Who is Nikos Koklonis?
The greek entrepreneur who grew AirfastTickets to $500,000,000 in revenue and $25,000,000 in net profit, met Donald Trump, Princess Catherine & Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone, got betrayed by his partner and lost the entire company.
It sounds like an interesting story, doesn't it?
I used to believe that my story was interesting. In reality, there are always people more interesting and accomplished than you are.
That's why you should be constantly looking for great mentors who've accomplished more than you.
This is like the biggest shortcut to success.
Koklonis's story proves that all you need to start a great business is A) an idea and B) lots of perseverance.
Nikos Koklonis started AirfastTickets out of a small office in Athens, using a business plan he wrote on a napkin while he was on an airplane.
Not only did he managed to sell millions of tickets worldwide through AirfastTickets, he managed to become the 2nd largest travel agent in Europe and the 11nd largest in the USA, despite the fiercely competitive market!
This is the story of his journey to stardom as he himself described it in a national TV show, and how it was all taken away from him:
Nikos Koklonis: The ascent and the fall of the king of plane tickets. What happened to Air Fast Tickets.
Everything started when he decided to follow his dream and set up the company that he had been dreaming of. A company that would buy cheap tickets from the airline companies and which he would sell to his customers.
Simple model right?
Buy low, sell a little higher. If you sell millions of tickets, you will make millions of dollars.
Koklonis counted on the quantity and volume of the tickets.
Of course starting that business required some initial investment, but he didn’t have the money to do so.
He considered his options and decided to borrow money from a loan shark!
Despite that being a very risky option that would cost him a lot in case of failure, he made the leap.
“It was my only option and I was not going to back off”
After that he had to make some contacts, so he tried to arrange an appointment with the headquarters of the Olympic airlines.
Despite the fact that he told them that he represented “‘AirfastTickets” - his newly founded company, they were not even willing to listen to him...
I guess he didn't know that nobody owes you nothing, even though you have a company.
After a lot of effort he managed to arrange a meeting.
They turned down his offer on the grounds that they could not give a special offer for tickets to him because that would bother the other travel agents they were working with.
Despite this failure, Nikos Koklonis persevered and didn't give up.
Since he failed with the Olympic Airlines, he turned to another company, called “Groupon” and reached an agreement with them.
He managed to receive a 20% discount to all tickets, something which helped him sell an unbelievable number of 3.500 plane tickets on one day!
Of course he risked a lot.
He dropped the price to an unprecedented level but he counted on the quantity of the tickets being sold.That was really risky but it paid off.
All the tickets were sold online, through the website of AirfastTickets.
After this initial victory, he was able to pay back the shark loan and as a result he started feeling more confident. Nothing could hold him down anymore.
The rumors spread to “Groupon” headquarters in Europe and some of their high-level executives contacted him.
Everyone wanted to meet the Greek who appeared from nowhere and managed to sell so many tickets in one day.
At first they had some doubts though, as he explained. They were not willing to believe the number of tickets he had sold and wanted to test him in a more challenging field, Germany and Britain.
A moment he will never forget was when he met the main associate of “Groupon” in Europe. That was a really funny incident.
He was so nervous that he broke the wine that he wanted to offer him!
Eventually, everything turned up really well.
He met their highest expectations and he managed to sell 28.000 plane tickets in Germany in the price of 19 euros for internal flights. Moreover he sold 60.000 tickets in Britain, 78.000 in Finland and 110.000 in France!
After 6-7 months his net profit was 25.000.000 euro!
Koklonis went straight for the big money. And it was a decision that eventually cost him everything.
People always ask me what business they should start to make big money right away. And I reply that this is a very dangerous question.
For every Nick Koklonis out there, there are thousands of failed entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs wouldn't have failed, had they followed the advice of billionaire Charlie Munger.
"Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts"
Conquering Fiverr is for instance the simplest way someone could learn business and make money simultaneously. A step by step approach to going from broke to making a full time income.
Literally, I get emails so often, from readers who have substituted their job income by following the tested and proven blueprint laid out in Conquering Fiverr.
Following his success he realized he had a great chance to expand his company. The staff of the company consisted of 30 people at that time, with offices in many countries across Europe.
After eliminating some options like Russia and Balkans, areas where his competitors had focused, he made a challenging decision to invest in the greatest global market, the USA.
Chapter 2: Airfasttickets "Going USA"
Better fish in a lake with a big net than in the ocean with a small rod— Damian Pros (@dareandconquer) March 13, 2017
Less chances of catching something big. Will be worth it if you do.
He took all his money and travelled to the USA for the first time in his life to find an area to house his offices. That was a totally new experience for him.
“Most people thought I was crazy” he explained.
When he arrived in New York he was there alone, without knowing anyone and with a briefcase full of money.
“It was like a movie! I stayed there for 4 months, I picked numerous employees from my competitors and after having spent $18.000.000, I completed my initial plan”.
