My Startup World speaks with Massimo Cannizzo, the CEO and Co-founder at GELLIFY Middle East about his plans to grow the company in the region and he also discussed his aim to create a better way to collaborate and grow, in a fast and sustainable way.
What led you to decide to jump into this space and how is GELLIFY different from existing B2B enablers?
Having the experience of being startup owners, the founders saw the gap that they could fill to build a comprehensive ecosystem that benefits all. We developed a program called ‘GELLIFICATION’ that provides more comprehensive services than mentorship and basic services that are typical of incubators. We act as an investor, a venture capital, a growth advisor, a cultural shift coach, a start-up, and a digital consultant.
GELLIFY is the first innovation platform that invests in B2B software digital startups and connects them to traditional companies to innovate processes, products and business models. We raise funds which allow us to invest in the most cutting-edge and high-potential B2B software technologies developed by talented startups. Our expertise in due diligence and digital transformation is what drives our advisory arm, which helps corporates and governments transform their organizations and connect to startups.
The Middle East as a whole envisions a smart future and the UAE plays a key role in shaping it. We strongly support this ambition and are excited to contribute to the ecosystem that will set the direction for the future by leveraging technology.
How would you define your journey so far, and what is the road forward for GELLIFY in the region?
Since the company was founded in 2017 in Italy, we were able to expand our operations to Spain and most recently UAE. At the moment, we have 25 tech B2B startups under our portfolio, 17 of which are offered in the Middle East.
From our newly set up Middle East headquarters which opened in March 2020, we have started facilitating discussions with a number of large players as well as with the main startup acceleration hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, that will soon become contracts of collaboration.
We aim to help all innovation ecosystem players in various sectors such as healthcare, education, finance, hospitality and entertainment and real estate — to create a better way to collaborate and grow, in a fast and sustainable way. With a vision to play a key role in innovation ecosystem. GELLIFY aims to establish the right partnerships that supports the growth agenda.
How GELLIFY is able to sustain the interest and gains investor confidence in the present circumstances?
Launching GELLIFY Middle East at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 was the most interesting, given the circumstances. Thanks to the agility and overall nature of the company, we were able to ride the wave.
In addition to the various forms of marketing and the management’s regional experience that help with our business development, we ran a series of 10 webinars about how to leverage Digital to manage the crisis such as black swan events and lead in the “new normal” which helped us grow our network and reach. Through this initiative, we demonstrated our know-how and capabilities. Moreover, we connected entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals to ‘explore’ together the adoption of new, innovative ideas and best practices.
Explain how GELLIFY is fueling innovation in startups?
We created a community called EXPLORE where entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals can connect to network, exchange ideas, and infuse their businesses with the latest technologies from startups and GELLIFY capabilities. We hold physical and virtual events to shed light on hot topics, learn from case studies and best practices, and showcase innovative concepts. GELLIFY EXPLORE is an app available to access from any digital device and can be downloaded from App Store and Google Playstore.
What would be an ideal incubation period for startups to reach the ‘GELLIFIED’ status?
Through our ‘GELLIFICATION’ program, we provide startups with funds, match their idea to a beneficiary, groom them by honing their capabilities to develop solutions, help them to close their gaps, allow them to ‘explore’ through our wide network, until they are mature and ready to make an ‘exit’ within 6-24 months.
GELLIFY’s aim is not to bill services to startups but to earn on the outcome of the GELLIFICATION and related scale-up, with a real “skin-in-the-game” approach.
Highlight a few emerging trends that are gaining traction in traditional organizations while adapting smart technology?
This pandemic has taught us to be resilient with the use of smart technology. Two of the sectors that adapted quite well to cater to the changed environment and evolving needs of people are the healthcare and education sectors. In healthcare, for example, where a patient can now consult a doctor and have a body scan from the comfort of his home through a mobile phone. In education, an e-learning method of teaching was introduced as well as technology systems to make smart education effective.
We can also expect hospitality to start offering more virtual or hybrid venues to generate revenue from events, and provide facial recognition and voice command systems in its properties.
As our awareness to eliminate carbon emissions grow, more buildings will adapt energy-saving solutions that benefit both nature and humankind.
Shopping will never be the same with the introduction of indoor navigation, remote assistance and web experience, where a shopper can access and navigate the physical store without actually being there.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) made the above smart systems possible, and organizations have already started adapting them. These technologies help us to be more resilient and allowed businesses to stay open during the pandemic and consumers to stay safe.
What are the major roadblocks in Industry 4.0 implementation that provides an opportunity for the startups?
Many companies still struggle to fully harness the power on Industry 4.0 technologies and build future oriented factories. Creating customer-centric strategies, selecting the right technology, learning how to collect and leverage data, getting access to appropriate skills, updating the organizational culture, and protecting the business from threats, are crucial skills many companies still do not fully master. The challenge is not about digital per se, it is about the integration of a digital layer into a physical ecosystem, building what we call the phygical factory. To help business leaders face these challenges, GELLIFY has created a framework that embodies the blocks every company should implement to drive this evolution.
“Scenarios and Optimization” is one of the blocks where startups have distinctive elements, to help consolidated companies in shaping the new factory. The incredible amount of data people and organizations generate every day is an invaluable asset when it comes to strategizing and decision-making. Advanced algorithms can enable business leaders to monitor the performance of machines, processes, and other operations in real-time, define critical parameters, build potential scenarios and define the proper action plans for operational excellence. Data is the fuel of industrial internet of things, and it’s the fuel of the intelligence that we can build around these data.
Share a recent success story in brief that could be a source of inspiration for the startup community?
Ernesto Mininno, CEO of Cyber Dyne, is a scientist whose company uses Artificial Intelligence to solve the unsolvable. He has developed an optimization algorithm called KIMEME, that is used to find optimal solutions to problems that can be solved by measuring what is happening in your environment at any given time. This algorithm resides in the block “Scenarios and Optimization,” the ultimate achievement of Artificial Intelligence evolution. The main idea here is to assign a complex task to the machine, and a way to measure how good the machine is in performing that task. The machine itself is then able to find the best solution to solve the task.
This kind of technology – called evolutionary computation, or memetic computing – can be used to support decision-making within companies in several different areas, spanning from logistics and computation of the best routes, to production scheduling and workforce management, as well as the design of components. Through this novel approach, companies can minimize the costs of production while maximizing the revenue streams they do not make because of poor or not-optimal decisions. Optimization can look like sci-fi, but it’s not. It’s a reality. Cyber Dyne is also part of the GELLIFY startup portfolio.
What advice you would like to give for budding entrepreneurs in this region, who wish to start their own venture?
Determination, focus, and humility. The path to growing a business quickly is complex and full of obstacles. Too often today, I see a kind of startup euphoria that risks over time being a boomerang. Doing business is not easy and funding is NOT a proxy for market success. Hundreds of startups collect money and then fail.