INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Innovation Starts with People: Interview with Paolo Errico, Maxfone’s CEO
Paolo Errico of Maxfone tells us how they transport and analyze data to provide everyone with access to markets and knowledge.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Paolo Errico: We are like most Italian families. We live all the aspects related to work, school, and life just like the other fellow entrepreneurs, but with a little more anxiety. This is closely related to the role I play in Confindustria, whereby I receive every day a lot of information that, on the one hand, allow me to have a broader view on the actual health of our companies, but on the other hand, they also carry with them many anxieties and worries.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Maxfone.
Paolo Errico: For me, Maxfone is more than an idea. I would call it an entrepreneurial journey that started a long time ago when my colleagues and I decided to undertake a new adventure. SocialMeter, which is Maxfone’s competence center dedicated to Big Data analysis, is only the most recent of the many projects created in the last twenty years. It certainly does not represent the only case in the business panorama, but being the first national patent in our sector, it is the most innovative. The passion for technology is something that has always accompanied me, and having worked in environments characterized by a high rate of innovation, research, and development are now the main elements of this path.
How does Maxfone innovate?
Paolo Errico: I could tell you that our analytical methodology has received several awards at the European level or that we are a subject of study by international research institutes, or that we have developed unique and distinctive algorithms. But the truth is that our company innovates mainly because of our people, which are driven by curiosity and always looking for something new to learn and tell. As a practical matter, we invest more than 10% of our annual income in R&D, we establish and maintain relationships with universities, and we carry out projects along with customers who are driven by the ambition to innovate.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Paolo Errico: During the lockdown, we were fortunate to be able to continue operating without putting anyone to lay off, but on the other hand, we were forced to convert our activities into remote working. However, the characteristics of our industry have allowed us to quickly convert the working procedures. Let us say that the pandemic has impacted us indirectly: the emergency has affected many of our customers, who have had to make investment cuts. We have faced this situation by adopting steering by sight, which means managing events day by day: not only today but in every time of uncertainty, I believe that the life of the company must be managed in micro-moments.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Paolo Errico: No, fortunately, I didn’t have to make difficult choices, especially those with a high impact on people. Then, we are used to conducting “trench wars,” so rather than learning lessons, during these experiences, we have obtained confirmations about a whole series of trends that we already sensed would come. The only difference is that now they have accelerated exponentially.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Paolo Errico: Stress is managed by waking up around 4:30 in the morning and, paradoxically, starting to think about possible solutions. We alternate moments of enthusiasm with moments of concern, but always with positivity and awareness that we live in a temporary situation. And it will end.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Paolo Errico: Our competitors are all those who sell commodities; instead, we sell answers, what our brand represents, our expertise, the reasons for why we work in a certain way. We feel a bit like Pagani Zonda, the car’s small manufacturers of excellence known mostly to connoisseurs, who compete against Ferrari and Lamborghini; the only difference is that we compete in the field of Big Data analysis. As in Zonda, every component is treated in detail (even the switches are handmade), so even in our company, no project is launched on the market if it is not perfect and 100% unique. While others sell standard items, we also sell the value of our people.
Your final thoughts?
Paolo Errico: We’ll get out of this historical moment deeply changed.
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