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The Rise Of The Digital Futurist

Thomas Koulopoulos is the Chairman and Founder of Delphi Group, a 30-year-old Boston-based think tank named one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc. Magazine. He is also the founding Partner of Acrovantage Ventures, which invests in early-stage technology startups. Koulopoulos is also the best-selling author of 13 books, an Inc.com columnist, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, the past Director of the Perot Systems Innovation Lab (now Dell), and a professor at Boston University. His most recent books include Reimagining Healthcare, Revealing the Invisible, The Gen Z Effect, and Cloud Surfing. His upcoming book, Gigatrends, looks at the seven tech trends shaping the future of how we live, work, and play.

Thomas Koulopoulos was born stateside in the US but lived in Greece for the first five years of his life. While there, he was raised by his grandparents and extended family. He recalled, “Greek was my first language, and I also went to a year of high school in Greece. During that time, I lived through a military coup and martial law.”

Both of these experiences had a lasting impact on Koulopoulos; they instilled a strong sense of independence and sufficiency in him and embedded a deep appreciation for the importance of having respect and empathy for other cultures.

Due to his profound understanding of life at such a young age, after he completed his education, instead of choosing a profession, he chose a way to live his life and create value for others. He says, “This is a critical distinction that far too many people do not make. I chose to live my life in a way that allowed me to help others see possibilities. Whether it was raising my children, building a company, writing books, speaking, my inc column, mentoring, they were all ways to help others see and reach beyond their comfort zone and perceived limitations.”

In his quest to do things differently and disrupt the status quo, he started a company, Delphi Group, along with Carl Frappaolo in his 20s in 1989. The organization focused on using leading-edge technologies and increasing innovation and value creation. This has been Delphi Group’s mission for over 30 years. The Boston-based think tank and advisory firm built itself into one of the leading companies in the industry with nearly 20,000 clients and offices in six countries.

Over the past few years, Delphi has worked with more than 80,000 professionals in the private and public sectors. From some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies and Federal Government agencies to mid-market companies and state and local government to nonprofits and NGOs, their insights and services cut across all industries and disciplines.

Every entrepreneurial journey is littered with stories and anecdotes, and Koulopoulos has had his fair share of them over the 30 years leading Delphi Group. He says, “One that is most memorable was when we made the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. I had set that as a goal for the company when my partner and I worked out of my second bedroom.”

Talking about his career trajectory, he says, “Throughout my career I’ve worked with some of the largest Fortune 500, government agencies as well as hundreds of startups. Lately, much of my time has been spent with upcoming companies that are either building new markets or taking on established markets with radical new approaches.”

For instance, Koulopoulos advised and is a shareholder in a local Boston-based pre-IPO unicorn, Wasabi, which has taken on Amazon, Google, and Microsoft with a radical new way to store data. Another local company he is working with is Ampliforce, which is creating digital workers, an entirely new category of AI. He says, “This will have an unimaginable impact on the future of white-collar work. Working with companies like this is exhilarating!”

However, despite his long-standing devotion to being a consultant, he adds that he is still very much an entrepreneur. Koulopoulos has started two new companies at the outset of the pandemic. One of these companies is a high end direct to consumer company, PlexiCam, which has a patented product and is already a multi-million dollar business. He says, “In all of these cases, the thrill is in stretching beyond what is comfortable and typical into new areas where I am constantly learning and creating something new. “

Talking about the impact he created through all his companies, he says, “I have had five companies to date. Each has had different tactical impacts on clients, however in all cases, I’d like to think that what we did was to take relatively complex and somewhat obtuse ideas, which were surrounded by a priesthood of unintelligible pundits, trends, and technologies and helped clients understand these and apply them in ways that created tangible value.”

His unparalleled insights have received wide praise from luminaries such as the late Peter Drucker, the father of modern management; Dee Hock, founder of Visa International; and Tom Peters, who called his writing, ‘a brilliant vision of where we must take our enterprises to survive and thrive.’ While Koulopoulos’ mentor, Peter Drucker, said his writing “makes you question not only the way you run your business but the way you run yourself.”

In conclusion, his advice for budding leaders is, “Be authentic. Choose the way you want to live your life and build a career around that. List the top three things you want to have achieved in this life and every day ask yourself what you did to get one inch closer to each of them.”