We speak with Konstantinos Dendrinos, co-founder of the Education Center startup UNIPERFECT. Driven by the passion to deliver consistent excellence he works towards the principal purpose of offering a holistic approach in the field of supplementary education and test preparation. With a vision to leverage the learning experience, the well-promised startup is committed to better-personalized services to support youths in achieving their goals. Devotion, purpose, and values are the fundamental driving forces for the startup’s progress along with their highly qualified people.
How did UNIPERFECT get started?
We started UNIPERFECT as we recognized that the competition in the field of further education and test prepping for GMAT, GRE, IELTS & TOEFL was lacking in many aspects. My business partner Avgi Tsoutsi had been working for one of our competitors for several years but always had a more entrepreneurial spirit. She wanted to create a Prep Center that would be much more consumer-centric and could offer more customizable services. While she is very well educated in her field (Applied Mathematics at the National Technical University of Athens) she did not possess any Business Development skills. As we have been friends for a long time, I decided to help her by creating the Business Plan as a roadmap for her. While drafting the plan I saw many opportunities in the field and decided to join the company. Avgi was also relieved as she now had a business partner that could handle the Business Development side of things while also spreading the risk as now start-up costs were split 50-50.
Is investment risk at a high rate at current times? What about in terms of capital?
Things have changed considerably in Greece over the past 10-15 years. Starting a new business has become relatively straightforward and does not require a lot of capital. We were able to start our business with about €20,000 and received a grant of €10,000 for our business plan from an NGO named “The People’s Trust”. We were also able to secure a loan for another €10,000 from Piraeus Bank, so for a small business owner, the capital required is quite low compared to other countries within the EU. Hence the risk in terms of capital is relatively low. There are other unknown variables such as the pandemic, but these are difficult to gauge. The risk I would say is considerably higher when talking about larger investments but at this point in time, investing in an industry in Greece is considered an excellent option when the ROI offered is one of the highest in all of Europe.
What is the importance of synergy in business?
I would say that synergy in terms of co-founders is essential. Our business offers a unique combination. On the one side, you have a co-founder that has very extensive knowledge in the field of education and has an excellent track record in teaching over the past 9 years, and on the other side, you have a business development expert with an MBA. I believe that if you have an expert in a field and a business development expert, these two have the best chances of creating a solid business.
Can you share with us what was a significant challenge you faced?
While creating a business has many difficulties, the one that created the most issues for us was definitely the Covid pandemic. It created smaller issues such as not being able to buy even the basic stuff required such as furniture, blackboards even stationary, and more serious ones such as not being able to teach in our physical premises and having students not really wanting to enroll for online courses.
Could you share more insights as to what extent has covid affected your core business?
The pandemic surely was a challenge for us, especially considering we had to set up and market our business only through online channels. We could not visit any University campuses, there were no Open Career days, we couldn’t even have meetings with students at our premises. Many of our students did not want to attend our classes online while on lockdown as their experience of online lectures and meetings was quite bad. A virtual classroom with 100 students and a professor with a bad quality camera and a simple microphone was what they were accustomed to. Here at UNIPERFECT though, we were able to make the best out of the situation. We researched extensively the best streaming solutions and invested in equipment that while quite expensive, offered a very pleasant online experience. We have high-quality cameras and microphones, we have small classes of up to 6 people and we even have a second camera that is facing the students within the classroom, therefore, making the hybrid lecture (online and in-classroom) extremely effective.
The other challenge for the industry was that the demand for Master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s dropped dramatically. Students did not really want to spend thousands of euros for an MSc that they would have to attend online, where they could not network, and where they would not have the opportunity to live the student life abroad. This, as a result, made Universities lower their admission criteria and on most occasions did not require a GRE or a GMAT score. This of course had a heavy impact on our demand.
What do you think about the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Greece?
The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Greece is pretty large and pretty small at the same time. We have a large number of SMEs like the classic Greek businesses such as cafes and restaurants. The start-up ecosystem on the other hand is pretty small. There are a number of startups that have thrived even through the past 12 years of the Greek Economic Crisis. We even have a couple of Unicorns that have been able to withstand several hardships. There are several sectors in Greece that are quite interesting and offer high demand such as the Tourism industry, but many successful startups have focused on the Global rather than the Greek market while being based in Greece.
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
Here at UNIPERFECT, we offer a more holistic approach to education. Many of our students feel lost and are not sure what their next step should be. They might even be influenced by their parents, friends, or even the market in what they should study, what their Master’s should be, and whether or not they should pursue a Ph.D. Therefore, we firstly offer our Academic & Career services to them. We have one-to-one meetings in order to understand what our students are good at but also what intrigues them in their field. Only after we have deduced the best choice and have set certain goals do we then move forward with the test prepping that is needed.
How important is lifelong learning?
I am a strong believer in Lifelong Learning. I believe there are always things to learn that can help you excel even more in what you do as well as help you grow as a person.
What are the importance and benefits of distance learning?
Online lectures and courses are here to stay. The marginal cost of offering a lecture both on your physical premises and also via the web is negligible in terms of its return. You are able to extend your classroom worldwide and this reach has endless possibilities especially when your end product is the same for several markets i.e. GMAT courses can be the same for everyone as the GMAT is a universal test and offers the same questions to everyone.
What skills does every successful entrepreneur need to have?
Of course, an entrepreneur needs to have classic skills. Business management, teamwork, leadership, financial and analytical skills. Most can be taught in a Management course but will only take you so far. There are other attributes that an entrepreneur needs to possess that are not really teachable such as creativity, passion, resilience, and being able to think outside the box.
How does reskilling benefits individuals? Is it worth investing in improving their skills?
I cannot really answer about re-skilling as this is not my field. However, we do have many of our students that have been working for a few years and want to further excel in their careers, therefore, requiring a Master’s or an MBA. As someone who pursued an MBA myself, I can only say that it was certainly worth it.
What are the forthcoming plans of UNIPERFECT?
UNIPERFECT has only been in business for about a year. During this year we have learned many things that we want to capitalize on. Feedback is extremely important and if you fail to hear and understand what your customer needs, chances are you will fail.
Over this past year, we have interviewed, counseled, mentored, and taught over 120 students and have recognized some patterns. Many students have more or less the same questions and anxieties. What we want to do is gather all the information we have and create a video podcast where we will be answering these universal questions that we see e.g. “Should I study in the Netherlands”, “Should I do a Master’s or a Ph.D.”, “Is an MBA worth the money?” etc.
Kindly share a piece of advice would you like to offer to upcoming entrepreneurs
Having completed a BSc, an MSc, and an MBA, I can honestly say that there is no better school for entrepreneurs than starting your own business. Even if the chances are stacked up against you and you fail spectacularly, the lessons you learn will help you tremendously in your future ventures.
How can our audience get in touch with you?
For more information, you may visit our website www.uniperfect.gr or contact us by email [email protected] or in my LinkedIn account Konstantinos Dendrinos https://www.linkedin.com/in/konstantinos-dendrinos-390985131