Mário Ribeiro Alves CEO at TAIKAI tells us how they help organizations to run their open innovation challenges & hackathons acting as an online management tool.
How has TAIKAI been coping in these COVID-19 times?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: At the beginning of last year, when reality began to set in, we did not think that a distant illness we had heard about in China could get out of hand and reach us. After it did, in March, the concern at TAIKAI was to ensure the safety of the team and take measures so as not to put anyone at risk. We developed a prevention plan, while we went home, and, since then, we have continued to work remotely.
Personally, the hardest thing to manage was making everyone comfortable in their home setups but adjustments were made and no activity needed to stop.
How did TAIKAI come to be the platform we know today?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: TAIKAI was founded in August 2018, although the idea that gave birth to it arose much earlier. Everything happened through our investors, Bright Pixel, who, from the ecosystem, realized that innovation, namely the creation of bridges between the community of innovators and large companies, could be a business opportunity.
When they thought about moving the project forward, they needed a founder to build it and that is when I joined. We founded the company and as of October, we were already two in the company. I met Hélder Vasconcelos, the co-founder partner and CTO of TAIKAI through the blockchain ecosystem. It was not an easy search, but when we spoke, we realized that we had competencies that crossed, me in the business area and him in technology, and that we shared values.
Before launching TAIKAI, I went through experiences that gave me an interesting platform: I did management and technology consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which gave me visibility on the problems that companies face and what they are looking for in terms of solutions; I worked in investment banking, which gave me knowledge about finance and cryptocurrencies; and I helped create the Blockchain Center Portugal community.
What is your core business?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: TAIKAI is an end-to-end platform that manages open innovation challenges for organizations or corporate businesses. The challenges are solved by TAIKAI’s community of innovators and the best projects are selected through a transparent and auditable voting system.
How does TAIKAI innovate?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: Nowadays, both organizations and companies face more and more challenges in their transformation processes and since they do not have a solid digital component, the difficulty of solving them is even greater. It is common to resort to external consultants that bring them innovation, but TAIKAI offers this multiplied by thousands – instead of being a company that responds, we are a community that provides many responses, and this is highly differentiating.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected TAIKAI’s business?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: In terms of impact, we can say that even with aspects that were not so positive, it was overall a positive experience for us. The greatest challenge we faced, and in a good way, was that we had to go after opportunities, open new markets, and approach customers that we would not reach if the plan for 2020 had remained unchanged.
In the short term, the pandemic affected us because we had a series of events and challenges set up that had to be postponed or even canceled. After all, most of them happened in an offline setting. On the other hand, this forced us to change the mindset, to quickly adapt to the new context, and to make challenges exclusively digital, something we’ve been advocating inside companies for a long time and that we’ve responded to, both in terms of product and business.
What lessons can be learned from this period?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: Regarding the team, we learned that not everyone can adapt to a new reality and the pace we were forced to in 2020. We have enough internal capabilities and we adapted quickly to face a new reality, but if it weren’t for the team’s grit, we wouldn’t have made it. Above all, we realized that maintaining operations in 2020 needed superhuman strength and that is why we are hiring new profiles.
How did your customer relationship management evolve more recently?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: With the pandemic, interaction with customers has changed a lot. Right away, it stopped being so social, because we lost the component of physical presence, but we found other ways to keep the connection. We won customers from other countries (like Spain, Austria, Brazil, USA), which is a good indication, with time savings, while growing our user base. As we have more time to dedicate to customers’ needs, I think that relationships have even improved.
Does TAIKAI use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mário Ribeiro Alves: Yes, on the product side we use Mix Panel, to have greater visibility on the analytics of users and customers. On the communication and sales side, Google Ads has been very important for us to appear on the radar of several companies in the world.
Another important aspect has been the use of CRM and contact automation tools. Even within the TAIKAI platform, we try to provide these tools to our customers and users so that they can interact with us, which was not possible before.
A couple of final thoughts.
Mário Ribeiro Alves: Everything we have lived and the experience of remote workforces us to think about whether we feel fulfilled by the work we do, whether we are going in the right direction and improving a little bit each day. So, I think it is important to send a message of hope, in the sense that we believe that we will make a difference and change people’s lives for the better.