We talked to Fabrizio Chiara on how Sunspeker fights climate change through innovative OOH advertising solutions and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fabrizio Chiara: These are undoubtedly challenging times for everyone, but we are not complaining because we are healthy. It is a critical time for young people like me for those who have just finished their studies, both for economic and social opportunities. You have to work twice as hard.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sunspeker?
Fabrizio Chiara: I am an inventor (with three patents filed in the last four years) with over ten years of experience in the advertising sector. The expertise and creativity I have gained over the years have been the main drivers that pushed me to create Sunspeker with a group of friends I met during a Startup Weekend organized by Techstars in 2012.
With Andrea Gaiardo and Alessandro Zerbetto, we started with the idea of making the OOH and outdoor furniture sector more sustainable and smart, adhering to the trends and growing needs of smart cities and smart mobility. So Sunspeker is born. This idea immediately engaged the new team members, Alessio Monichino and Valeria Benedetto, in the core team, Marco Merlin, Francesco Bonfiglio, in the external advisors’ role.
How does Sunspeker innovate?
Fabrizio Chiara: The first innovation is product-related, thanks to the team’s strong technological component that allows solar energy use, making OOH advertising sustainable. The second concerns the business model, which embraces smart cities’ growing needs, from smart mobility to data in urban contexts. The future of our cities lies here. But Sunspeker, it’s not stopping there. From the beginning of 2020, and despite the period of global difficulty linked to COVID 2019, we are continuing to invest in Research and Development. Our research has led us to present another patent to create photovoltaic digital screens powered by the sun. In short, always being one step ahead of everyone is our mantra.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Fabrizio Chiara: Generally, there has been a slowdown in investments, and the whole market has slowed down waiting to understand better what the impacts of the lockdowns would be on people, the responses of governments and institutions, let’s say not an ideal period for a startup in our sector. But, despite all, the team has always remained very motivated. We know we have a long-term vision and that in one way or another, this pandemic will bring the themes of our vision, such as sustainability and the smart life, even more to the fore. We are like that; we always see the glass half full.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Fabrizio Chiara: Although we are used to a context of uncertainty, the most challenging thing is to make the right decision at the right time. We all have a clear goal to achieve, we know where we started from, and we know where we want to go, and we also know that there are different ways to get there. We have learned along our path to try to be influenced as little as possible by the context surrounding us and stay focused on our goals. Listen to everyone, yes, but don’t let others decide which way to go. This teaches us to be as flexible as possible, adapt, and, if necessary, change course very quickly.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Fabrizio Chiara: At this time, it is essential not to lose touch with reality, trying to find the good in every situation. I deal with difficulties by breaking them down into small parts, which helps me to reduce stress.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Fabrizio Chiara: Our market analysis identified a few bunches of competitors. Even if we embrace horizontally different markets, there are really few competitors able to deliver the value that Sunspeker provided.
Firstly, the ability to generate electricity from renewable sources and add additional functionality to the product is two aspects that we share with only one competitor, which does not carry an advertising message. To maintain a competitive edge, we need to continue to focus on R&D, developing new functionalities that meet digital advertising requirements. Finally, all our technologies are protected by patents, which gives us a competitive advantage, not indifference.
Your final thoughts?
Fabrizio Chiara: Sunspeker has incredible technological power, but its message is simple: transform the advertising market by leveraging sustainability as a core value. The ability to diversify the customers interested in the product makes us unique and very flexible. The main challenge is to find the right combination to enter the ecosystem as a critical player in the ongoing digitization processes.