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End of year interview with Niccolò De Carlo, Ceo of Sensoworks

Would you tell us a bit about Sensoworks? What pushed the father of YHOP’s beer-tracking services to develop a solution for the predictive monitoring of highway overpasses. 

I’ve been a tech enthusiast for the last twenty years. I like to think that technology can really contribute to the improvement of our lives. All that is technological and innovative often scares us. Unfortunately, we’re still tied to the concept that what is intangible – as an algorithm, a software, a platform – is something magical, uncontrollable, weird. This is because we’re rooted in a system based on concrete, tangible conceptions, where progress is measured by the development of physical objects or processes that lead to such development, but it concerns tangible stuff that we have to touch with our hands anyway. 

We’re unable to realize how elaborate algorithms, written by humans and not wizards in the last two decades, contributed to the progresses we witnessed in all the fields, from science to society, from education to the recent industrial development. That’s why I’m more and more passionate about technology. It is finally clear how technology contributes to progress, both with positive and negative aspects. I founded YHOP three years ago. My goal was to give the food and agriculture industry, especially the beer industry, a technological tool, a software platform to ensure traceability of beer products and transparency at all levels, from the producer to the consumer – that’s all of us – and contribute to the overall improvement of an industry that has a real impact on our lives. And after all, beer is a holy thing for us nerds 🙂.

Sensoworks is an innovative startup born in February 2020, co-founded with GreenVulcano Technologies, a corporate group that’s been working in the ICT industry since 2001 and with which we share the same passion, the same desire to promote innovative technologies for everyone. Sure, Sensoworks works in an extremely different context than YHOP. We deal with infrastructure monitoring thanks to our tech platform, Sensoworks (named after the startup), entirely developed in our R&D labs in Rome and Naples. The vision is clear: to use all our skills, all our products and services, to have infrastructure last longer, possibly even longer than the bridges and roads ancient Romans built. Once again, a technology that contributes to the improvement of our lives. How many of us travel with a car or a train under viaducts or tunnels? I think this example is quite obvious. 

January 2020: what was Sensoworks’s roadmap for the year that should have been?

Let’s start from 2019, when, together with my partners, we were talking about the investments to make in order to market a valid, useful technology. I remember clearly the days spent with Alfredo, Ciro and Gianfranco among financial plans, product roadmaps, marketing and sales strategies. We planned everything in detail. I mean, you need to start from solid foundations if you want to realize an idea. In January 2020, we materialized all our ideas: Let’s go! We started to probe the market starting with our contacts, our network. Then we worked on the product, the tech platform. And then the pandemic arrived. COVID-19. We could’ve thought of everything during our meetings, but a pandemic with devastating effects on our health and on the country’s economy was unthinkable. We didn’t give up, though. We like to think that situations like this can create opportunities. We decided to make the best out of this dramatic situation, still investing in the platform and waiting for the market to give a sign of restart. Even the slightest opportunity. We never thought about pivoting or any radical change. We only tried to keep the wheel steady and to achieve our goals, at least for what concerns technological development and the positioning on the target market. We made the best out of a situation that, honestly, was far from favorable.

Did the company’s plan for 2020 handle the shock (still very much felt) of the pandemic? If yes, how did you do that?

We handled the shock with resilience and willingness to achieve the goals we set for the year. We didn’t reach the expected results in terms of revenues but we strived to get ready for everything. We secured the first projects in the last quarter. And honestly, we know how to monitor the shock! :-). We supported development and positioning (marketing) costs thanks to our investments, capitalizing the company. The only thing left to do was to develop the product and have it ready for the market’s restart. And we did that. 

How did your work in the startup change from April onwards? And what about your work on bridges and wind turbines?

The greatest lesson I learned, sadly thanks to the pandemic, was to resist, team up, and support each other without losing sight of the common goals. As a startupper, I already knew what it means to work hard, to roll up your sleeves when everything seems to go against your plans, your ambitions. But you never stop learning, it’s true! The team is fundamental. If you’re united, you can face anything, even enormous challenges such as this pandemic. I always tried to pass on positivity, peace of mind and a lot of willingness to continue, to insist to all my team. My first thought goes to them. A company is the people who compose it. I’m only the guy whose task is to support them, to guide them. They’re the soul! These are the foundations on which I base many of the activities I deal with as a CEO. About bridges and wind turbines (eh eh), we went back to ‘em a couple of months ago. Sure it would’ve been better in April, in spring, with those beautiful days!

Let’s try and sum this year. What will you bring with you in 2021 and what do you want to leave behind?

In 2021 I will bring with me the great strength we faced this weird, unexpected, unforeseeable 2020 with, for sure. We will start again with the desire to bring forward innovative technology at the service of everyone, although we’re well aware that 2021 will be a difficult year too. The pandemic modified the economic and social assets of the country, it won’t be easy. But we’ll take up the challenge and will face 2021 with the same firmness we tackled 2020 with. Honestly, I wouldn’t leave anything behind in 2020. I mean, I’d never wish anyone on any planet to go through a pandemic like this, but all that happened and that we confronted, I wouldn’t leave it behind. It made us stronger, it made us grow and it motivated us to do even better in the future.

As is our tradition: three end of the year’s resolutions!

To consolidate Sensoworks as a dynamic monitoring platform for the infrastructure. Roads, highways, viaducts, these are all the bases of our lives. They connect distant families and allow us to travel, to live the city, to improve our impact on Earth. 

To encourage the adoption of company welfare practices. I strongly believe in the balance between private and professional life. That’s why we’ll introduce for all the employees a day off each and every month and bonuses to spend in cultural activities and to arrange an adequate workstation at home and many more initiatives. 

And that my travel buddies, partners, colleagues, employees and their families could face as best they can a difficult year as it is the next one.

Thanks, Niccolò!