Dimitris | From Law to Multi-entrepreneur
BY ELENI MERAKI
I’m born and raised in Athens in a family of lawyers. Both my parents as well as their fathers were lawyers – law was lived and breathed in our family.
At the age of 11, I had built my first website with technology and gaming news. This was back in 1998, pre the dot.com boom.
“I was in love with technology from a very young age.”
As I wasn’t good at maths and thus not able to pursuit a computer science degree. I decided to study law instead even though I didn’t see myself becoming a lawyer. I was sure I belonged in the tech world but a law degree felt like the best choice as I believed that law would be a good basis for anything entrepreneurial I would want to pursuit. I guess that was partly a belief that I got from my parents of course.
I graduated in Law at the University of Kent and did my Master’s degree in Computer and Communications Law in London.
5 THINGS ABOUT
EASILY BORED | TECH LOVER | PEOPLE PERSON | DECISIONS MADE ON GUT FEEL | THRIVES ON CONTENT CREATION
LEAP OF FAITH
I was studying for my final exams for my Bachelor’s degree and sure I was going to miserably fail. So I started browsing the web to kill my time, as you do in those situations, and found the announcement of TED opening up the TEDx-licenses. I immediately applied for a license and got it. I was a 21-year-old student at the time with no prior experience in anything to do with events.
I organized my first TEDx-event a few months later for about a 100 people. I had no clue what I was doing and I can honestly say it was quite a failure.
When I finished my Master’s degree a year later I felt that somehow, I had to save my reputation. I came back to Greece to do my second TEDx-event and had given myself 6 to 9 months to pursuit either law or do something entrepreneurial.
I never left Greece.
Sourcing speakers for my TEDx-event and simultaneously doing the exams necessary to get my UK law degree recognized by the Greek state pushed me over the edge. I had to drop law and stop living in these extremes; aka boring vs inspiring.
I decided to focus my energy on setting something up involving technology and the web. Since my early twenties I have a very clear vision of what I want to do; support entrepreneurs, support and build new ventures and gather people around initiatives.
I started with a social media and a native content agency with friends I met through TEDx. We used our own money for these ventures and raised money through angel investors in the advertising industry. These businesses failed for a few reasons but mainly because there was no coherence and we actually were ahead of the game with both of them.
“What I love about technology is that it enables you to build new stuff and new ideas. It gives you the ability to create things rapidly and lean. Just by your time, your ideas and limited to no investment. “
TEDxATHENS & MULTI – ENTREPRENEURSHIP
After the failed start-ups, I started together with one of my existing partners and another friend, a new venture. Now known as Found.Ation. Back in 2011 one of the first two co-working spaces in the Balkan area.
“As I grew more mature in the business field I have come to realize that the underlying truth for me in anything I do is my craving to create value. And value is so hard to find in a world that is so fast consuming. “
Fast-forward now, 7 years later, I am co-owner of a couple of initiatives.
Found.Ation - Working with big organizations helping them transform to the digital age.
The Coding School – An NGO offering free digital literacy and computer skills to the Greek (unemployed) youth. Funded by Microsoft Philanthropist and the US Department of State.
Tech Talent – A market place between developers and corporates / start-ups. Currently in the building-up phase and funded through the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award.
The Fund – A funding enterprise for digital start-ups.
TEDxAthens – This year is the 9th edition on June 2nd.
TED is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. I am the license holder of TEDxAthens and work together with a team of more than 50 people.
I started my first business with my own money, acquired through my social media projects, and the money from angel investors.
I was able to cover all my expenses when I was 23 but I was spending less money than I do now. I lived by the money that I was making back then and accommodated my expenses to what I was earning.
Right now, we invest money from the main venture (Found.Ation) into the new ventures. I also do loads of fundraising; in my network, corporates, angel investors and other companies.
THE TOUGH TIMES
1. The hardest thing for me is to have a balanced life. In quieter times, I’m trying to do things that entertain me and take back some time I lost in the busy periods. I am working on getting a balance on a daily basis but it has remained a challenging task for me.
2. When your business grows it can be challenging to create processes and put new people in place you can give authority to.
3. Attracting partners is one thing. Keeping them with you is a complete different ballgame. You have to keep giving them reasons to stay with you and I think it all starts with your vision. You give them something to see and you provide them incentives – stocks, salary, exposure, ownership etc. You have to make them feel like they are part of something much larger than themselves.
5 INSIDER TIPS
1. Surround yourself with people that are way better in specific areas.
2. Don’t be afraid to share your vision and share your ideas. An idea is an idea and it has zero value. It might create value but in order to do that you need to implement it, alone or with the help of others. Don’t be scared for feedback.
3. You are entitled to nothing. Nobody owes you anything. You are as good as your actions, your legacy and your continuous effort.
4. If it feels like it’s failing, don’t quit. You are very close. If failure is hitting your door, maybe it’s a sign that you are pretty close.
5. Know when to quit. When you do something for the wrong reasons it’s time to quit. The wrong reason is doing something purely for the money.
Extra tip: When you feel trapped your motives are too short-term. If you have short-term motives you will end up spending your time and energy in things that don’t really matter. This separates the successful from the unsuccessful people.
AN INSPIRATIONAL NOTE FOR THE GREEKS
I think there are so many opportunities out there to do what you truly love. If you know what you truly love. If you have a genuine vision and interest as a person, I cannot imagine a better time to be than right now in Greece.
The first Greeks that will benefit of the positive effect that will come in our country within the next 5 years, are those who are still here. They will be able to be the front runners in this place. Timing is key. I think it’s very easy to play this card. There are so many opportunities. It’s a pity we don’t have more people building their dreams in this country. I genuinely believe that the opportunities are endless right now, right here.
WRITTEN BY ELENI MERAKI
Eleni is the founder of Guts & Tales. She is a hypnotherapist, mind-trainer, coach and creator of the women’s coaching program Be Your Own Muse. She helps women become clear, confident and courageous to be and live true to themselves.