NET2GRID HELLAS – #AskTheCIO – Dimitrios Doukas – Chief Information Officer CIO and Country Manager (Greece).
NET2GRID has been a pioneer in the energy data acquisition & analytics business since 2011 when it was founded in Zeist, Netherlands. In a nutshell, we connect the power grid to the internet. We design and produce our own hardware to support access to real-time data and our non-intrusive load monitoring solutions place us and our clients at the heart of the energy transition. We help energy companies to engage with their customers today, to unlock new business models and to ensure relevance in the future.
What was the path you took to get to where you are today? What is the story behind your company?
NET2GRID maintains two offices. Our head office in Zeist, Netherlands and the office in Thessaloniki, NET2GRID Hellas. Allow me to focus only on NET2GRID Hellas and our journey in Thessaloniki so far. Back in 2016, while still pursuing a PhD with the School of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and together with some great colleagues, we decided to bring the expertise gained through our participation in EU-funded R&D projects to the market.
Members from two of the School’s labs, the Power Systems Lab and the Intelligent Systems & Software Engineering Lab, were working together at the intersection of the fields of energy systems and innovative algorithms. Back then, our intention was to provide solutions based on our expertise as-a-service to energy companies and I must admit that our initial efforts were not bearing any fruits.
Luckily, we came across NET2GRID and the company’s CEO, Mr. Bert Lutje Berenbroek and we decided to proceed with an R&D project between the company and the University in which Dr. Antonis Chrysopoulos (NET2GRID’s Head of Analytics today) acted as the project’s principal investigator.
Long story short, the project was a great success, NET2GRID added the outcome of the project as a very useful extra to their proposition and for us this transfer of knowledge to a market player was a unique experience. Later on, we decided to continue our fruitful collaboration with NET2GRID and the company invested with the establishment of a branch here in Thessaloniki, the NET2GRID Hellas entity. We started as a small team and less than 4 years later we are already 30+ people and recently moved to our 4th (!) office to keep up with this growth.
For a number of reasons, with the important being access to talent. Some of us were, or still are, close to the Academia and the local Universities’ labs, something which helped us a lot to approach the right people for the right job. Our previous collaboration in the aforementioned R&D project was of course helpful since mutual trust between Antonis, myself and the University staff was already there. Something which is usually neglected but helped also a lot, especially during the first months, is the low-cost and frequent flight connections between Thessaloniki and Amsterdam.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year and what are your future goals?
Business-wise our plan is to sign at least 5 more energy companies as customers worldwide by the end of 2021. We now have customers in Europe and Australia but we want to expand in North America and Asia as well. At the same time, we are already within an aggressive hiring process and our plan is to reach 65-70 people by the end of 2021. And that’s only for the office in Thessaloniki.
Regarding our long-term goals, we are ambitious and we want to become, why not, the best company in the energy data acquisition & analytics field in the world. We really believe in what we do and we are committed to it.
How do you assure that the company is ready to meet future challenges like changing demands and technology ?
We keep on investing in R&D, we are always eager to adopt new technologies and tools, we are continuously looking for ways to improve and we welcome new colleagues to bring their expertise and skills onboard. Never stop learning because life never stops teaching, right?
From an employees perspective, what makes your company a unique place to work?
Our…ping-pong table! Just kidding, but honestly I feel that we offer a unique working environment to engineers and developers to improve their skills while at the same time enjoy competitive salaries and endless freedom to try new things. We also invest in our colleagues’ personal development by offering them the opportunity to attend courses and seminars in platforms like Coursera and EdX.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome while choosing to stay in Greece?
Guess what, Greek bureaucracy. Although things are moving in the right direction lately, NET2GRID Hellas has to deal with significant changes in our tax and insurance systems which made planning, even in the short-term, a very tough riddle to solve. Operating in such a “fluid” environment can be difficult or even a barrier for someone to invest in the country. Another challenge we had to overcome was the so-called “brain-drain” issue. We had to fight hard, and not always with success, to convince people with great skills and ambitions to stay with us in Thessaloniki.
Brain Drain vs Brain Gain… Give us three reasons why a tech oriented employee should stay and work in Thessaloniki or come back after gaining some experience working abroad.
From my personal experience, working abroad does not necessarily mean that you have a better job – not even a better salary. Being part of a rapidly rising tech community in Thessaloniki, better work-life balance and being close to friends and family are three good reasons. I am not saying these reasons are always enough for everybody, but they usually weigh in on people’s life decisions.
Give us three reasons why a TECH company should choose Thessaloniki as a new TECHstination for opening its next branch.
- Vibrant start-up community,
- Thousands of highly skilled graduates of any background per year,
- Strategically located in Southeast Europe.
Tell us something -that in your own opinion- we don’t already know about the TECH community in Thessaloniki.
Something that you might not know is that specific Universities’ labs in our city together with CERTH and other R&D entities bring Thessaloniki amongst the top cities across Europe in terms of R&D funds acquisition. Unfortunately, only a negligible percentage of this expertise and know-how finds its way to the market.
“Dr. Dimitrios I. Doukas is the Chief Information Officer and Country Manager (Greece) of NET2GRID BV, a pioneering scale-up focused on energy data acquisition and analytics with a global presence. Since 2020, he is also with the World Energy Council, as a Future Energy Leader (FEL-100). In the past, Dr. Doukas was involved – as a researcher and/or as a project manager – in various R&D projects within the Academia. His interests include applied superconductivity, energy storage and power system analysis and control. Prior to Academia, Dr. Doukas has been with ABB Corporate Research, Västerås, Sweden as an R&D scientist on topics related to energy storage and renewables’ grid-integration. He also contributed to public consultations and decision-making processes of the European Energy sector as a member of the steering group of the “Power Shifts – Reflecting Europe’s Energy” program. He holds a Dipl. Eng. and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece and an M.Sc. degree in Sustainable Energy Systems from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.”
Find out more about Net2Grid Hellas