21st December 2018
The Italian founders of Bending Spoons
Luca has two master's degrees, both obtained with honors, as a T.I.M.E. ("Top Industrial Managers for Europe", a double degree program for the best engineering students) scholar. The first one in Electronic Engineering at the University of Padova and the second one in Telecommunications Engineering at the Technical University of Copenhagen. He later started working for McKinsey & Company as a consultant for the Copenhagen office, but often traveling between London and Stockholm. Luca has mainly followed customers in the "consumer goods" and "telecommunications" sectors on issues of development and technological reorganization. Always passionate about entrepreneurship, Luca left McKinsey to work full-time on his own business with his old friends, developing a specific experience in business strategy and recruiting. Luca was born in 1985.
Tell us briefly about your training and work experience and what led you to the decision to co-found Bending Spoons.
I have two Master's degrees in Engineering (Electronics and Telecommunications). I worked at McKinsey & Company in the UK and in Scandinavia and, in the meantime, I founded Evertale, a technology start-up that even though it failed, allowed me to learn a lot. Since I was a child, I dreamed to become an entrepreneur and could not give myself away, so I left immediately after this first attempt by co-founding Bending Spoons.
Where does the company’s name you chose come from?
The name came to one of my co-founders' mind thinking about the film Matrix. We liked it straight away because the concept of bending spoons with thought encompasses our choice of aiming at doing great things, even if seemingly impossible, and persevering with full determination, until the result is achieved.
While many young people decide to emigrate abroad, you have instead decided to take the opposite route by returning to Italy after a period in Copenhagen. What are the reasons behind this choice? And what do you think could be the role of Bending Spoons within the Italian ecosystem?
We came back for two reasons. Firstly, we thought we would find a lot of young, talented “hungry” people that would have been happy to join our project. Young people who, otherwise, would have gone abroad or would have done a job they wouldn't have loved: Italy is, in fact, a country that today offers few interesting job opportunities. To the exact opposite of Denmark, where we founded Bending Spoons. Secondly, we hoped that, if we succeeded in building a globally successful tech enterprise, and do this by applying a special business philosophy, we would have contributed, even if only in a small part, to stimulating an economic and cultural renaissance in our country. While we have found talented young people, there is still a lot of work to do for having a positive impact on the country. But we knew that.
Can you give us some examples of apps created by you and explain why you decided to create them?
All our apps are entirely created by us, from design to programming, from content to marketing. When we identify a promising vertical (for example, a type of app that is attracting great interest and for which we think we can create a winning product) we create the app and apply our proprietary technologies and our competences to try to make it one of the most important in its vertical.
Currently your portfolio includes 20 apps in very different sectors. Why did you decide to opt for a portfolio diversification strategy and what competitive advantage do you think it will bring?
While in the long term it is possible that we will focus on a few products (perhaps even just one) with enormous potential, for now we think it is optimal to work on a wider portfolio because it allows us to grow faster in the medium term. In particular, the competitive advantages of a relatively large and differentiated portfolio lie in the economies of scale that are established: both the knowledge we accumulate and the technologies we build by working on an app tend to be replicable even to other apps.
Clearly, we're more efficient in allocating talent and capital, since we can aggressively pursue new opportunities and reduce the investment, for example in advertising, where we see that competition becomes too intense, with a negative marginality as result.
This approach permits us to identify new opportunities and exploit them, something that is lacking in those companies that are completely focused on a single product.
The component of R&D is certainly very important for you: are there any areas on which you are particularly focused?
We invest a lot in technological innovation in absolutely all our activities: I would say that the automation of repetitive tasks and the strengthening of our skills through technological tools are fundamental strategic priorities. Take marketing, for example. In recent months we have focused on some proprietary technologies related to the marketing of apps that allow us to obtain a greater number of organic downloads through the App Store and to invest in a very efficient way in advertising and, therefore, to acquire more users at lower costs than it is possible with other tools available on the market.
Are there any specific geographic areas or sectors where would you like to invest in the future?
We plan to expand into some new verticals, but I can't go into that now. As far as the geographic penetration of Bending Spoons is concerned, at the moment we are doing well all over the world with the exception of three important Asian markets that we're still studying: China, Japan and South Korea. We want to make big steps forward there too, in the next two years.
You have been Super Coach for the "Consumer Products" category in the B Heroes acceleration course, wanted by Fabio Cannavale in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo and other Italian companies. What kind of vision gave you the participation in this initiative, regarding the Italian Venture Capital ecosystem?
I have been in contact with start-ups and other entrepreneurs involved more than I have been with investors, so I do not feel I have a 360 degrees vision. Having said that, I have the impression that the comparison with foreign countries is still ruthless: the desire to invest is there, but on one hand the number and quality of the opportunities are still scarce, and on the other hand investors often tend to impose conditions that are far from ideal for entrepreneurs, without understanding that they doing this will reduce the chances of success for the companies and consequently their chances of obtaining a good return on the investments. This is not always true and I have found several exceptions: good entrepreneurs with good projects and competent and wise investors.
The evaluation ranking of your users is very high. In your opinion, what are the elements that lead to such a positive response from the market?
Our apps are often positioned among the top-quality ones in the respective categories and I truly believe they deserve the excellent ratings they have. However, the average rating visible on the App Store is not so indicative of quality, I think. It is in fact heavily impacted by factors that are at least questionable. Let me give you an example: it is not difficult for a completely free app to get a very high rating, even if the product itself is very mediocre. Another app, perhaps much better but which costs only a few euros, will tend to get much, much lower ratings. We, as human beings, are inclined to assign a huge value to gratuity, even when the alternative, much more satisfying from all points of view, requires us to pay very minimal figures, figures that we would not hesitate to pay out incrementally at the price of purchase of an asset that is not already free. In other words, it's much worse to pay 1 euro instead of 0 euro than to charge 2 euros instead of 1 euro. These cognitive bias underpin app evaluations in a way that is often drastic and not very useful for both the developer and the future users.
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