Today, our current CEO Daniele, had a short chat with Iacopo Carreras, co-founder of U-Hopper. Who knows, better than he, when and how U-Hopper was born, what mistakes have been made in the past and, above all, where this name comes from? Let’s leave him the floor to tell us the whole story!
Good morning! Here we are today with Iacopo Carreras, co-founder of U-Hopper. Iacopo, tell us a little about who you are and where you come from.
My name is Iacopo, I come from Tuscany, but I moved to Trentino a few years ago. In 2001, I graduated in Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Pisa. After a brief work experience as software developer in the industrial field, I moved to Trento where I started working at FBK research center and, at the same time, carrying out a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Pisa and the CNR.
A Tuscan, leaving Tuscany and the sea, to come here, in the heart of the Dolomites. How was the change?
Well, I have always been a mountain-lover; so, it was a pretty easy choice for me. For the woman who later became my wife, it has been a little bit harder - she was definitely more in love with the sea. But in the end, here we are! We have been living in Trento for about twenty years now, and I must admit that Trentino is a bit like our second home.
Trento is also home of your first entrepreneurial initiative: U-Hopper. What motivations and expectations encouraged you to start this adventure?
In the beginning, like all things in life, it happened by chance. I was driven by the desire and willingness to apply my research in everyday contexts; I wanted to transform a few ideas born at the research center into something concrete, going beyond a simple prototype. The spark that lit the fuse was the opportunity to participate in the “Seed Money” open call promoted by the Province of Trento. Our idea turned out to be successful and in 2010, U-Hopper was born.
Now you are the CEO of another company, though: Thinkinside. Can you tell us a little about this new entrepreneurial initiative?
U-Hopper has always been a fertile ground where ideas pop up every day! One of these ideas consisted in what is Thinkinside today, a company providing tracking analytics and geolocation services for indoor spaces, such as shops, airports, hospitals and manufacturing plants.
If you could do something differently, which mistake would you not make again?
Even if it may seem obvious, I believe mistakes must be made! For this reason, I would make them all again, because it is only by making mistakes that you really learn and improve. Maybe, rather than mistakes, I would refer to a learning curve. In fact, when U-Hopper started, I just knew how to write code, research articles and proposals. For me, it was something completely new and unknown; and as always, when you learn by doing, you will clearly do something wrong at some point - it’s a matter of not let yourself get discouraged by these mistakes, but turn them into positive learning experiences.
So, what is the most important thing you have learnt?
Well, one of the many things I have learned while working as an entrepreneur, first at U-Hopper and then at Thinkinside, is that having good technology is not enough to run a good company. Technology alone does not make a business; it needs many other important aspects to become a product.
One of the questions we are often asked is “where does this name come from?”. Now, since you are the founder, can you explain it to us, once and for all?
The name comes from a topic I worked on during my PhD, concerning the so-called “opportunistic networks”, i.e. networks that exploit the proximity of people and their connected devices as a means of communication. In other words: when two people with two connected devices, for example two smartphones, are close to each other, there is the possibility, thanks to these networks, to generate exchanges of data and information.
The potential of these networks increases with the number of people with connected devices close to each other in a given environment; in fact, data can “jump” from one device to another following a sort of “chain effect” and spreading over large areas, such as a city. One of the application scenarios that we had thought of for this technology was, for example, related to proximity marketing.
Thinking of a name that could capture this concept, the idea of "U-Hopper" popped up; “Hopper” recalled the term grasshopper, and it should have represented data “jumping” from one smartphone to another. And from there, the name U-Hopper was born.
2010: U-Hopper was born and this was its first logo
As founder of U-Hopper, what message would you leave to the young professionals we have recently hired?
Working for a company like U-Hopper means getting your hands dirty; it means making a difference, taking the initiative, being actors of the company’s evolution. So, my message would sound like: you need to roll up your sleeves! Be stubborn and push forward your ideas to create new opportunities for both the company and yourself.
Thanks Iacopo for your time. See you soon!
It was a pleasure!