Last night the Ghost of Christmas Past visited me in my sleep, and took me for a trip back to the very early years of this company – to 2007 when the idea for setting it up was born. I was still working on my PhD on agricultural information management, and οne evening Kostas came by our house for a social visit. The idea hit us while we were sitting in a small room at the back of my house – full of books, CDs, dirty laundry and baby toys. We saw the potential in what I was doing in my PhD: why not start a company to deliver this promise? And how could this company be called? “Agricultural Knowledge Technologies”? ” Agro-Knowledge Technologies”? Or maybe “Agro-Know Technologies”?
After my PhD defense in 2008, the idea kicked back. I was already working at very nice company with a pretty good salary, but I was feeling somewhat suffocated. I decided to find some time during the weekends to work on a grant proposal that could help me kickstart the new idea. The proposal scored highly and was selected for funding. At the beginning of 2009, the first, very-very-small team of “Agro-Know Technologies” started working on its first project.
With long, late working hours, after finishing my day job and family obligations, I was working on the various project and company tasks, also looking into new funding opportunities. Here you go: two more proposals were selected for funding. It was evident that I would not be able to handle everything on my own. Therefore, I asked for help from friends, who had some friends and friends-of-friends, so that I find some people that would work from home as part-time consultants. The tasks were becoming more, the sleepless nights even more, meetings started taking place in various cafes. By the summer of 2010, a decision had to be made: were we going to become a proper company or not?
In the summer of 2010, I was ready for the big change: quit my day job, rent an office, invite all these people to work together. This was the point where Giannis also joined. We transformed a former apartment into an office. We bought, transported, and assembled our first office furniture from IKEA. We moved in all our external consultants; many of our initial team members met there for the first time. By Christmas 2010, the first “Agro-Know Technologies” headquarters were ready and a team was born.
The five years that followed were full of changes. Lots of new faces, with many people became part of our team for a shorter or longer period of time. Hierarchy and procedures have been introduced, tested and modified again and again. We shortened our name to “Agro-Know”. Some flagship projects like agINFRA were launched. We rent a new office in Athens. Then we spinned out another one in Belgium. We got our first clients. We got paid in currencies other than Euros. We started giving some shape and colour to the unique culture of our company.
And right before the New Year’s Eve, we become Agroknow and wait for 2016 with a handful of presents: we got a wonderful new brand (including our beautiful new logo), we have an ambitious strategy for making AGINFRA the open linked data e-infrastructure for agricultural and food research, we have new world class collaborations with institutions like CIMMYT (which hosted a Nobel prize winner, yeah), and we are developing some kick-ass product ideas that will change the way information is being shared and discovered. It’s going to be an interesting New Year, I promise.