First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hugo Macedo: Thank you so much for asking. Like most families – we’re taking it one day at a time and spending much more time together as a family. We are very blessed to be able to work from home, but we have our days. We balance between being grateful and being careful. But truth be told, we are absolutely flat out and have never been busier due to the products we’ve been launching that kill Coronavirus.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Smart Separations?
Hugo Macedo: I started Smart Separations in 2013 from my kitchen table, and throughout the years, we have grown it to a team of 25. I completed my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and was constantly challenged with new and diverse tasks in a multidisciplinary environment. During my Ph.D. I developed skills from chemical engineering to stem cell technology, including membrane technology, hydrodynamics, stem cell culture, and bioprocessing, human blood production, amongst many others. These skills and working with the right team has led me to a focus on microfiltration, antimicrobials, and other innovative solutions that can make our world a better place.
How does Smart Separations innovate?
Hugo Macedo: We are very fortunate to love what we do, and I am a firm believer that when we are following our passion, we can solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Our team of scientists, engineers, and designers all work together on different and related projects that make a difference in people’s lives. Ultimately we solve problems every day. We submerge ourselves in a challenge, look ahead to see the struggles that people face, and then start problem-solving. That’s how our products have emerged at such a rapid pace.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Hugo Macedo: We were affected in that we are not able to meet with each other as a team as much as we used to, but having said that, we are a global company with team members around the world. Technology has always been integral to take us off the grid so we could have good mental space to do great work. Our Zoom meetings and task management software have been fundamental to keeping us together and moving forward for years, so you could say it’s been business as ‘almost’ usual.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Hugo Macedo: This has been a hard year for most of us. It has been difficult not to travel for meetings as we used to. As a leader of a team, my support is more important than ever during these times. I have made sure we are in constant communication, checking that everyone is keeping healthy and safe from a distance – this has been a core priority.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Hugo Macedo: I deal with stress and anxiety by going for walks and reading books. I’m fortunate enough to spend lots of time near the beach, so I will often process my plans and thinking while walking alongside the ocean.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Hugo Macedo: Competitors exist, but we’ve always been more interested in successfully moving to unchartered waters. We’ve got a number of projects in motion. More recently, Virateq™, which is our fast-acting antimicrobial surface treatment, has been tested and proven against the human SARS-CoV-2 virus. We have also developed Gino, our personal air sanitizer, which we will be launching to the market very soon. It is perfect for one-to-one interactions at home or in public spaces, such as the office, schools, cars, or restaurants, to act as a clean air shield. When receiving guests at home or visitors at a care home with the most vulnerable, Gino adds an extra layer of protection. Gino destroys microbes in the air, including SARS-COV-2, and hence helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.