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“I was bullied since I was very little,” Georgiou admitted.
“My family moved to different countries when I was little and I had some small learning disabilities because it was difficult to understand how things were taught in each country. I remember when I was six or seven, I was bullied a lot. Not physically, just verbally, but it continued even through college.”
Born in London, Georgiou moved to Cyprus in Europe at a young age then to Toronto, Canada, and then settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. Through the years, he always felt that he didn’t match the status quo of his peers. He was kind. He was loving. He treated everyone with respect, but sadly, the world didn’t always reciprocate. A pinnacle moment in his senior year of high school forever stands out in his mind.
“I went to a party and wasn’t drinking,” he remembered. “This guy I knew asked why I wasn’t drinking and I told him I didn’t want to. A few minutes later, he came back and smashed a rotten banana on my head in front of the whole party.”
He went on to detail a scene that seemed ripped from a movie: a crowd of one-hundred teenagers laughing at the misfortune of one.
“I sat there, mad, of course, but I thought: if someone is this hateful towards me for no reason, then I must be doing something right.”
Georgiou went on to play soccer in college, but stopped during his third year to focus on his studies. It was then that he traded his passion in the sport for business and marketing. He finished his bachelor’s degree on-time then worked as a sales/marketing consultant for an e-waste recycling company before moving to Bond University in Australia to continue his education.
After earning a master’s degree in Business Communications with a focus on Marketing, Georgiou returned to Raleigh to live with his parents. The effects from 2008’s economic turmoil were still felt as Georgiou couldn’t find a job for seven months.
“It was a rough time,” he said. “I didn’t want to accept any old job that I was offered. I wanted to do what I loved, which meant I had to accept whatever challenges came with it.”
And the first challenge on the horizon? Getting a multimillion dollar business off the ground without investor capital or any funding for that matter.
Imaginovation is an award-winning, seven-figure company. They’ve been featured in Forbes, VentureBeat, Foundr, Entrepreneur, and many other top publications. They’re ranked for thousands of keywords and welcome tens of thousands of visitors to their website each month.
Surely, they’ve had some external financial help along their eleven-year journey – right?
“We are 100 percent organically bootstrapped. Zero investors. We couldn’t even get a business loan until our sixth or seventh year as a company.”
Until Georgiou’s future brother-in-law approached him to start a company, he had never entertained the idea of being an entrepreneur. The two split the workload for this new tech company, with Georgiou taking care of all sales and marketing, and even support and admin initiatives.
“We had no money and had to rely on new revenue to pay the bills.”
He used Craigslist as his main lead generator, often staying up late into the night posting hundreds of ads on various city pages – and getting banned from the platform more than once or even three times in the process. Within a few weeks, he was landing small deals for website app projects, bringing in anywhere from five-to-fifty thousand dollars each.
“We weren’t too picky about which clients we accepted because we had to put food on the table,” he said of the time. “You’ve got to overcome any wall that’s placed in front of you to get to where you want to be in life.”
Though the stakes were higher, Georgiou used the adversity he faced as a child to persevere during difficult years.
“In a way, being made fun of gave me more confidence,” he said.
“I had these insecurities but at the end of the day, I always found a way to meet my goal. I knew that I was going to make it, no matter what I decided to do.”
Imaginovation hit seven-figures in revenue during their fifth year. Georgiou being only 29 years old, thanks in part to him and his partner’s resilience, grit, grind, and focus on understanding their end user and customer. They use an agile methodology while planning projects with their clients. To ensure a simplistic and innovative final product that caters to their user’s behaviors, they spend weeks discussing the concept and wireframing blueprints with their product roadmaps. Then the project moves into the design and development phase all the way to product market launch.
One project he’s currently excited about is one they’re working on in-house as their main flagship SaaS product: MagicTask.io, a next-gen hyper-simplified and gamified task management system.
