Interview with Michalis Vafopoulos, CEO at Linked Business

Linked Business

Michalis Vafopoulos is a leading expert in data science. He is involved at the head or as an expert in a series of research, business and policy projects. Indicatively, as an affiliated researcher at the Software & Knowledge Engineering Laboratory (SKEL) of the Institute of Informatics & Telecommunications of the National Center for Scientific Research «Demokritos» has contributed to YourDataStories and BigDataEurope H2020 projects and the Open Journalism project (funded by Google’s DNI). He has worked as an expert for the “Analysis of methodologies for using the Internet for the collection of information society and other statistics” (European Commission – Eurostat/G6 Contract No. 50721.2013.003-2013.169) and as a lead researcher for Greece in the Web Index, Open Data Barometer and International Budget Partnership projects.

In 2010, initiated, which interconnects and analyses more than 1.5 trillion euros of detailed global public expenditure. In 2015 has been elected as a Board member of the Open Technologies Alliance, director of Open Data Institute – Athens node and MyData Hub Greece. He has written the book «Living with the Web», which presents both the social and technical aspects of the Web as an integrated part of everyday life.

In 2019, Michalis was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Land Registry in charge of digital transformation and data issues. In 2020 he was invited to participate as a member of the Sectoral Scientific Council for Data Policy and Artificial Intelligence of the National Council for Research, Technology, and Innovation (ESETEK). 

Michalis is the founder and CEO of Linked Business, which provides market intelligence solutions, such as B2B sales leads and KYC, based on open data and AI. 

Here’s what he told us.


Tell us a few things about Linked Business. How did it all start? How did you discover the market opportunity for your technology, and where are you today?

Linked Business was founded in 2018 by data researchers of the National Centre of Scientific Research Demokritos. In 2021, Qualco Group entered with a minority stake as a strategic investor, which, apart from medium-term capital adequacy, brings a wealth of synergies at the level of customers, products, and international geographical expansion. It is worth noting that Qualco, in turn, has as a minority shareholder Pimco, the largest asset management company in the world.

Back in 2009, I had the exciting experience of working with the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his team on the study of the Web economy and open data. And one of the things I gained is the recognition of the value of open data to society and the economy. That is, the importance of having official and publicly available information to everyone, in areas such as companies and their behavior. For example, who owns a company and whether it has received public money or been fined.

In 2015 I recognized that the Greek market was underserved in business intelligence services. In particular, Greek entrepreneurs only had access to a few services focusing on business reports for a selected subset of companies based on financial statements.     

So, we decided to bridge this gap by providing business services that are:

  • First to market for market intelligence solutions based on daily-updated and location-based company profile data.
  • Ease of use.  Users can search companies by name, activity, location and integrate into any BI. In addition, Open data will be available to the community.
  • Linked. The Linked Business platform covers from business information (e.g. status, fillings, management, public procurement) to ownership networks of influence.
  • 1-click to source. It is the first platform to directly refer to the original open data source with one click.
  • Complete & detailed information for every company incorporated in Greece is analyzed and interconnected to relevant data.
  • Dynamic & scalable to new data sources and international markets through established standards and scientific methodologies.


What value are you bringing to the clients and partners? What differentiates you from the rest of the industry?

Businesses over time face three unchanged fundamental questions: to whom can I sell? Where are my customers? Who are indeed my (potential) customers?

Today, the big change is that a plethora of diverse data ranges from open government data (e.g., company beneficial owners and public contracts) to internal enterprise data (e.g., detailed customer transactions from different applications).

Consequently, an emerging crucial demand for modern businesses is how to transform this data into useful information capable of providing better answers to the aforementioned questions. These needs can be captured under the term “Analytics”, which is the 2nd trend in digital transformation according to Forbes and is partially reflected in the 28.5 billion dollars value of the “market data and analysis” market.

Linked Business, an award-winning startup, addresses this issue by providing innovative market intelligence solutions that blend open with enterprise data. AI and Big data technologies transform noisy and complex data into intelligent business solutions that assist Sales and Marketing departments to discover new customers in specific market segments.

Linked Business products also contribute to KYC reporting starting from client onboarding to the assessment of systemic risks based on detailed business networks & associated persons. The legal entity profile service and conflict of interest reports for internal audit help financial institutions to address regulatory requirements.


What would you consider to have been (or are) your biggest challenge so far?

We have encountered several difficulties mainly due to the lack of a culture of publicly available data for the basic facts of human existence and the aversion of the administration to open processes. In the last decade, together with other groups of researchers and institutions we have managed to create a significant background of open data. Young people are experimenting in this field, and we hope that they will embrace en masse the idea that public digital space is an essential factor of well-being. The digital revolution of the last four years in our country is also promising because, among other things, it lays the basis for improving the quality of the public registers, such as the Land Registry, the lack of which acts as a deterrent in the expansion of start-up entrepreneurship.

Of course, imperfections and malfunctions make us more stubborn to build services that will solve problems and cover significant needs better.


What are the biggest learnings from your journey so far?

To create a useful service, you must take a significant risk, courage, persistence, money, and above all, have the right people by your side.

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