After the housing of his offices he shifted his attention towards advertising. The last amount of money was spent on that area and after a little time his effort paid off.
He survived the fierce competition and he started selling more and more tickets.
Eventually he even managed to sell 6.000 tickets a day.
He started climbing the scale of ticket providers and he was considered to be one of the most successful ones.
He utterly believed that advertising was the key to success. That’s why he decided to invest so much money on that area.
He reached agreements with the Yankees, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Elton John and the Brooklyn Nets in order to promote his company.
There were banners of “AirfastTickets” everywhere in New York!
They also had massive success with some quite unique TV commercials, like the "Disast AIR" one:
Regardless, Nikos Koklonis Couldn't Foresee The Armageddon That Was Just Across The Next Corner For AirfastTickets.
Catastrophe was just about to happen...
The turning point of his company was In May of 2014. That’s when he decided to enter NASDAQ.
He was about to go public.
If he had done that, he would have become incredibly more successful and wealthy.
Unfortunately, that’s when the descent started and a number of misfortunes that cost his company.
IATA (International Air Transport Association) discovered his plans and...ruined them.
Some of his competitors in Britain have allegedly sabotaged him. Due to their interference, IATA demanded a letter of credit and to pay the tickets in advance.
According to Nick Koklonis, they stated that the financial investment he was planning to make was risky and they were not willing to gamble.
Travel agents are given tickets in advance and they have some time (30-40 days normally) to pay them off.
However, they decided not to offer that option to him anymore!
At that point he had to pay the money for the tickets he owed and for NASDAQ, a total amount of money that was around $210,000 - something that was impossible for him.
As a result his association with IATA was cut off. He was bankrupt and depressed.
What really saved AirFastTickets (temporarily) were his network, and past charitable contributions.
Koklonis was really into charities, despite being a modest person who doesn’t like boasting about that.
While he was on the edge of financial catastrophe, the queen of Serbia, Catherine, showed up in his office, like a savior, as he remembers, and asked to see him.
She used her contacts to provide financial support to him.
The Power Of Networking
Thanks to Queen Catherine, who he had earlier met through charities, he got a quick injection of oxygen.
She arranged him meetings with some really influential people, including Donald Trump, the current President of The United States, and Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group.
It's no wonder they say that "your network is your net worth".
The more successful people you surround yourself with, the more successful you become, the more opportunities you get and the more money you make.
Working for free for anyone who was a millionaire, is an almost guaranteed way to become one.— Damian Pros (@dareandconquer) March 10, 2017
Actually, one of the habits of Unleashing Yourself gives you a major advantage in networking, that can lead to "Koklonis-like" results.
I can't share it publicly, but it's actually very simple that I am wondering why people are not using it more often!
Koklonis actually employed that "secret habit" a lot, and that's one of the reasons behind his success.
He didn't actually take that mentorship path by working for a millionaire. He surrounded himself with millionaires and A-list celebrities, using that one simple but powerful tactic.
Thanks to that he was able to connect with very influential people, like Queen Catherine, whose rolodex saved him from financial ruin.
That’s when the Alibaba company showed up. They provided him with some money he needed, $2.500.000 to cover his upcoming expenses.
He travelled to China and he was offered $18.000.000 for setting the company there and an extra $180.000.000 for selling them 45% of his company, AirfastTickets.
Eventually that contract was never signed because they withdrew from the negotiations.
However, another company, called Henan, made an even greater offer at the whopping amount of $200.000.000!
Once again, just before the contracts were signed - his technology manager bailed out and made an offer to the Chinese himself. He agreed to ditch his partnership Nikos Koklonis, if the Chinese gave him $5,000,000 for the software that AirfastTickets was built upon.
Of course, by having the software, the Chinese wouldn't need Koklonis or his company anymore.
The betrayed Koklonis tried to react and asked his associates for work stoppage in order to prevent the Chinese from getting his software and taking control of his company.
Eventually he received a letter from the Chinese, that said they "fired him" from his own company, kind of what had happened to Steve Jobs when he was kicked out of Apple.
Koklonis took the Chinese company on a trial, but lost his company and was left bankrupt and miserable once again...
AirfastTickets Was Done Forever and Koklonis's Travel Empire Was Destroyed Alltogether...
He didn't give up though, even after all these shortcomings.
A new company was about to be born.
His new plan involved the creation of a company that would compare prices of plane tickets, instead of actually selling them.
Yotrip, Koklonis latest creation grew up super fast as well. After 2 months he managed to have 1 million customers in New York.
His plans involve the expansion of the company to other countries in Europe like Greece, Germany and Turkey.
At the same time, he also started Dealber, a marketplace for exclusive offers with discounts up to 70%!
Nikos Koklonis is undoubtedly a fighter.
A person who never gives up, takes risks and is not afraid of massive failure as the AirfastTickets case proves.
After all, how many would survive that rollercoaster and have the enthusiasm and willingness to start over again, after having lost everything?
What would you do, if you were in his shoes?
Let me know in the comments below!