AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL KAGELIDIS, DIRECTOR OF HOME BIOLOGY

As part of our Build a Living Economy project, we are analysing how young entrepreneurs are trying to find their way through the economic crisis that affects large parts of Europe and how they connect to social and environmental sustainability. Here, we discuss with Michael Kagelidis, Founder and Director of the Greek company Home Biology about the goals, aspirations and difficulties of being an entrepreneur in modern Greece.

Michael Kagelidis created Home Biology, a company conducting electromagnetic field surveys to commercial and residential buildings in 2010. A year later he expanded into importing radiation shielding products and measurement instruments to Greece.

How did you come up with the idea of launching Home Biology?

The recent “wireless revolution”, which brought many conveniences into our lives, also resulted in an unprecedented rise of the high frequency radiation levels we are all exposed to every day. Getting acquainted with the science of Building Biology, I realized that there are many things we can do to create better indoor environmental conditions. We can keep our comforts, by adjusting the usage of technology in a way that can ensure health and wellbeing. This is what Home Biology is all about: offering convenient solutions to deal with the current technological hazards.

According to a great number of recent and older studies, electromagnetic fields have clearly established bioeffects that occur at very low, common exposure levels: abnormal gene transcription, genotoxicity and single-and double-strand DNA damage, stress protein production, chromatin condensation and loss of DNA repair capacity in human stem cells, reduction in free-radical scavengers - particularly melatonin, neurotoxicity in humans and animals, carcinogenicity in humans, serious impacts on human and animal sperm morphology and function, effects on offspring behavior and effects on brain and cranial bone development etc (source: BioInitiative Report 2012).

Since 2012, the World Health Organization ranks as “Possible Human Carcinogens” both low frequency magnetic fields from power lines, transformers, etc. (due to their connection with childhood leukemia) and high frequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phones, mobile phone masts, wireless modems etc. (due to their connection with brain cancer).

How did you find the funds for the establishment of the company?

Having previously launched an architectural-construction company that had a big financial opening and without knowing what the outcome of my new venture would be, I was determined to spend as little as possible in start up costs and create a business that would for the most part fund itself. I was personally engaged in most of the initial work and the only major start up cost was the measurement equipment which I funded myself.

What have the main barriers to the development of your business been so far?

New research about the health effects of electromagnetic fields from power lines, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, cell phone masts etc is usually silenced by the mainstream media. People have to look for information on their own. This still means that we have to spend more money on advertising budget to inform the public about the possible hazards of constant exposure to high frequency radiation, our products and services. Starting as a services only company we have successfully added commerce to our activities and keep on adding new products and services to fulfill the demand.

Additionally, a difficulty I have come across is due to one of the characteristics of greek mentality: a feeling of mistrust and fear towards everything new or different. Greek people don’t get so well informed through the internet as in other countries, but I believe that has begun to change.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur, what drives the company and you?

Being an entrepreneur means creating something that you believe in, being less dependent on others and hopefully being better able to manage your free time. I strongly believe in the cause of my company. We are really helping people - not just selling products and services.

What are your aspirations for the future?

My main goal at the moment is growing the company using outsourcing and technological tools to increase profits while keeping the operational costs low. Additionally, getting our message through and informing as many people as possible.

What is the experience of being an entrepreneur in Greece at the present moment?

There is some worry about the current and future financial situation and its impact to our company. On the other hand, I feel fortunate to be self-employed, considering the current high unemployment rates in Greece.

What is your impression of young Greeks?

Every new generation is different from the one that preceded it. I believe that the young people are better informed and educated, they travel more, want to learn more, look for different opinions and they want a better quality of life. They don’t take anything for granted. Moreover they are more interested in living a healthy life. Ten years ago, no one cared about organic food and today there is organic food in every supermarket. Statistics show that in Greece 81% of the population is now concerned about the effects of electromagnetic radiation (Eurobarometer 2010).

On the other hand, although this generation has realized the perils of mismanagement and overspending, a big part does not like changes occurring in their own line of work. Today, caring only for their own personal interest seems justified for many young people, in part due to the plethora of political scandals exposed in the past years.

Do you see the future of modern business connected to such initiatives as yours?

Companies that help raise public awareness and protect the public from technological or environmental hazards exist all around the world. As long as the governments take decisions greatly influenced by economic interests, I believe such companies will keep on growing.

Do you believe the financial crisis in Greece has made the situation harder for young entrepreneurs?

Of course bad economy does not help spread new products and services, because most people want to pay only for the essentials, or at least what they consider essential. Additionally, many of our products have a high cost which many people cannot afford. The biggest obstacle is in funding new projects, due to the lack of cash in the market and the difficulty in obtaining bank loans.

As your business grows, would you like to run it in a sustainable way, using circular economy models?

The answer is yes but, in order to take into consideration the life cycle of the products we sell we have to involve our suppliers. Though probably not waste free, I believe Home Biology can benefit the environment in other ways. Advising against excessive use of wireless technologies, apart from human wellbeing, has an energy saving aspect. Additionally, informing the public about safer alternatives to the traditional mobile telephony networks, could in the future create pressure to adopt new, more environmentally friendly technologies, - e.g. systems that also use fiber optics. This is especially important when considering the fact that cell phone masts have been proven to be a contributing factor to the reduction of the bee population worldwide.

In terms of sustainability, how aware is Greek society in your opinion?

Not very aware, with the exception of the younger generation. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis, sustainability has not been given the attention it deserves.

Do you believe that business entrepreneurs have the potential to lead to a more sustainable future for Greek society, economy and environment?

This depends on the entrepreneur. The truth is that in Greece many seek profit and have society and environment at the bottom of their priorities. Hopefully someday they will be the minority!

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In our latest publication, Business Innovation in a Living Economy, we discuss how to build a Living Economy. Profiled in this report are several European companies who have embraced an entirely new paradigm, moving traditional business targets to reward long-term prosperity in a broad ecosystem over short-term profit.

In a series of articles during the past months, investigating the question "Is sustainability still possible?", we focused on Greece as a modern paradigm of European unsustainable living, in environmental, social and economic terms. We discussed the current situation, elaborated on a different prespective, and we saw how Greek culture is evolving with prolonged recession.