Cyprus is the place to build a network
Back in 2006, Stephen Calligeris made two difficult decisions: First, he decided to move from London to Cyprus, leaving a solid corporate job with engineering giant Bombardier. At the same time, he changed careers, moving from aircraft engineering to marine electronics, at a startup marine services firm in Limassol.
“They were two of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Calligeris told the Cyprus Mail in an interview. Today, based in Larnaca, he owns a marine electronics business that is well-known throughout the entire Levant for innovation.
The 40-year-old Calligeris, whose father was Greek and whose mother was Cypriot, worked with four startup firms over the years, and each one turned out well. He also built up a solid reputation in marine electronics, in particular as an expert with voyage data recorders (VDRs) – commonly known of as ‘black boxes,’ the data gathering equipment on planes and ships that enables reconstructing the history in case of accident.
In 2011, he was rushed to the scene of an oil tanker hijacking in Oman, and the world watched as he retrieved the critical data.
But Calligeris built up a solid network while helping the startups he joined to grow. “I decided to be service-centric, instead of trying to sell products. There are lots of marine businesses in Cyprus that focus on selling expensive equipment. But shipping businesses here need someone who can repair that equipment and preserve the firm’s investment,” he noted.
“I chose to move to Cyprus because I had confidence in its future. Even back then the shipping industry was growing, and I thought the Cyprus economy would too. There were other young people in marine services here who felt the same way. It wasn’t a perfectly straight way to get ahead, but it did take me there,” Calligeris insisted.
Even with all his experience, starting his own company, MLV Marine, in 2018 took courage, he says. “You have confidence, in yourself, in the industry, in Cyprus, but the risk is real,” he said. Calligeris risked his own money to start the business, with no loans of any kind. “It is better to start out without any debt, to limit the pressure while you are taking the first steps,” he adds.
Calligeris took the new company into cutting-edge areas for his field, like automated monitoring of alarms and engine controls – and these proved to be successful.
Last Friday, Calligeris’s achievements culminated in his receiving the YoungShip Cyprus Association’s ‘Entrepreneur / Innovator’ of the Year award for 2020.
“Stephen is an active and trusted young shipping professional in Cyprus who has built up a solid reputation and managed to setup his own startup company after many years of hard work and dedication in the maritime industry,” said Antonis Varnava, President of Youngship Cyprus in presenting the award.
MLV Marine offers a number of services, including technical service for electronic and communication equipment, surveys and repairs as well as providing a 24/7 global service network.
Like so many successful entrepreneurs, Calligeris found time to start other companies. He has a Larnaca-based SAP technical support company called SC Silver, which works with companies around the world. And he’s opened the first independent co-working space, iDesk.Space, in Larnaca as well.
“There will be more to come, no doubt,” Calligeris said. “I’m part of a community now, and that makes it all possible. What’s more, Cyprus is evolving, and there are many opportunities to succeed here.”