Entrepreneur and software engineer, Pantelis Kalogiros, is living his dream. But his dream didn’t come easy.
As a young child growing up in Larisa, Greece, Pantelis longed to move to Silicon Valley to create and innovate in the world’s tech center. He studied informatics and computer science at the Technological Institute of Lamia in Greece while building open-source software. In 2010, as Greece’s government-debt crisis continued to drag on and facing mandatory military service upon graduation, Pantelis decided to drop out of university just a year shy of earning his bachelor’s degree and left Greece.
“I was disillusioned with the situation in Greece,” explains Pantelis, who has been unable to return to the country for eight years. “The economic crisis made things quite bleak. I was lucky enough to have a very good job in Greece, but I wanted to escape.”
Escape to Silicon Valley
And escape he did. Pantelis eventually joined one of the most prestigious computer vision research projects in Silicon Valley, where he worked remotely first with three other experts in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and robotics. While working at the lab, they realized that progress in visual understanding was being held back by reliance on photos, videos, and other 2D data and that developing 3D formats could transform how we understand the world.
In 2014, the quartet founded Fyusion Inc. to solve complex visual problems with innovative 3D computer vision technologies and AI. They developed a spatial photography app and patented a new file format called .fyuse, which enabled users to capture and share interactive 3D images using a smartphone or standard digital camera.
“We had a dream of democratizing computer vision technologies so that everybody could experiment and create,” says Pantelis, who is Fyusion’s Senior Vice President of Web.
To continue growing the company he co-founded and remain in the U.S., Pantelis needed to get a green card. But the immigration attorneys he consulted wouldn’t take his case—until he contacted us.
“I thought that without a bachelor’s degree, it would be extremely difficult to get a green card and I could not go back to Greece because I had the military issue hanging over my head,” recalls Pantelis. “People looked at my case and told me it’s impossible. I felt depressed and defeated.”
As a rapidly growing startup, Fyusion was generating significant revenue and creating jobs that benefited the U.S. economy. Given that, Pantelis qualified for an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card despite dropping out of university.
“Even though I was a dropout and didn’t have the [academic] credentials that my co-founders have, I brought something new to the table,” says Pantelis. “It is good to have people of different backgrounds that have gotten their education or their experiences in different parts of the world because it brings new angles and new opinions to the table. If you are sourcing all your candidates from a very specific area, you’re going to have a very homogenous way of thinking.”
In late 2020, Fyusion was acquired by one of its biggest customers, Cox Automotive Inc., which also owns Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader.com, and Manheim, an automobile auction company. Since the acquisition, “we’ve been fortunate enough to retain our independence,” Pantelis says. “We haven’t had any structural or organizational changes. We’re still the same people, the same team, working on the same problems, but we have a lot more guidance and access to decades of industry experience and data” due to the acquisition. “I feel happier now in this environment.”
Words of Inspiration
Pantelis says cultivating a mindset of risk-taking and stepping out of his comfort zone were instrumental in achieving his dreams.
“I don’t want to regret not doing something, so I do it even if it terrifies me. If I fail, that’s okay. I will try again and use the experience to build something in the future,” he says. “There are no opportunities without risk.”
Also published on Medium.