Stelios Haji-Ioannou speaks the language of Silicon Valley, tossing off phrases such as "frictionless Internet" without blinking. But behind the jargon is an entrepreneur who's showing Europe how to combine radically simple business models with the Net to reshape old-line industries.
Haji-Ioannou, 33, is founder and chairman of London's easyGroup. Its holdings include easyJet Airline; easyEverything, a chain of cybercafes; and a rental car company called, naturally, easy-Rentacar. All rely on the Net to keep costs low: EasyRentacar offers only one type of vehicle and requires reservations be made online. But its prices are 60% below the industry giants.
The granddaddy of the group--and only public company--is easyJet. Europe's second-largest discount carrier after Ireland's Ryanair (RYAAY), easyJet saw sales in the first half climb 43%, to $205.4 million. But first-half losses also grew, to $14.6 million, because of higher fuel prices and slow winter traffic.
ELECTRIC ORANGE. Haji-Ioannou keeps going, though. It's nearly impossible to go anywhere in urban Europe without noticing the Easy brand: Everything he touches, from Boeing engines to billboards, is painted electric orange--Pantone 021C, to be exact. Maybe someday, he jokes, it'll be renamed "Stelios Orange."
Next stop: America. The second son of a Greek shipping tycoon, Haji-Ioannou has already anchored an easyEverything cafe in New York's Times Square. This is one European who's not staying in the Old World.