The Evolution of CYBER KIDS
CYBER KIDS was launched in the summer of 1991 when Yiannis Laouris and George Vakanas returned to Cyprus, together with co-Founders Xenophon Xenophontos, Neophytos Xenophontos, and Stelios Stylianou. Maria Symeonides joined two months later, more or less at the time when the three co-Founders withdrew from the partnership. The chain started as CYBER Institutes with a trade name which ironically secured the term 'CYBER' but not the term 'Institutes'.
Initial investment and foundations
The key founders of the project did not have any financial strength, as their families became refugees in 1974, following the Turkish invasion in Cyprus. The initial funds mainly came from the following sources:
- $ 5,000 from the International Program Development Fund and from a Provost Teaching Award of the University of Arizona awarded to Yiannis Laouris
- $ 20,000 from Maria Symeonides, who quit her job at Apple Cupertino to join the dream
- $ 80,000 in the form of a “low-interest” (as it turned out later, the compound interest and repayment conditions were similar to those of any bank) government loan for the unemployed
- $ 10,000 in the form of a bank overdraft which required as securities five guarantors and a 250 sqm plot (value over $ 50,000), which was the only asset of the sister of one of the team members
- ever-returned loans by the father, Chris Laouris and wife and partner Joulietta Kalli-Laouri who remained firm believers of the power that early education has in influencing the future of people. These details are provided not to obstruct, but to inspire and enhearten potential social entrepreneurs to dare to follow their dreams even with modest resources available.
The project was launched in September in Nicosia, and immediately after Christmas, two more Branches have been launched, one in Limassol and one in Paphos. The first was managed by Eve Kalli, mother of Joulietta Kalli-Laouri, and the second by Chris Laouris, father of Yiannis Laouris.
The initial Equipment
The initial equipment included two MAC IIfx and one MAC II with 21' screens and software (LabView, WORD, HyperCard, SyperCard, FileMaker etc.) brought to Cyprus by Yiannis Laouris for use at the Cyprus Neuroscience and technology Institute and one MAC Classic and one MAC SE brought by Maria Symeonides. Almost all the money from the loans was used to purchase 28 Apple LC computers, a few more high-power computers for the management team, printers, scanners and
The furniture, air-conditioning and other appliances were purchased a year later through leasing. In the Headquarters Office, the furniture was “virtual,” i.e., chalk drawings on the floor along with cushions (an innovation that added to the enthusiasm and self-esteem). The absence of an adequate business plan in connection with the unprecedented determination for success did not leave space for putting money aside to pay employees their salaries for several months. (Note: The unconditional sacrifices in the name of the dream had a detrimental effect on the enthusiasm of the employees and gradually lead to fatigue).
=The Inside Conflict
In 1996, for reasons that have not yet been completely understood, George Vakanas, [Evros Alexandrou]] and a few others led an act of defiance forming a new chain called CYBCYB CYBERNET, inviting existing CYBER KIDS franchisees to join and become direct competitors. About half of the Branches joined the new chain violating their franchise agreements and refusing to pay owed royalties. The legal process was slow and the lack of franchise law made it even more challenging. CYBER KIDS abandoned all legal actions in 1998 in view of the fact that it had completely recovered and it was already expanding world-wide.
CYBER KIDS Recovery and Expansion
By 1998 CYBER KIDS was operating 36 Branches in Cyprus and branches in 7 countries:
- Greece (Master Franchise by CYBER Interfranchise AE; 7 Branches)
- Israel (Master Franchise by Danny Lange who opened 2 Branches)
- Lebanon (Master Franchise by Kyriakos Schizas who opened 3 Branches)
- Jordan (1 Branch)
Towards the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, CYBER KIDS opened its first Branches in two new continents:
- USA, Portland (1 Branch)
- India (3 Branches opened by the Indian Master Franchisee)
CYBER KIDS Victim of Stockmarket Crashes
Under the leadership of the Cyprus Development Bank, in 2000 CYBER KIDS merged with 11 other companies to form a public, high-tech company known as CYBER GROUP. Unfortunately, the crash of the stock markets in combination with a number of unconstitutional laws passed repetitively by the Cyprus Parliament allegedly to "protect" the rights of investors, led dozens of entrepreneurial companies to forced bankruptcy. CYBER KIDS ceased all operations in 2002.