Photo: Pedro Moneo, CEO & Founder of Opinno. Credit: Opinno

By Alvaro Anula (article) and Nora Mazzini (video) for Blasting News.

Opinno is a consulting firm that was born in Silicon Valley, but how did the idea of a project arise at the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis?

I come from the world of scientific research and I had worked with private research centres, especially in Europe. At that time, the concept of Open innovation was born, a book written by Henry Chesbrough that broke the paradigms of how we began to think about innovation in all organisations.

What the book said was that technologies, especially digital technology, were going to accelerate and change the way companies innovated; basically what it said was that before innovation was done behind closed doors and with these new technologies there was going to be a more agile flow of people, ideas and financing in companies that would accelerate the process. So I started to establish contact with many research centres, investment funds and accelerators. One of the closest links was with MIT, which granted us the publication of the magazine in Spanish, as well as with the world of Silicon Valley, where the first accelerators were being born. I saw that the topic of Open innovation had started in the world of laboratory innovation and that it was going to change the industrial sectors over the years.

Speaking of crises, the one generated by the pandemic has also affected companies globally. How has it affected you and what measures have you taken to adapt to the new situation?

The Coronavirus pandemic, like all traumas, has several phases. First we went through the shock phase where, not knowing what was coming, we took various measures such as securing the contracts we had, trying to reduce costs to prepare ourselves for a journey through the desert, looking after the health of our employees and seeing what we could do remotely.

The second phase was to see how far the crisis would go, as we realised that it was going to be an accelerator of digitalisation, but that the recovery was not going to be the same in all countries. We opted to be risky and bought a company in Italy in the middle of confinement and in Milan, where the spread in Europe starts.

The experience turned out to be quite curious because we had to sign in front of the notary for Zoom.

One of the ways to get through the crisis caused by the pandemic has been innovation. Has your activity increased due to the need for new tools from other companies?

What we have seen is that not all companies or industrial sectors are going through this phase in the same way. There were very digitised industries (we saw a big difference between banks that were more digital and those that were not) that are going to end up with a more dominant position. Even industries such as pharmaceuticals and healthcare, which until now were quite marginal in the digital world, have also started to invest in this transformation.

So what we have had to do is reformulate our products to be able to work remotely and respond to the new needs of companies, as well as change sectors such as healthcare, which has been the most emerging.

Digital transformation is a reality that is here to stay. Has the pandemic been a push for it to grow?

Absolutely, and at all levels. Digital technologies have been seen as the best tools to be able to provide a touchless experience, which is what we need now and is a way to create more resilient businesses. It also globalises much better, because now with the pandemic there are technology companies that have expanded internationally much faster.

For example, Microsoft Teams or Zoom have a higher degree of utilisation and many applications for video games or online series consumption have grown a lot. Even governments have had to start thinking about regulation for companies that operate digitally, for a world of work that is going to change and is more project-driven than permanent jobs, new realities such as medical consultations done digitally… All these things we knew we had to name and regulate, but this is going to help us to bring order and create a new base.

What is the business profile that comes to Opinno and what are the key points that are given to clients to make the project successful?

Opinno is a consultancy firm that only works in innovation and in a rather broad way. We define ourselves as a shop where we have all the services necessary for the innovation process. There are some, for example, that have to do with the construction of ecosystems, with knowing what is happening, what the new trends are… in other words, the work of prospecting, intelligence and relations with the external ecosystem. There is another task of transformation and thinking about how companies are going to be in the future in order to create plans that involve changing culture, ways of working and digital products and services. And then we have a third group that is in charge of building these new digital products with designers, programmers and software architects.

Innovation also involves new technologies. Opinno-IA is an artificial intelligence system for managing human resources and predicting professional development. What other technological advances does the consultancy firm have that differentiate it from others?

The most important value we have at Opinno is that we were born during a crisis and we consider ourselves as a consultancy firm with a new paradigm and of a new generation. In this new generation, we have a maxim which is that talent no longer wants to work on a permanent payroll for anyone. Talent will want to come together for projects that interest them and with people who inspire them. So we've created a company that is able to give our clients a lifelong consulting experience, but from behind in the execution of projects to bring in the best experts from around the world.

And to do that we've developed a lot of technologies to identify who are the people who know the most about what and to be able to bring them into the projects that we have, and to be able to work remotely. The revolutionary thing is that a project, for example, on data visualisation for an energy company can involve a mathematician from MIT, an anthropologist from the Complutense University, a kid who is researching blockchain in a start-up and business consultants from here. That's where we think you have a more powerful combination than what another traditional consultancy can do.

Can an environmentally sustainable strategy be considered a solid pillar of business success today?

The world in general was moving in that direction and the pandemic has also accelerated the application of systems thinking in both public administrations and private companies. Systems thinking means thinking of the world as a system, and business is part of that system. If you ask a person belonging to Generation X to define what a company is, they will say that it is a group of people and assets that are coordinated to benefit the shareholder. Traditionally it has been thought that the beneficiary should be the shareholder, but in this new systems thinking it is thought that the beneficiaries are not only the stakeholders in a company, but also the employees, the environment, the citizens and everything that surrounds the day to day life of a company.

Therefore, the leaders, strategies and initiatives that come out of the administrations in the near future will be oriented towards all these stakeholders. And curiously, it has been seen in recent years that it is very profitable to think in this way, since, if in the end, the aim is to generate a positive change for the world, the company will always be better off.

In the near future, what are the projects Opinno wants to implement?

We are very focused on three dimensions. One is international growth, we want to be a more global player in innovation and we are going to repeat the move we have made towards Italy in other countries inside and outside Europe. The second is that we think that the future is going to be more technological; a consultancy firm that says how to do things without knowing how to do them is not going anywhere, so we are going to grow in our technological part and make our value proposition more sophisticated for our clients, who no longer just want to know what big data or artificial intelligence is all about, but need to implement it to give them business results.

And the third area where we are going to invest is in strengthening the idea of a company that can provide a traditional and comfortable consultancy service, but that brings together the interest of all the experts we have distributed around the world; and we believe that by doubling our staff we would have an execution capacity equivalent to the large consultancy firms, but with the flexibility that comes from working with experts in the cloud. Because there are Opinno experts from all fields in all regions of the world.

*Content courtesy of the Blasting News team.