“We tried so many other cumbersome task management platforms and they were either too cluttered or too expensive for our needs,” he said. “For almost four years, we’ve been developing MagicTask specifically to provide simplistic task management assistance to entrepreneurs and gamers. It offers a top-down approach that awards you points for each task you complete and simply by using the system. You can then redeem your points for themes that further gamify your platform. Our mission is to make work feel like play and to change the game and future of productivity.”
Furthermore, MagicTask has played a vital role in the culture of Imaginovation with its uses in improving the productivity, output, performance, organization, and in positively influencing the company as a whole. Imaginovation utilizes MagicTask to not only build the company on many different levels, but to also implement all their client application and software projects. In doing so utilizing its process, simplicity, and approach by positively impacting the effectiveness, efficiency, and overall project and even the holistic customer experience.
Not unlike Georgiou’s journey, Imaginovation’s path to success wasn’t a cakewalk. Even as recent as 2019, they saw nearly all of their revenue streams wiped away within the span of three months.
“Circumstances with some of our clients led to us mutually parting ways,” he said. “These accounts were few but major; suddenly we were wondering how we were going to make payroll.”
They hired a financial advisor to help assess their financial picture, but Georgiou admits that they are still rebuilding the company today and on their way up to doing bigger and better things.
“There were thousands of times when I wanted to quit, but I didn’t,” he said. “I love what I do and looking at all that we built, why should we quit now? I decided to just keep persevering until we got back on our feet.”
Success stories aren’t sexy.
Anyone who tells you differently certainly hasn't undergone the ups and downs that Michael Georgiou has in life and in business.
And, maybe, that’s the point.
Success is flashy, but hard work isn’t. We all envy the multimillionaire in the room, but few of us are keen on being the odd man out subjected to the ridicule, bullying, and lack of confidence from our peers.
Michael Georgiou is just as much of an Everyman as he is a Self-Made Man; he’s a man we’ve all been at one point in our lives and a man we could all learn from today.
When asked what he would say to his former self who sat in embarrassment at a high school party, he offered words of optimism that every aspiring entrepreneur should take to heart.
“I’d tell him that you need to just keep moving forward. You need to persevere. Life is not easy, unfortunately, and challenges will come at you along the way. You need to overcome them and move forward to the next wall. Every time you break through another barrier, you’re closer to becoming who you want to be and deserve to be in this life. So keep breaking those walls down no matter what.”
I’ve advised hundreds of start-ups and we’ve encountered one problem time and time again. What they don’t understand is that building a product takes a hefty investment and can’t be done on the cheap. They have to understand that to build a good digital product, you need to have the funding available to allow you to succeed. We’ve seen bad ideas and we’ve seen amazing ideas, but the question is, could they bring these ideas to life? If you want to create a good product and launch a MVP in the marketplace, it’s difficult to produce an application for less than $100,000. You can; we’ve done it ourselves, but it has to be linear and simple. The problem is that investors are cautious to write a check if you don’t have an app already built along with many users adopting the product, so you need to secure funding in other ways. Take risks; we’ve taken out lines of credit on our homes. If you can’t take risks on yourself, you can’t expect an investor to.
We try to be as visual as possible. That seems to be fading for other companies who opt to sell the concept of possibility. You can’t get new customers just by selling your capabilities. There are thousands of software companies out there doing the same exact thing, but only a few good ones do it very well. Instead, we try to differentiate ourselves by paying attention to each prospect and each customer. We incorporate storytelling elements and add a personal touch into our conversations and process. We identify not only why they need it, but we connect their why to a story that resonates with them, their audience, and the product that is being built.
David Meltzer is very much about having the right intentions behind what you’re doing, giving more, and providing the utmost value. That really resonates with me. He lost a hundred million dollars and started over rebuilding his business by building a network and helping people. He gives chances and attention to others despite his crazy schedule. I don’t do this job because I want to be a multimillionaire. My purpose is to be able to drive a positive impact on others. Me and my business partner built an amazing platform that allows me to do so.
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