Felipe Ávila da Costa, CEO at Infraspeak tells us about Intelligence for Maintenance.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Felipe Ávila da Costa: This whole situation has definitely not been easy for anyone, and my family and I are no exceptions. There still is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, but we are all healthy and we are lucky enough to be able to work from home and stay safe, so we’re thankful for that. Although I must say that working with the kids around, can be really fun and a true challenge at the same time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Infraspeak.
Felipe Ávila da Costa: Currently, I am the CEO and co-founder of Infraspeak, a technological startup that is revolutionizing the way technical maintenance operations are managed worldwide. Luís and I started Infraspeak back in 2015 and our goal has always been to become the global leader, by being the best at everything we do. Today, our intelligent maintenance management platform is used by 40K teams in more than 15 countries, and there’s still a big road ahead of us.
I was deeply involved in the Portuguese entrepreneurial ecosystem way before I was an entrepreneur myself. For five years, I was in charge of the Technological Center and the Startup Acceleration Program of UPTEC (the University of Porto Science and Technology Park), where I supported the start, early development, and growth of more than 250 startups and innovation centers. A lot of the things that I’ve later applied to Infraspeak, I’ve learned during this experience while mentoring other entrepreneurs.
Finally, I am also the co-founder of Founders Founders, a community-driven scale-up incubator located in Lisbon and Porto, Portugal.
How does Infraspeak innovate?
Felipe Ávila da Costa: We were the first company in the world to apply the NFC – Near Field Communication – technology to maintenance and facility management, enabling maintenance technicians to easily identify and consult information related to any device by simply swiping their smartphones on an active tag. This dramatically simplifies the maintenance process, previously complicated by bureaucratic systems and loads of paperwork.
Nowadays, Infraspeak is a highly customizable intelligent maintenance management platform that lies on cutting-edge technology, such as APIs, native apps, and IoT sensors to increase the efficiency of operational teams and reduce the costs of operations.
Our customers can design their own Infraspeak HubTM and connect their entire operation to it, from our native apps and dozens of possible software integrations (we’re definitely the most integrated platform around) to smartphones or IoT devices. All their activity and data in the same place. Then, powered by our intelligent technology –– the Infraspeak Gear™ –– it transforms all of this data into actionable insights and suggestions, automates recurring tasks, and makes everything work together. Like magic.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Felipe Ávila da Costa: Well, the first big change was practical. The health and safety of our Infraspeakers come first, so we were one of the first companies in Portugal to shift to 100% remote work. We always had a flexible culture, so it was not a dramatic change at all and I’m actually quite happy with the outcome so far. Of course that we are all missing each other by now, but we will continue with this regimen until we believe it is safe to go back.
Until then, we do everything we can to ensure that we are helping our employees dealing with the emotional distress of this whole situation and that we create opportunities for people to socialize as a team, tell jokes and replicate the usual face-to-face interactions.
Last but not least, the pandemic made us lose a few customers (mostly customers closing their facilities), but it was largely compensated by the new opportunities created. Thanks to the team’s great response, we were able to develop two new products in record time: “Place Checkup” and the “Clean & Safe” platform.
“Place Checkup” is a free platform created to help managers of establishments open to the public and give visibility to how they are performing the cleaning and security procedures necessary to mitigate the contamination of COVID-19. The “Clean & Safe” platform is used to consult the Clean & Safe Seals issued by Turismo de Portugal, which certifies compliance with the safety and hygiene requirements defined by the National Tourism Authority, according to the guidelines of the Directorate General of Health.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Felipe Ávila da Costa: As I usually say, our people are our biggest assets. We’re building a team of rockstars and would be really difficult for us having to let any of them go because of a situation like this. Fortunately, we didn’t have to. We did freeze hirings in the beginning and we didn’t grow our team as expected, but we still managed to hire 45 people since the beginning of 2020. In 2021 we are still growing strong: 5 people already joined our company and we have opened another 12 new job positions.
However, let me tell you that in an unpredictable situation like this, transparency is key. Although we didn’t have to let anyone go, we were always very clear with the team and we prepared them for every possible scenario.
How did your customer relationship management evolve?
Infraspeak’s mission is to be a source of a good life for everyone, from its customers to its employees, from its partners to its investors, or even to the society as a whole. In an exceptional situation like this, we needed to show our customers exactly what we are made of. We always cultivated a very close (really 1-to-1) relationship with our customers but, at this point, being side by side with them was even more important.
Alongside doing frequent checkpoints with each customer, to help them answer each and any one of the specific operational challenges, our Customer Success Team worked hard (and quick!) to develop a special checklist for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.
Last but not least, our Marketing team focused on creating relevant content related to COVID-19 and Facility Management to help all professionals – from technicians to managers – deal with the situation; and a specific series of webinars to allow them to share their experiences and concerns with the community.
The overall response was great, and I’m proud to say that we were recognized with the “Best Customer Support 2020” badge, from Software Advice.
Your final thoughts?
Felipe Ávila da Costa: As I told you before, Infraspeak’s mission is to be a source of a good life for everyone. Because of that, over the past months, we have tried to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in various ways. In March, I and other Infraspeak employees were part of the foundations and coordination of a movement called tech4COVID19.
It united the startup ecosystem in Portugal to develop various solutions to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on health, education, and the economy. We gathered over 5500 volunteers and launched more than 30 tech projects.
That said, my final thoughts go to all my fellow founders and entrepreneurs out there: never underestimate the power of a strong community. May we all get together to be part of the solution and help put an end to this pandemic.
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