[quote style=”boxed”]I just think about our users or clients. How would they use a product? What would an idea mean to them? I draw stuff on our whiteboard, and sometimes, we’ll just sit in the meeting room and argue until we all get our best creative selves out to solve our problems.[/quote]
Ioannis Verdelis is the co-founder and COO of Syntellia, a San Francisco-based startup bringing disruptive innovation to the computing and mobile markets. Syntellia is inspired by the application of artificial intelligence to everyday technology. Its first product, Fleksy, is a revolutionary keyboard that makes typing on a touchscreen so easy that users don’t even have to look at the screen.
Prior to founding Syntellia, Ioannis worked in global real estate and corporate consulting. He is a member of many entrepreneurial organizations, including the Young Entrepreneur Council, Empact Sphere, Startup America, and more.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on changing the way you’ll soon be typing on your mobile device. The method makes it so easy that you can type without even looking.
Where did the idea for Fleksy come from?
Have you ever tried to type a message on your smartphone, only to find yourself making lots of mistakes, getting corrected to nonsense, or walking into things? Not really “smart,” right? We thought there were better ways to make a “smartphone” behave intelligently when you type.
How do you make money?
We have incredible partnerships to get our technology into the hands of millions of users. In essence, we have technology license opportunities, as well as direct-to-consumer sales channels.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at 7:00 and check my email on an iPad before I get out of bed. I’m in the office by 8:30 and do a second round of email responses before really “starting my day.” Throughout the day, I spend a lot of time one-on-one with our team and product, as well as in meetings and calls with clients and investors. Email is a large part of my day, as I use it both as a tool for communication and to manage my workload.
Oftentimes, we have long brainstorming sessions in the office, which can last for hours. This is where all the creativity takes place. I spend a lot of hours in the office, typically 10 to 11, and checking email on my iPad is also the last thing I do before going to sleep.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I just think about our users or clients. How would they use a product? What would an idea mean to them? I draw stuff on our whiteboard, and sometimes, we’ll just sit in the meeting room and argue until we all get our best creative selves out to solve our problems.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love wearable smart devices. Five years ago, nobody knew about smartphones; look where we are now. Now, people are talking about “smart” watches, glasses, and clothes. These will multiply the opportunities to transform experiences in so many industries.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I haven’t had any bad jobs. I have done all sorts — from waiting at a restaurant, to distributing leaflets, to fixing broken computers, to traveling to a new country each week as a property consultant. Each job teaches you something, whether it’s how to work as part of a team, how to avoid boredom, how to deal with a client, or how to balance work and family (that’s the respective list for the above, by the way).
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d have more fun in college. I was a very introverted person, which was great in some ways — it meant I studied pretty hard and got good grades, but it also meant there were a ton of things I didn’t get to do that I should have done. Sometimes, your best ideas come when you’re out there, whether that means getting involved in a club or society or picking up a hobby. I wish I’d done more of that when I had time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Spend time with your team. You’ll be surprised how many great ideas come from the team, but sometimes, people are too shy to express them. Make it easy for people to express their thoughts — even if they just want to tell you that you’re doing a bad job somewhere.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
We tried to get investors on board with our company too early, when our prototype wasn’t ready, the idea wasn’t fully formed, and the business model was unclear. We wasted a lot of time, and it demotivated us at the time. Three months later, with our prototype working properly and the business model clear, it was much easier. We shouldn’t have wasted so much time seeking investments before we were ready for them.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Have you noticed that we have all this technology to connect people, and yet few opportunities exist to connect in real life using technology? If you’re bored on a Saturday night — just like the people in the house next door probably are — technology doesn’t yet facilitate a connection to solve this problem. If you can find a way to do this without controversy, it would be a big business, I think.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would fix youth unemployment. We take it for granted that people are generally less employable straight out of college — it’s an international phenomenon. And it’s very wrong. People straight out of college are at the height of their creativity and productivity. I would like colleges to prepare people so employers jump over each other to hire the latest graduates, not the other way around.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
Did you know I was a radio DJ when I was a teenager? I had a rock show on a major radio station in Athens, Greece, where I grew up.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
What is the one book you recommend our community should read and why?
Without a doubt, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins is my recommendation. As an entrepreneur, Jim has given me ideas about how to build a lasting company — not just a good one. Focusing on certain things early on brings some tendencies to your team that then become “viral” as the team grows. My favorite quote is bringing the right people on the bus before you even determine the direction it’s heading in.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
You need to follow your three biggest potential customers and your three biggest competitors. Do I really need to say why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh out loud all the time. The last time it happened, I was digging through some old photos and found one of me and my co-founder in college. My hairstyle at the time was hilariously terrible.
Who is your hero, and why?
Heroes are the people who, when the times get tough, roll their sleeves up and get going. I can think of many: colleagues at work, colleagues at previous workplaces, my parents, and my wife.
Can you name a specific moment or event that inspired you to do what you do today?
Traveling around Europe as a property consultant, I relied heavily on my smartphone to keep on top of email. One time, I was in Venice, which is notorious for its lack of Wi-Fi, so I ended up drafting a whole report on my phone one evening so I could send it to a client the next day. One major headache later, I knew typing had to get better on mobile.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader or source of support, either personally or professionally?
My wife and my parents stood by me even when work made me ignore them for days on end or turned my mood poisonous. I rely on knowing this support is there every day.