How did you get your business idea?
Five years ago, when I finished my management and finance studies, I noticed that there was a lack of communication and collaboration between universities and companies. I wanted to create something that would allow for more collaboration, because I realized that the companies that innovate the most are the ones that are very close to universities and invite them to innovate and collaborate.
What was the main drive that pushed you to start your business?
I am a pharmacist, and when I was a child I wanted to find a cure for cancer. I worked in pharmaceutical research for 15 years and I wanted to try to find something that would accelerate the cure. Because as I said, I saw as a researcher that the collaboration between universities and companies were not so optimal, I thought a collaboration between the two would be very beneficial for the cure of diseases. After my MBA it was a real push to start the business.
How do you describe your core business activity and what’s the key value you offer to your customer?
My core business is innovation; product innovation and process innovation. Companies that need an innovative process put their request on the platform and submit a challenge to solve on the platform. The platform has machine learning and artificial intelligence that will look for solutions internationally and match the request to a solution.
The key values that we provide at Inocrowd are reduced time, lower costs (you only pay if you find the solution), efficiency (each customer can receive 6 to 12 solutions). The platform is an excellent way for researchers to submit the innovation.
Until now we have solved 30 challenges. We started in 2012, it’s around 10-15 per year. The process is as follows: there are 60 days to submit a solution and another 30-60 days to accept the solution and pick the best solution. So a total of 4 months until a solution is found.
We’ve had success with companies like Volkswagen, protocols in universities in Europe and USA, Asia. We have had partnerships with NASA. We are very happy with the quality of researchers and solvers.
What was your biggest fear before starting up? How did you overcome it?
My biggest fear is that I had done my business plan and designed my platform, but I had no role model or example to follow. I was fearing that it will not work and be a failure. The way I overcome it is with the first success case. The challenge was with the biggest airport in Portugal, they had problems for 30 years since it was built. Some planes were not finding the GPS, this would bring a lot of delays and they had to pay a lot of money. I put the challenge on the platform and within 20 days I had 37 solutions. One of them was really out of the box, it happened that the error was because of a factory that was near the airport and had an antenna that was interfering with the network. The problem was solved at no cost. So my motto is ‘to innovate you have to think out of the box’.
What’s your perception for businesses on the “web”?
When you have a product or a service and you want to scale up, and especially in a country that is so small like Portugal you have to be on the Web to access other international markets.
However, I still feel the human factor is very important because some things cannot be done by the Web. For example, to describe the challenge you need a person to talk to. At Inocrowd, when the challenge is released, you will have people from the team revise the challenge and see if the challenge is clear, detailed enough and has all necessary information for people to understand it.
Our challenge at Inocrowd right now is to put some machine learning to do this faster.
What are the key strategies you use to expand your business over the web?
First we communicate a lot on our success stories over social media. We showcase the customers that are happy, we make them testify and we interview them.
We also try to find people around the world who want to become partners with our company, we try to find the right partner in each country.
How do you advertise your business?
As I mentioned, mostly social media and newspapers when the success cases are narrated.
How many employees do you currently have? How do you describe your management style?
Currently, we have 7 employees in Portugal, 3 in Brazil and 2 in India.
I think I like to lead by example and be a role model. I want my employees to be responsible and decide on their own. I believe they need to see how I work and they will follow me. I don’t like to micro manage, I want them to be take full responsibility and come up with solutions.
What do you look for when recruiting an employee?
I like to work with people who are committed. I want them to feel they own the project, to believe in the business and in the fact that the business model works.
I also want people to be customer driven; they have to be committed and go the extra mile for customers because this is where our success lies.
We have 95% of success because our customers trust us and they know that we will find a solution for them. Sometimes, the challenges they put is their biggest challenge so for them it is very important.
I also look at people who are persistent and resilient; because our work is difficult and requires hard work, this is why they should not give up.
How do you describe yourself in 3 keywords?
I am very resilient, I adapt very fast to changes and I really enjoy team work, I like to work and collaborate with others.
What’s your favorite part of your business, and why?
Obviously the favorite part is when a solution is found for a challenge!
But also when building a relationship with the customer, the part where we try to understand the needs and challenges. It’s mostly like solving a mystery every time.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Choose mentors and role models! Seek advice! Do not try to start anything on your own!
Go out and ask!
It is very important to have a network of people who can help, because if you don’t you will fail.
How has WeHubs helped you or is expected to help you? What is the value of WeHubs?
As a mentor, I would like to help people who want to start a business and contribute with advices when I can.
I also think it is great to find solvers, startups that could solve cases among the members of the WeHubs. Startups that could benefit from the network of Inocrowd.