Welcome to our founder lessons series.
This week, Michael Georgiou shares how he co-founded a business that builds enterprise-level web and mobile applications, IoT, AI, blockchain, and VR/AR applications for companies of all shapes, sizes, and industries.
Tell us about Imaginovation
Hello! My name is Michael Georgiou, and I am a Co-Founder and CMO at Imaginovation. We are an award-winning technology and app development company based out of Raleigh, NC.
At Imaginovation, we provide custom enterprise-grade technology solutions to a variety of businesses in any industry, from funded startups to Fortune 500 companies.
Our services include building custom web applications, mobile apps, and emerging technologies such as AI development, IoT development, AR & VR app development, and blockchain development.
Why and how did you start your company?
I started Imaginovation with my friend and brother-in-law Pete Peranzo with an aim to help businesses achieve their true potential through innovative tech solutions.
It all started back in 2011. I had finished my Master’s degree in Australia and came back to the US. But, I didn’t have a job as the Great Recession of 2008 had just ended, and the economy was still in bad shape.
My business partner and CEO of Imaginovation, Pete Peranzo was working at SAS, at that time, but he wanted to do something bigger, and build something of his own.
Pete and I met through one of our mutual friends years before, but little did we know that we would become such great friends and then 50/50 business partners.
Pete knew that there’s a hidden entrepreneur inside me. One day, very randomly though, Pete called me and asked if I want to start a company. “Wait. What?” I was both excited, confused and very anxious to know his idea.
I always had this dream of starting my own business, and put my marketing and creative skills to work. So I was more than excited to implement Pete’s idea, but there was a hitch. None of us knew how to build a business.
Pete and I were determined to start a technology company helping other businesses with their websites and applications. Some of Pete’s friends, who were software developers and web developers, and also jobless at that time, were happy to join us. They were ready to work for free for a few months until we were able to close some business.
We came together and decided to set up a full-service web and mobile app development company to help businesses achieve their true potential through innovative technology as well as solve their internal pain points.
We started mulling over the company name, and I thought a great slogan for our company would be “Imagination turns innovation,” and the name “Imaginovation” quickly popped in our mind. In fact, it was a dream I had the night before, so it felt like fate, to be honest.
This is how Imaginovation came to existence.
What has been your biggest success factors
We started our company from NOTHING. Yes, Imaginovation is a 100% organically bootstrapped company that started with a simple Craigslist ad. We built Imaginovation through hard work and dedication.
Since the very beginning, our aim is to build and improve our brand value and recognition. We aggressively promoted our services through Craigslist ads and other free business directories at the start.
We would also reach out to hundreds of people every day through emails, and as time went one, we started getting some qualified leads that lead to clients. Those were the leads that helped us kick-start and essentially grow our business.
We would brainstorm and figure out ways to provide value to all the leads in order to grow our portfolio, clientele, and trust and credibility in this over-saturated market.
We also attended many local events in Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte, and Durham to connect with potential leads and prospects. Reaching out to local businesses digitally and in-person helped us build momentum, give us a face, and build a presence around our local area.
When we had a handful of projects after the first six months, we decided to drastically enhance our website and start marketing it across North Carolina. We developed our website, setup the social channels, and started posting helpful and insightful blogs every week, and socializing them.
Our primary focus was building an SEO-optimized website that would help us establish a valuable and credible online presence.
I used to research, read, and chat for several hours with my friends and online marketing experts, trying to understand SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media ads, and whatnot. I have also spent countless hours learning Google algorithms, Google trends, and analyzing top service providers and competitors in our domain.
The learning and analysis allowed us to create SEO-friendly content for our website and improve competitive Google rankings organically over time. Eventually, with our combined SEO strategies, our website began ranking on the top of Google in North Carolina and even nationwide for many competitive keywords.
This generated thousands of unique visitors per month to the website, which translated into leads, and eventually clients.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and fight your way through some of the toughest obstacles in order to see your business flourish. We didn’t know much about entrepreneurship when we started, but we learned things through tons of trial and error and consistent hard work.
Not knowing anything about how to build a business was the biggest challenge for us. But, as I look back now, I must say that it was actually a blessing in disguise.
Pete and I literally put our sweat, blood, and tears into growing the company, and I mean “literally”. The emotional, physical, and mental struggles that we faced were imperative to our success, but we persevered and never gave up.
A good example was Pete losing his firstborn child, who was a beautiful premie baby that couldn’t hold on any longer after about seven weeks or so. During that time it was incredibly challenging because Pete had to step away from his traditional work hours, and I had to step in and take on a lot of that workload.
The lack of sleep and stress during the years caused us to get sick continuously while also working because we had no choice but to continue to work, taking a very little vacation, and times of heavy anxiety were frequent during the mountains of challenges that were in front of us.
However, as business partners and brothers-in-law, we balanced out each other, picked one another up when the other was down on the ground, worked together, stayed positive, trusted, and made big things happen.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
I would say all of them are equally important. You need the right team to create the right product and the right market to sell your products or services.
But above all, I think having the right mindset is extremely important above all. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and fight your way through some of the toughest obstacles in order to see your business flourish.
We didn’t know much about entrepreneurship when we started, but with the right mindset and hard work, we learned things through and performed tons of trials and errors to get to where we are now.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
For all those who are chasing their startup dream, I would like to say this:
Make sure your idea and concept is something that reflects what you are really good at, such as your skillset, capabilities, and strengths. Most importantly it needs to reflect your life’s purpose, and in my personal opinion, your purpose should be driven and derived by your passion.
Be prepared for a huge task list, of course, this should come after you have created a well thought out business plan, and ensure you complete and execute one task at a time.
As entrepreneurs, you would want to get a thousand things done at once, and many times it becomes so overwhelming that you see an Mt. Everest of issues and tasks to complete, which becomes incredibly stressful.
So, to unclutter your mind, and take it one task at a time, and one day at a time. Make sure you set goals for you and your team to achieve and create weekly tasks that are realistic to be completed.
As you start to see progress internally, you will start to see progress externally such as generating new leads, closing new deals, building long-term relationships, and scaling your business.
Check out our corporate website to know more about what we do and our journey so far.
You can also watch our story in the video below:
Don’t forget to check out my podcast website and listen to the success stories of entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders around the world.
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