If you are a young techie living in Athens right now, you would want to work for Nikos Drandakis, co-founder of Taxibeat, where he is focused on creating one of the best workplaces in the city.
Free Kindles, a compulsory ‘work free’ day every month to simply read a book or pursue personal interests, are some of the incentives of employment here, an incredible offering when most would be thankful to have a job, considering youth unemployment has hit 50 per cent.
“It’s the most important part of the work I’m doing,” said Nikos, “my concern from the first day was to establish a place where people can forget where they live and leave the bad elements behind and look forward to coming to the office every morning.”
And he has gone about creating a work environment where new ideas are encouraged and dedicated “brainstorm rooms” have been put into place to promote true collaboration, an almost pseudo- incubator for young minds.
I suspect it is this creative thinking that has been at the root of Taxibeat’s success, a downloadable technology platform that has become a popular tool in booking an Athens taxi. With some initial seed investment from private investors, Nikos and his partners have been able to zig and zag their way around an economic crisis, where the future has been bleak and international investment into Greece scarce.
Taxibeat has managed to recruit 4000 of the 14,000 Athens taxis after some initial push back from the ‘yellow tribe’ as they are locally known, to pay a 10 per cent commission of every fare. But it seems the adage “if you can’t beat them, join them” has set in and there is now a significant waiting list for drivers to sign up.
Much like Uber, you book a taxi via a free App and there is no booking fee. You can choose to pay cash or card and you rate the driver after your trip is over. However, unlike Uber, it relies on the yellow taxis to provide the transport and the usual metered rates of a taxi apply.
It does solve a problem for tourists who have been vulnerable to Athens taxi drivers overcharging and has forced taxis to lift their standard overall. Drivers will be kicked out if they are rated poorly more than a number of times. Users can pre-select an English-speaking driver at the booking stage, as well as the type of car they require.
The idea, which started from a discussion with friends after a late night struggle to find a taxi, is moving into its fourth year and has expanded to Thessaloniki and overseas in South America, including Brazil and Peru. They are recording 16-18 per cent company growth month on month and employ 32 Greeks in Athens who are passionate about learning and pursuing personal growth.
However, Nikos remains humble and realistic about his success amid the economic recession.
“We are the exception not the rule. I don’t want to drink my own coulis and expect that everyone is as excited as I am. People are unhappy, they are anxious and afraid of their future,” he said.
Taxibeat has become the success story of business incubator Openfund who provided the seed-capital and continue to invest into Greek businesses that have scalable ideas.
This small start-up community seems to be expanding, with others including the philanthropic Hellenic Initiative and the Dutch government endorsed Orange Grove.
“It (investment) is moving slowly, at least slower than is happening in Europe or North America… we definitely need to speed up the process,” Nikos said.
In the meantime, Nikos and his team of 32 can leave their troubles at the door and work towards becoming the best workplace in Athens.
“I am very ambitious about the city, I want to help the city a lot. Right now I’m focused on building a great company culture here with a great work environment. Maybe with the help of other people, we can make it contagious and infect other people who want to do the same and who knows after seven to ten years, Athens could be one of the top 20 cities in the world for entrepreneurship and innovation.”
An inspiring and ambitious possibility and I think he just might be able to pull it off too.
We would like to thank Nikos Drandakis for his participation in this article. This post was not sponsored in any way and as always all opinions are our own.
Taxibeat has since been acquired by MyTaxi, a subsidiary of Daimler Group.