With a technical background and a passion for leadership, Stefan Farrugia has steered Eunoia from its origins as a small department, into a prominent entity servicing multiple countries with industry-focused business intelligence solutions. As the company continues to advance, the CEO underscores Eunoia’s commitment to innovation and excellence in the data industry.

Stefan Farrugia’s journey to the helm of Eunoia as CEO is both inspiring and instructive. “It was more than a career shift; it was a trauma of sorts,” reminisces Stefan with a smile, reflecting on his transition into leadership. “I’m a technical person with a technical background, but leadership has always been my interest and passion. Yet, the world of data-driven solutions is complex to navigate.” While Stefan’s previous role at PTL Ltd provided him with invaluable experience, his move to Eunoia truly tested his mettle as the shift from a technical role to the CEO of a company was not without its challenges.

“I was tasked with creating the mission and vision for Eunoia, and I wanted to make us unique,” Stefan explains, emphasising that one of the most significant lessons he has learnt in his career is that of empowerment. He believes in empowerment, both for himself and his team, and his perspective is evident in his approach to work. “Our ethos is based on the empowerment of our people. It’s not easy, and we tend to start with micromanaging and then letting go. Ultimately, I firmly believe in providing people with the tools they need to do their jobs and grow,” he asserts. This philosophy extends not only to his team but also to Eunoia’s clientele. By equipping businesses with the tools and insights they need, Eunoia enables them to grow and thrive in a competitive landscape.

Under Stefan’s guidance, Eunoia has been transformed from a modest department within a larger entity into a standalone powerhouse in the data industry. The company started off with only two members. Then, COVID-19 hit, which became a significant accelerator for data-driven projects. Today, Eunoia employs 36 people, services five countries and offers products in eight countries. Its significant growth is rooted in the company’s unwavering commitment to understanding and harnessing the power of data.

A significant milestone for Stefan and Eunoia was the Data and AI Summit in Amsterdam. While surrounded by the likes of Facebook, H&M and other major organisations, they felt like a small fish in a big pond, but the experience helped them clarify their vision for the future. “We returned to Malta with a renewed determination to become a cloud-first company, fully embracing Databricks and Azure,” says Stefan.

Another major milestone was the establishment of Eunoia’s AI department, which was vastly accelerated after the COVID-19 pandemic and the launch of ChatGPT. “Every board we meet is discussing AI,” Stefan remarks, “but they often don’t fully grasp what it is or how it can profoundly impact them and their business.” Stefan envisions a transformative phase for the local data industry. “From a local industry perspective, we’re going to see more and more businesses shift from the ‘wait-and-see’ mode to a more visionary approach,” he forecasts, explaining that this change is not just a business strategy but a necessity for remaining competitive globally.

The ascendancy of AI has been a game-changer, and Stefan acknowledges the competitive advantage it offers, particularly to local enterprises. This perspective is not just about leveraging technology but about fundamentally altering the way businesses perceive and utilise data.

One of Eunoia’s standout achievements was the launch of its cutting-edge Data Lakehouse Platform (DLP), a unique solution tailored to assist local firms in their daily operations. “I’ve been in this field for 20 years, so I’ve implemented my fair share of projects, especially when it comes to AI,” shares Stefan. “One of the most significant issues has always been to keep the data lake, data dump and data warehousing in sync.” Stefan explains that this process is costly and comes with additional challenges related to data security and governance. Moreover, following the establishment of a database and scaling it with larger volumes of data sets, the cost of storage becomes exorbitant, not least due to increasing licensing fees.

This is where the DLP adds tremendous value, making it easier to scale without incurring the burdens of storage costs. It also serves as an intermediary between the data lake and data warehouse, enabling companies to create diverse roles such as data analysts, data scientists, machine-learning engineers, and data engineers, all able to interact with the same platform using their preferred language, be it Python or C-Sharp.

“Using the DLP, individuals in different roles can use one single platform. They can query data sets using their preferred language, giving huge value to their organisation. Additionally, the platform allows for realtime analysis and insights, which were previously costly and required large investments,” Stefan explains, adding that through the DLP, users can use data derived from business intelligence, artificial intelligence and elsewhere.

Eunoia’s adaptability is further evident in its approach to different industries. Whether it is retail, maritime or gaming, the company tailors its solutions to meet industry-specific challenges. Stefan notes, “every industry has its own set of difficulties and nuances. At Eunoia, we pride ourselves on our ability to understand these intricacies and provide bespoke solutions.”

Reflecting on 2023, Stefan offers a balanced perspective. While acknowledging the operational challenges posed by global events and rising costs, he also highlights the company’s resilience. Over the past year, Eunoia hit all its targets, a testament to its robust strategies and the dedication of its team. Stefan observes, “the way we work and do business has changed over the years. We’ve had to pivot and adapt, but these changes have made us stronger and more agile” – an agility that has allowed Eunoia to seize new opportunities.

Looking ahead, Stefan has clear ambitions for Eunoia. Expansion into new markets, forging strategic partnerships and continuous innovation are all on the horizon. He hints at the company’s plans, stating, “from a product perspective, we are always partnering up with country specialists. It’s a strategic approach that ensures we remain at the forefront of the data industry, setting trends rather than just following them.”

Stefan’s vision for Eunoia is grounded in a broader vision for the data industry. “My primary drive for 2024 is to increase our presence in Europe, focusing on growth and expansion,” he says, explaining that their expansion is not just about geographical reach but also about diversifying the company’s offerings and tapping into new markets. He anticipates significant transformations in the local data landscape and sees promising markets emerging in 2024.

However, Stefan also highlights the great importance of ESG practices. “Data is an asset and should be an integral part of a company’s balance sheet, but it’s not just about numbers; it’s about insights and foresight,” he asserts, “which is why we would also like to see organisations embracing ESG practices because, environmentally speaking, we’re dealing with a data problem, and we need to reduce our carbon footprint.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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