He is the sort of person that keeps abreast with the new trends in the world and in the market, he tracks down the new opportunities that emerge, and he draws on the experience and the advice of other people. This element of his character played an instrumental role in his decision to enter the world of entrepreneurs in the 1980s and since then he has not stopped taking steps and leaps.
On Outliers podcast series, whose media partner is “Money Review,” he says how he started his career as a self-taught programmer, he shares his thoughts on Taxibeat’s success, which was renamed to Beat, as it was sold to MyTaxi, a subsidiary to the German Club Daimler, he recounts the opportunities he took advantage of and the mistakes he made. Having left the company in August 2020, he says he is ready for his new venture.
Nikos launched Taxibeat in 2011 having received seed capital as high as 7 million Euros, which enabled him to expand in the large markets of South America, such as Peru, Mexico, Argentina etc. Today Taxibeat has more than 800 employees all over the world, and in 2020 it exceeded the limit of one million rides in a single day.
Let’s take things from the beginning. In the 1980s he thought of starting his own business, but he had quick access to his parents’ small footwear company. He took it on along with his brother and turned it into a factory producing footwear that targeted young people. This episode lasted 15 years and it was successful until the end of 1990s. That was the time when China with its rising exports came as a blow to the clothing and footwear industry in Europe.
At the same time, the world of the internet and its endless potential started to fascinate him. “I knew it would generate large markets. I began to fall deeply in love with the internet and its prospects,” he says. He learned to write code himself by delving into the appropriate books, and in 1999 he decided to launch a startup, whose aim was to bring suppliers and buyers together. That is how the Suppline platform came into being.
He turned to the National Bank’s venture capital, in charge of which at that time was Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “It was a fascinating experience. In the end, we did not receive the funding, but I had a very good feed,” he mentions. He decided to sell his company and work as a programmer. In 2004 he came up with the idea to create something new. After the tsunami hit Southeastern Asia, there had been a tremendous rise in the blogs as social media. Then he launched a blogpost and started writing about tech issues addressing the Greek public.
In 2006 the time was ripe for his new venture. Along with two friends of his, a designer and a programmer, he launched sync.gr, a blog aggregator that evolved into a social media application in Greece. Although it was a successful venture, it proved not to be profitable even after two years of operation. These were different times.
He came up with his next idea when Steve Jobs presented the iPhone. Nikos realized that he had to focus on the services provided, and he eventually had the idea of founding Taxibeat at the end of 2010.
The application entered the market in May 2011 having received seed capital from Openfund, and soon afterwards everybody used to talk about it. However, it faced a three-month taxidriver strike, who were striking against the liberalization of the market.
“In August I was pretty sure that we are going to close down. I managed to keep running until September and then the market started to come by. Valuable funds were raised at that time and we did not face a survival problem ever since. When media networks such as BBC and Bloomberg reported about the Greek success story in the midst of the crisis, many Greeks living abroad were informed about the services of Taxibeat. The most interesting proposal for cooperation came from Brazil, a huge market. The interested parties could invest funds and they had a good understanding of the market. After 1,5 years of success in the Brazilian market, the numbers stabilized and eventually started to fall. The distance proved to be quite a problem, as our local team could not monitor the market and did not realize the moves of our competitors. In contrast, our experience in Peru was quite different. It was a profitable market, which is largely unknown to Europe.
In 2016, when Daimler made its proposal, the company was already very strong. Especially the success in Peru persuaded the Germnans to buy the whole of the company and not to break it into pieces. Initially, Nikos Drandakis supported his team, staying by the people who helped him build the company. He decided to resign in August 2020 after the first outbreak of the pandemic.
“I will always be an entrepreneur,” he points out. He does not reveal his future plans though. However, he says that he would like to create something big, something that will be of service to his homeland.