries with it, no longer having the support of a big company. So I had to sell my vision and make other people want to come with me. My company is about business and customer communication through messaging channels. That is, instead of this communication being done by phone, it can be done with messages.
- How do you evaluate today your decision to build your own company?
I think it was the right move, things are going pretty well and I will see in the future. It is not easy to build something from scratch, especially in technology, because when you have a startup, you have to create the demand yourself from the beginning, in order to provide the product. But if you succeed, this success can be huge.
- You have met Mark Zuckerberg. What do you have to say about him?
Yes, I have been to meetings where he was also present. I consider him a genius. What has made a big impression on me and I try to follow it, is that he is a man who listens to others very much. He always carefully studied everything that we sent before a meeting. He got involved in business and technology at a very young age, success and fame came very quickly, and he probably didn’t realize that he needed help too. So some things got out of hand.
- What do you consider to be your great asset?
I believe that I have the ability to make people support me in a cause, to convey my vision to them. I also have an innate curiosity, which makes me want to try new things, change and move on. And I definitely really like the feedback from my colleagues. I always note down and take into account everything they tell me.
- How do you manage failure?
By always moving forward…