The morning that Brexit sent shockwaves through the world economy, I spoke with Demitris Memos who is building a nicely scaling, bootstrapped SaaS company from Athens, Greece. It was thrilling to hear a story of success and hope against the larger backdrop of doom and gloom.
Greece and Europe need more of them.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Demitri Memos: I’m from Greece.
Sramana Mitra: You grew up in Greece?
Demitri Memos: Yes. Most of my childhood was spent in Athens. I went to London to study Electrical Engineering at Imperial College. After that, I came back to Greece for the military service. Then I dove straight into work. After military service, I didn’t really have a plan. My first job was at an advertising company here in Athens where I stayed only for a year. I mostly dealt with some IT solutions over there. Then I switched to a consulting job.
I joined a company that was into IT consulting and project management focused on European-funded projects. At a very early age, I was put in charge for pretty large projects. It was a bit of a scary experience. I received a pretty condensed knowledge about how the world works. I think that was the spark that allowed me to think beyond being an employee.
Sramana Mitra: All this is happening in a time in Greece where things were quite dismal right? Why did you go back to Greece from Imperial College? What was the driver?
Demitri Memos: The military service.
Sramana Mitra: So you had to go back.
Demitri Memos: Yes. I had to come back for a year and half of military service. I had to get it over with. That was a big disconnect with what I was doing. Military service especially is not really interesting. I didn’t have a dream of building my own company back then. At Imperial, I learned how to learn and collaborate with others, but I didn’t get any business inspiration at that point.
I was’t really an employee with a consulting job. I had so much freedom. My highlight working as a consultant was being brought to Madagascar where I spent a month working on Air Madagascar. That was in 2002. With a few friends, we setup a small advertising agency.
Sramana Mitra: What kinds of clients were you working with the advertising agency?
Demitri Memos: We didn’t really have any real connections in the business world yet. Our first customer was the National Tourism Organization in Greece. Then we started drawing in some customers from referrals. At that time, it was interesting. For the next two to three years, we were mostly led by our customers’ requests and any special projects that came along.
My partners left because we weren’t making any real money. Now we’ve got a small agency that focuses on digital projects. My old colleague from the consulting job was trying to finish a project he was running with some other governmental agency. We tried to see if we can work out something together at that point. We set up one more company that focused on specific products and services.
We created a platform for webinar recording and synchronizing. We had a pretty good product and we actually tried to pivot it to try and record conferences. The digital agency was still running. In 2007, we had 20 employees and were generating some cash – not that much though. We switched to e-learning. That was the first time we tried to raise some capital to move this forward.