Christian Acosta-Flamma, founder and CEO at TELANTO tells us how they make university-industry collaborations work for all.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: In fact, we are doing very well, thank you for asking. I’ve been giving a lot of support to my kids during homeschooling, I’ve been mostly working from home, as we’ve all been, and I feel like this period only brought us all closer together, both with my family and my team at work. These were trying times and I know many people suffered through a lot, but I am one of the fortunate ones, and I am very grateful for that. We were very lucky to have done well during this pandemic and even been able to help out others.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded TELANTO.
Christian Acosta-Flamma: I’m a business engineer by education and I’ve always had a deep passion for technology. I remember, for example, when I was studying at the beginning of the 90s, being blown away by the concept of the internet, and envisioning all the opportunities that it was about to bring to the business, people, society. From the start of my career, I’ve always been drawn to the technology aspect of a business, and companies that use technology as part of their business model.
The idea for TELANTO was born many years ago. While working at SAP, I realized that there was a gap that was not closed between innovation management and talent management. I feel like there is immense value in making innovation management a fundamental piece of assessing and valuing people and skills, either within organizations or when you need to identify them for recruiting practices. That was when I met Timo Kerzel, who was very enthusiastic about the idea, so we joined forces and decided to leave the corporate world from the employee perspective and create something that could help companies, universities, and, above all, the students. And that’s when we started to ideate processes and the final product itself.
On a more personal side, I am married, I have two kids to whom I am deeply devoted, and I get up in the morning with the determination to make the world a better place through education. I’ve found in TELANTO and the education transformation we support something incredibly meaningful to pursue.
How does TELANTO innovate?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: TELANTO is now at a stage where we innovate as a collective, as a team. After 5-6 years in business, I can say for sure that we have an innovative DNA, which does not depend on me as a founder but is part of the culture of the company. Everybody contributes, whether in the development team, sales, marketing, there is a widespread passion for innovation. We always incentivize ideas, we promote people with ideas and we celebrate innovative thinking. Of course, this is backed by methodologies like design thinking and canvas, which we have adopted in our day today. In a way, it’s like we’re all entrepreneurs in TELANTO, we’re all in this together, taking risks, making decisions, and we understand that innovating is the only way to go.
And then there’s our core business, we are a technology company who brings innovation to our clients. We started off doing co-innovation with our clients and we continue to do that. We are also avid users of our own platform, which gives us an edge in the sense that we have access to talent and fresh and creative minds from all around the world. So we make good use of that asset. Innovation is front and center for us, whether you are part of the team or a client, we inspire everyone to innovate with us.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: Of course when we were locked down, the situation was very uncomfortable for everyone in the team and clients because of uncertainty. But we realized early in the process, as we’re a young, technology-focused company, that we were really prepared to have everyone working from home. So once we established how we as a team would deal with the situation, we turned our focus to our main concern, which is the business we work with: education. They were struggling much more, and we realized we had solutions universities were yearning for, as at this point they didn’t have the tools or assets to keep students motivated and engaged, so that’s when we accelerated our value proposition. By doing what we do best we were able to help them do their best too. As it turns out, we grew, we didn’t let anyone go, in fact, we grew our headcount. And we’re proud to know that we helped professors and students in more than 45 countries because we were ready for this. We had a strong value proposition there.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: As I said before, the beginning was challenging due to uncertainty, but we were ready and we acted fast. Obviously, I could say that as a startup founder, you’re making difficult decisions all the time, but that only makes you learn and grow constantly.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: In TELANTO we make a lot of use of our own tools, virtual collaboration tools, video conferencing tools, the standard stuff. In terms of management, the basis is really all about focusing on the team as individuals and making sure they are well, and then empowering everyone to carry out the responsibilities that each and everyone has. That I felt was the most impactful leadership decision, and I can say that it worked really well.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: We’re a technology-driven company and we’ve built technology that connects universities to industry. We have many ideas for new features, functions, integrations, and collaboration technologies and that is really what will keep us relevant in this university-industry collaboration field. We have an excellent relationship with our industry partners, we’re becoming more and more relevant in the value proposition and value chain for sourcing innovation and innovative ideas and talent.
Your final thoughts?
Christian Acosta-Flamma: We’re very optimistic that TELANTO and the entire current and future team will make this world a better place through education.
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