The new MarineTraffic COO is bouncing with energy. “I am just so excited about what’s happening here in Athens,” says Nikos Psaltopoulos as he surveys the busy traffic from his office window overlooking Leof. Kifisias. “Right here, right now the Athens IT and start-up scene is booming. We’ve got some of the best brains in the business and many of them are working here at MarineTraffic.”
Nikos Psaltopoulos has a big task ahead of him. His role is to turn the company’s ambitious 2020 vision into reality. This vision focuses on making MarineTraffic a more vital tool than ever before for maritime professionals through more data and partnerships. Working hand-in-hand with the three founding partners Dimitris Lekkas, Dimitris Memos and Argyris Stasinakis, Nikos is focused on making the MarineTraffic machine work better and attracting the talent needed to take the company on to the next level.
This drive comes at a time of big changes in the global maritime industry. Shipowners and operators are reassessing their businesses as a combination of environmental legislation, low freight rates and disruptive technologies are changing the way in which ships are run.
Understanding not only where the ships currently are, but also have been and will be, sits at the centre of any company’s efficiency programme. Fleet directors, chartering managers and IT managers alike are using the power of the data unlocked by MarineTraffic to enable significant decisions. From optimising port calls, to predicting future trading patterns, the humble AIS signal has become the cornerstone of an industry responsible for moving 90% of global trade.
From a MarineTraffic point of view, the biggest changes are still to come. The potential of the vast volumes of data generated by vessel movements has only been scratched. To unlock the full potential, MarineTraffic has a big role to play.
“But we can only achieve this if we continue to innovate, disrupt and deliver fast,” explains Nikos Psaltopoulos. “And this means ensuring that there is a high-calibre global MarineTraffic team with a start-up mindset working in a professional environment in close partnership with the industry.”
Currently 96 strong, the MarineTraffic team is based in Athens, Oxford (UK), Singapore, Spain and the Philippines. To achieve its ambitious 2020 vision, MarineTraffic expects to double its headcount and open new offices. What started as a one-person hobby to track ships in 2007 has grown into a site visited by over six million users a month.
“We’re creating a high-performance culture which is disruptive. And where better to do this than in Athens?” says Nikos Psaltopoulos.
Away from the negative headlines, Athens is emerging as an exciting place to start a business.
When MarineTraffic opened in 2007, the term “start-up” was virtually unknown in a country whose main sources of employment were government, family businesses, tourism and shipping. Today, Reuters reports that there are between 600 and 1100 Greek based start-ups.
Although at 11 years old, MarineTraffic is not exactly a start-up, it still has the ethos of a start-up, as it continues to innovate in the traditional world of shipping. It has played an important role in showing just what is possible in Athens and has built the careers of an ambitious team of developers, product and customer managers.
Nikos Psaltopoulos is himself a native Australian with a Greek heritage who has returned to the country his parents left many years ago. He already has 15 years of experience with global pharmaceutical firm under his belt as well as roles advising numerous tech start-ups. He is an ambassador with Startup Grind, a global start-up community powered by Google, and a founder of 1derground, an Australian website focusing on entrepreneurs and technology. He has worked in San Francisco as well as Australia, but is adamant that Athens is the place to be today.
“What I love about MarineTraffic and what attracted me to the role is the legacy which we’re building here,” says Nikos Psaltopoulos. “We’re becoming the backbone of the shipping industry which is itself the backbone of global trade. What we’re doing here really matters.”