Manolis Manassakis started his career at Google before moving to Uber where he served as Head of Marketplace and later Director of Operations for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Today, Manolis serves as COO of Qogita, helping torevolutionize global wholesale through technology, but he is also an active angel investor through Cloud Nine Ventures, helping startups and mentoring founders on operations, scaling, and international expansion thanks to his 15 years of experience launching and scaling established companies into new markets and leading rapid scaleup companies.
Manolis will be hosting a special masterclass at The Marketplace Conference in Berlin on October 11th where he will talk about the Evolution of Marketplace Dynamics, discussing how marketplace businesses should evolve the way they think about and execute marketplace dynamics as they scale up.
Leading up to the session, I sat down with Manolis to talk about his passion for the “Optimal amount of Chaos” at early-stage startups and, particularly, marketplaces. He also shares his key learnings from his time at Uber, including how Uber cracked their marketplace dynamics as well as top tips on how founders should execute marketplace dynamics as they scale.
It was part choice, part chance. After law school, I joined Google rather randomly, after meeting a Google employee at a social event, back when Google was launching its Greek office and was hiring its first local employees. Transitioning from big tech to the startup world was a conscious decision.
I love what I like to call the, “Optimal amount of Chaos.” The more mature and established an organization, the more streamlined and “linear” it usually is. Startups in the early stage but with enough validation offer some sense of directional clarity, but are also messy enough to be exhilarating.
Since the beginning of my career, I‘ve always been very drawn to marketplaces. What fascinates me is the complexity and the challenging dynamic of trying to satisfy multiple considerations at the same time: demand, supply, top line, bottom line, scalability, and often many more.
Uber for me was an absolute no brainer career choice. Right after my MBA, I had the chance to lead the company in Greece, look after all sides of a complex business, and help improve mobility in my home country. It was an irresistible combination!
That could take hours to discuss, but trying to be concise, the main tools were:
In my opinion, the biggest challenge in ridesharing is the competitive dynamics––how to grow or protect market share cost-effectively in a space characterized by low global network effects (evaporates the first mover or scale advantage we typically see in global spaces), and consumers’ focus on price, which makes it harder to differentiate on quality.
If I have to summarize, the key factors would be:
Well, every local leader intuitively considers their market inherently different and unique, but I think we very often overestimate local peculiarities simply because we don’t have a simultaneous deep overview of enough markets to realize the common patterns and groupings.
At Uber, we perfected the “playbooked launching.” By using what works globally and identifying four to five key market archetypes, you can scale quickly and successfully. For any truly exceptional market factors, you can of course tailor your approach.
Together with my partners, we had already backed tens of companies as individual angels, and spoken to hundreds of founders who reached out for advice. We started Cloud Nine because we realized something quite simple: We loved working with founders, and thanks to our substantial full-time operational roles and highly complementary backgrounds, we can help early stage teams across all core needs of their business.
If I think about my favorite marketplace investment so far, it is definitely Timberhub, even though I am biased as a friend, investor, and board member!
Timberhub encapsulates everything you would look for: An excellent team we’ve known personally for years, executing exceptionally in a vast, untapped fragmented space, and painful and archaic status quo. All the right ingredients for a meaningful marketplace.
At Cloud Nine, we are mostly excited about:
The notion that marketplace dynamics are not necessarily a zero-sum game, where founders need to trade between mutually exclusive objectives (the classic one being buyer price versus seller earnings versus take rate).
Efficiency and subtle but impactful features can push the curve to the right and generate benefits across all sides. For example, higher utilization thanks to constantly improving matching technology and algorithmic driver incentives at Uber generate the holy grail of lower rider price, higher driver earnings and solid service free.
Want to hear more from Manolis on the evolution of marketplace dynamics and how marketplace businesses should evolve how they think about and execute them from phase zero to the scaling up phase? Join us at The Marketplace Conference and sign up to Manoli’s Masterclass The Evolution of Marketplace Dynamics LIVE in Berlin on October 11th at 14:00 CET.
Discover more articles like this on the