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This HEC Paris MBA Is Driving Uber's Greek Expansion

Grad helped launch taxi app in Athens

Thu Jan 14 2016

BusinessBecause
Vasilios Danias is the man behind Uber’s operations in Athens.

After an MBA at HEC Paris, the tech wizard landed a top job at Uber and, despite violent backlash from the local taxi industry, masterminded the launch of the controversial taxi-hailing service in the Greek capital.

Previously, Vasilios worked in brokerage in Greece and made an early foray into entrepreneurship: he started up a media business to help teach kids math and English online.

He moved on to study software engineering and artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh — where he helped build a computerized soccer-playing robot from scratch — before working as a tech analyst for consultancy firm Accenture. He also starting his own consulting firm.

When BusinessBecause last spoke to Vasilios he had just started his MBA in Paris and had his eyes set on Silicon Valley and a career in entrepreneurship. Yet the opportunity to work for Uber was too good to turn down.

Despite interviewing at Google, Vasilios decided to move back to his home city to join Uber and work in an environment completely different to anything he’s experienced before.

Why did you choose to work at Uber after your MBA?

I was excited by the challenge!

I interviewed for a product manager role at Google in London but I couldn’t get very enthusiastic about it. It’s a big firm with a good brand name but these roles are quite opaque. You don’t know what product you’re going to be working on.  

At Uber, I knew exactly what I would be doing: trying to introduce the product and grow the service in Athens. I knew that if I could pull it off, it would be a pretty strong accomplishment.

Has Uber been a success in economically troubled Greece?

We’ve launched Uber X here and it’s growing. It was not easy, I can tell you that. There was a huge backlash from the taxi industry.

The capital controls which were imposed on Greece over the summer meant we also had trouble processing payments and you can imagine how difficult it was to gain media attention with the country in political turmoil and elections taking place every few months.

Of course, Uber’s strongest weapon is word of mouth. So we have been able to grow very quickly in spite of these problems.

What advice do you have for MBAs looking to work for Uber?

Find a role that you’re really excited about and focus on it.

In the interview, you need to be in the mind-set of being an actual consultant [who is] trying to solve real-life problems. There is a “brain-teaser” element to it, where you do market-sizing or look at a case study, but it is always applied to a real situation.

You should know a lot about the particular city you’re interviewing for. If Uber is already there, you should speak with drivers, use the service and come up with ideas for how it could be improved.

Can you tell us something about working at Uber which most people wouldn't know?

Uber is famous for its entrepreneurial atmosphere. But I think it’s difficult to grasp the openness, collaboration and flatness of an organization that has grown to more than 5,000 employees expanding more than 360 cities, 66 countries and six continents.

On a daily basis you can collaborate with people [from] all over the world. Many companies are global and you can pick up the phone and talk to everybody. But we actually do it.

What are your thoughts on the future of the sharing economy and Uber’s role in it?

The sharing economy is here to stay. Although it’s going to displace traditional business models in particular segments, it will not completely replace these models.

If you take Airbnb for example, while there’s definitely a market for people looking to rent out a flat for a few days, there’s still a huge need for hotels, both for the added capacity they bring to the marketplace and the more premium services they can offer.

Uber’s goal is not to revolutionize the taxi industry. The aim is to make better use of vehicles in any city and to benefit consumers — both riders and drivers. The potential to better utilize idle resources is a good thing both for individuals and the planet in general.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HEC Paris?

In my previous career I was limited within the scope of IT. An MBA was the best way to switch into different areas at a point in time which made sense both to myself and to my employers.

HEC is comparable to Harvard in the US or Oxbridge in the UK in terms of its reputation.

The length of the course, the size of the cohort and the campus location were all ideal. You can enjoy the forest, the lake and nice sports facilities and be just half an hour away from the center of Paris.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m comfortable in Athens and my work at Uber has been very interesting from day one.

But you never know what exciting opportunities might arise. Having an MBA means you get people knocking on your door on a regular basis.

Student Reviews

HEC Paris

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

Student

Verified

7/07/2022

On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.

Sarah

Verified

18/03/2022

On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.

Student

Verified

29/10/2021

On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.

Veronique

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.

Ghadi

Verified

11/06/2022

On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.

Student

Verified

27/03/2022

On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.

Lb

Verified

26/03/2022

On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.

Rajarshi

Verified

28/10/2021

Blended

A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!

Student

Verified

19/10/2021

On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

Student

Verified

1/06/2024

On Campus

Diverse

HEC, as an academic institution, serves as a launching pad for students to excel in their pursuits and careers. The diversity among students and professors is truly remarkable. The chance to attend seminars across five major continents is unparalleled. The exposure and relationships it fosters are invaluable.

Student

Verified

31/05/2024

On Campus

Super diverse

It's a super diverse and fascinating environment with tons of chances, but the management is very French, and the facilities like the gym and classrooms are not great. This makes the academic side quite ineffective. Plus, we're graded on a curve, leading to a competitive and sometimes toxic atmosphere. Despite all that, the benefits definitely overshadow the drawbacks.

John

Verified

10/06/2024

On Campus

Surreal academic experience

What stood out to me about HEC was the direction and insight it offered on coding approaches. Prior to joining the program, I attempted self-learning, but I felt disoriented and lacked a starting point.HEC enabled me to grasp the basics of programming and provided support when I encountered obstacles. Without that guidance, I doubt I would have achieved the progress I have made to date.

John

Verified

10/06/2024

On Campus

Good security

HEC boasts a dedicated team of security personnel who undergo rigorous training to ensure the perpetual maintenance of tranquility and orderliness within the institution. Their unwavering efforts are directed towards fostering a sense of security among the student body, thereby enabling them to channel their energies predominantly towards their academic pursuits.

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