Dr Tasos Kounoudes

Tasos founded SignalGeneriX, one of the first R&D technology companies in Cyprus in 2004, and has been contributing to the transformation of the Cypriot economy ever since. A country once best-known for tourism is now attracting technology companies from all over the world.

Portrait photograph of Tasos Kounoudes

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. “It wasn’t like this in 2004,” he explains. “Changing a country that’s known for a specific industry takes a lot of effort, the right policy-makers and decision-makers to keep change going, and definitely the private sector that drives this change.”

“You also have to have a vision. Without it, you’ll go nowhere. And to have a vision, you need to know who you are and what you can achieve. Now Cyprus has become a favourable place for technology companies because of its scientific reputation.”

This ambition sounds grand, but Tasos knew it would be achievable, “It required teamwork. SignalGeneriX was one of several pioneering companies that cast a small stone in this transformation, and I’m very happy to have seen it take place.”

A passion for challenge

That Tasos can influence change on a national level shouldn’t come as a surprise. He founded SignalGeneriX with the goal of creating challenges for himself. “My vision, back then, was to always be challenged mentally and scientifically, even when I get old,” he explains.

The journey of entrepreneurship lets you develop new technologies and to get to know great people across the world. It's a difficult journey that needs self-confidence, patience, persistence and a focused plan.

He launched the company after completing his PhD, and then working as a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial. His research was about Digital Signal Processing (DSP), and he started work in this field in the UK high-tech Research & Development (R&D) industry before returning to Cyprus.

“I knew this was the kind of work I wanted to do, but there wasn’t any satisfactory work for me at home,” explains Tasos. “That’s when I decided to set up SignalGeneriX, my own R&D company. High technology R&D was a completely new industry in Cyprus at the time, and now lots of people work in this field.”

Tasos at work in the company’s HW development Lab

Tasos at work in the company’s HW development Lab

Tasos at work in the company’s HW development Lab

Digital signal processing everywhere

Whether he’s talking about the present or the future, Tasos has a remarkable understanding of how DSP plays a role in technological innovation.      

“It’s the foundation of many applications. Today we have things like the smart environment, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. But if you dig below those terms, you’ll find DSP algorithms and processes.”

“It applies everywhere today, as it will tomorrow. We’re always at the cutting edge of this technology at SignalGeneriX, building systems that can help humankind. You can find DSP technologies in space, medical, communications, and even financial applications. DSP is everywhere.”

Recognising teamwork

SignalGeneriX has won some impressive awards over the years, from organisations such as the European Space Agency, the European Business Awards and even the President of Cyprus. Tasos doesn’t credit this success to any one individual however, “It’s the result of many peoples’ hard work. Not one of these awards is about recognising the director or the owner of the company. They’re about recognising teamwork and the efforts of a great team of engineers and scientists.”

Tasos receiving the Best Cypriot SME Award in 2020

Tasos receiving the Best Cypriot SME Award 2020 on behalf of SignalGeneriX

Tasos receiving the Best Cypriot SME Award 2020 on behalf of SignalGeneriX

And what makes a great team? “Talented people being given challenges at all levels, from junior engineers to senior managers,” says Tasos. “We’re happy every day, being challenged at the highest levels of science and technology since we are working with world class technology companies. This gives us motivation and helps us grow. Alone, we can achieve nothing, but as a team of engineers, we can achieve a lot.”

Challenge keeps Tasos motivated, “We’re in the industry of innovation. I created a company that I and my colleagues are challenged and satisfied working in.”

Tasos Kounoudes

Don't fear failure

Tasos has a few lessons for budding entrepreneurs. The first is to not fear failure. “We face challenges from our first day of education. We’re taught, and learn through our professional career how to find solutions. I still face new challenges after running the company for so many years.”

All our work is around innovating and inventing new technologies, and you can’t innovate without facing challenges and failing. To invent something new, you have to fail many times. That’s in SignalGeneriX’s DNA.

“All the great technologies weren't created in one day. They were created after a series of experiments and a lot of failures.”

Enjoyment, not money

The next lesson? Have passion. “Find satisfaction in your work and this will bring you long-term success. The main goal is to be happy with what you're doing. This will give you the motivation and strength to get through all the difficulties you’ll face as an entrepreneur.”

Then there’s the team you work with. “Hire the best people that you can. Train them, give them the best environment to grow in. We try to give young SignalGeneriX engineers the opportunities that we didn't have when we were their age.”

SignalGeneriX team on a sailing boat

Fun team building activities are part of SignalGeneriX culture

Fun team building activities are part of SignalGeneriX culture

And don't always look for the money. “I've seen people whose main focus was profit, and this doesn’t always bring satisfaction. When you’re motivated by the satisfaction of the work, the money will come.”

Education as foundation

Aspiring entrepreneurs should be seeking out lifelong learning.

Education doesn’t finish at university. It’s a lifetime experience. The technology sector is fast-paced, so you have to continuously learn new things and be at the cutting-edge.

“Entrepreneurship is very hard. That's why not everybody is a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes you have to be insane to want to be one. But education gives you the mentality to go through this journey. You can never be too well-educated.”

“We continuously push and motivate our employees to get training. Even during COVID-19 we never stopped giving people opportunities because technology is a quick, transforming environment, where skillsets change. So we'll always need new skills.”

Scientific knowledge isn’t the only trait Tasos looks for in new employees. “Every time we advertise a position or internship, we'll have a lot of smart applicants. They come here and we get to see their teamwork, problem-solving and individual work skills, and how they respond to constructive criticism. It’s their attitude towards teamwork and professional development that we look for.”

Tasos Kounoudes
Tasos Kounoudes

Imperial reflections

Tasos looks back on his own time at Imperial with fondness. “It's really inspiring. You’re among the best teachers and mentors from all over the world in a multicultural environment, at the top level of science. You get the foundations for growing yourself as an individual, as a scientist, and then as an entrepreneur.”

And he’s delighted to have won the Alumni Entrepreneur Award. “It’s great recognition. Especially when you take into account how many brilliant people have graduated from Imperial, and have become successful entrepreneurs achieving so many great things. This Award is a great honour for me.”

What stays with me so many years after graduating is the people I met, the mentors that I had, and the colleagues and students I studied with. They’re now my collaborators all over the world.

“Imperial was great for me. I learned how to innovate in a specific field, how to understand technologies at the highest level, and how to identify and understand industry needs. Then I could develop useful technologies that could help solve real-world problems.”

Engineer at heart

Although he’s responsible for running the company, Tasos has never lost sight of why he does what he does. “I will always be an engineer at heart,” he explains. Does that mean you can still find him working on innovative technology? “I wish I had more time! We have so many competent and experienced people here now.”

“Being a manager takes up a lot of my time. But I’ll get involved when it is needed. We are fully utilising all the experience that we have - from junior engineers to senior engineers and managers. We all have different kinds of expertise.”

Tasos with SignalGeneriX colleagues

Tasos regularly joins SignalGeneriX research and development teams

Tasos regularly joins SignalGeneriX research and development teams

What does he hope his legacy will be? “An engineer who, through his entrepreneurial life, promoted the high-tech industry in his country and created opportunities for Cypriot scientists to work and innovate at an international level.”

We started the company in Cyprus from scratch. At that time we were pioneers. Now I am happy to see a growing industry here.

And what are the next challenges for Tasos and his industry? “If you asked this question two years ago, who’d have said the pandemic? You never know what the next challenge will be. Ours is to be ready to face hidden challenges that COVID-19 hasn’t shown us yet. To be ready for the unexpected.”

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Tasos Kounoudes