B&C: Hi Marco, first of all, thank you for this interview. Can you explain to our readers what your position and role are at Hello?
MF: Hey Gian Maria, thanks to you, I’m really glad to take part at this interview. Well, I started working on an Hello mock with Giuseppe Travasoni on September 2014 and as soon as we’ve seen it working, we’ve shared it with our actual team. After seven months of hard work we launched the first version of the infrastructure and our iOS app. Actually, after eleven months, I’m still developing the realtime backend of the project, I’m working at the product design and I care of the administrative duties of the company.
B&C: Hello seems to be a Whatsapp clone at first sight, but actually it's very different. Can you explain us how Hello works?
MF: As you said, Hello is totally different. WhatsApp is based on the concept that I already know a person and its mobile number, in order to start our conversation. The same problem occurs with other similar services. Hello instead, is an instant messaging app that connects people in public chatrooms around locations even if you haven’t any previous connection with them. For example you could chat with people in your city or a in place you are going to visit, using our teleport feature. In the near future you’ll also see events and points of interest directly from our platform, where we’re going to offer paid premium services to businesses.
B&C: Thank you for your complete explanation. Now that we know what Hello is, we have to ask you: where and how are you promoting your App? Do you use Social Networks?
MF: We launched it at first on Product Hunt then we used only a few featured posts on Facebook to improve visibility of our press releases.
B&C: On the basis of my experiences, Hello could be a very useful App at big events but what are the opinions of the people? Do they think that Hello is a good idea? Or is it an App among the many Apps?
MF: We tried to create an Hello premium venue during a local event but it was too early and nobody had our App installed, but we’re actually working on a music event in September to offer them chatrooms for that. Our metrics will show if users like our product.
B&C: Recently, we have seen that Atooma, an Italian Software House, has secured an alliance with Samsung, and now its Atooma App is a very useful App in the Samsung ecosystem. Do you have some contacts with a big company like Microsoft, or Apple, or someone else, to put Hello in a renowned Mobile O.S., like Atooma did?
MF: I really like Atooma, they did a great work and I think their product is awesome. From our side, there’s actually no plan to be involved into an operating system, but we’ll see what the future reserves for us.
B&C: Italy is a resistant nation to the IT investments. Usually Italian companies invest into “old-style” companies (real estate, craft, etc.). What is the support of Italian institutions? As startup, do you have some assistance?
MF: Italy is really a strange place to start building a company, but something is moving and organizations are helping entrepreneurs in finding their path to let the company grow.
B&C: We can see that your team is composed of four members. Could you introduce your teammate? Do you think that your team is adequate for your targets?
MF: Our team is coarse. Everyone there is an unique person and not someone just covering a role. When we plan something together our question is “how much time”, not “can we do this” and that’s why I feel confident enough to say “yes, our team is totally qualified for that but we need to let it grow. Our family must be bigger!".
B&C: Your HQ is in Italy (Bologna). Have you ever thought about working in England or Germany? What do you think about the brain drain?
MF: Lets’s start saying that one of my goals is to create a great company based in Italy, like the one I lived in the US and to let someone else live the American Dream here in Bologna, because as someone once said, it’s really possibile to build a startup here in Bologna, without moving to the Silicon Valley. But to be honest, I initially thought it could be really hard to build a startup in Italy, then I decided to incorporate our company in London in order to get a more international appeal with the will of keeping the core of the company here in Bologna. Costs looked cheaper and everything looked easier. But I was wrong, and learning from my mistakes, I decided to reincorporate our company in Italy because it’s where we all want to stay and where I want to bring our revenues.
B&C: Last question, but not the least. Your software is available for iOS, but not for Android and Windows Phone, at the present moment. What do you think about the Windows Phones? Are these good products in your opinion? Will be realized a Windows Phone and Android version of Hello? What do you think about the three market? Iain McNeil, Development Director at Slitherine, is not enthusiastic about the PlayStore of Google: “The problem with Android is the store. It is a fiasco. Getting noticed is almost impossible. There is simply no section for new releases. A new game arrives and nobody knows as there is nowhere for them to these new games”.
MF: Well, considering that Giuseppe, my partner, is one of the best developers in town and he’s with me since the beginning, we started Hello with an App for iPhone. We have plans to cover Windows Phone and Android too, but right now we’re pushing on iOS. In my opinion, the real problem with Android is the fragmentation of all the devices and their operating system versions.
B&C: Thank you Marco, it has been a pleasure talking with you!
MF: You’re welcome, the pleasure is mine. Thanks again.