21st December 2018
The Italian founders of Bending Spoons
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 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 taught me a lot, even though it failed. Since I was a child, I dreamed to become an entrepreneur and could not give my dream up, so I left immediately after this first attempt by co-founding Bending Spoons.
Where does the company’s name you chose come from?
One of my fellow co-founders came up with this name, ispired by the movie Matrix. We liked it straight away because the concept of bending spoons thought the force of thought encompasses our scope: doing great things, even if apparently impossible, and never give up until you achieve your goal.
While many young people decide to leave Italy to find a job abroad, you have instead decided to take the opposite route by returning to Italy after some time 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 love: Italy today offers a very limited number of interesting job opportunities. That's exactly the opposite of Denmark, where we founded Bending Spoons. Secondly, we hoped that, if we succeeded in building a globally successful tech enterprise, with an innovative, fresh business philosophy, we would have given our little contribution to stimulating an economic and cultural renaissance in our country. We have found talented young people,but there is still a lot to do to really make a difference in this country. But we knew that.
Can you give us some examples of apps you guys created and explain what inspired you?
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: both the knowledge we accumulate and the technologies we build by working on an app tend to be replicable even to other apps.
Clearly, this strategy allows us to be more efficient in allocating talent and capital, since we can aggressively pursue new opportunities and reduce the investment, for example in advertising, when we see that competition becomes too intense, resulting in an unsatisfactory marginality.
This approach allows us to identify new opportunities and exploit them, something that companies focused on one single product might fail to do.
The R&D factor is certainly very important to 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. Such technologies allos 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 a lover cost than it is possible with other tools available in 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 wer your take-aways about the Italian Venture Capital ecosystem?
I have been in contact with start-ups and other entrepreneurs who had more contacts with investors than I had, 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, on the other hand investors often tend to impose conditions that are far from ideal for entrepreneurs. They don't seem to understand that, by doing this, they will reduce the companies' chances of success and consequently their chances of obtaining a good return on their 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. Apps that are much better but that cost 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, 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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