Are you at the start of your software engineering career and looking for some advice to get things rolling? Or perhaps you are toying with an idea and thinking how to go from idea to startup? One of the members of our .ME community is the person you should definitely talk to.
Gianluca Colaianni from gianlucacolaianni.me is a talented and driven software engineer. A holder of a degree in computer science and an MBA, he is an avid and proactive learner. Apart from his career creating solutions for application in financial and media domains, he is the founder and CTO of Popark. Together with his three colleagues from university, he launched this startup with the idea to solve the issue of mobility. More specifically, sustainable mobility by creating recharge lockers for electric scooters.
Gianluca started his career as a teaching tutor for a student with motor disabilities at the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of Bari. This path changed when he began his work as an analyst programmer / Junior Java EE developer at Auriga S.P.A. His focus turned to finance and banking industry solutions and implementation. Today, he works as a full-time consultant for Fincons Group AG. Furthermore, he is a solution architect for their customer Cornèr Bank.
How does he handle a full-time job and running his startup? Well, Gianluca admits that it’s not at all an easy thing to do.
Here’s what he said about starting out and entrepreneurship when we talked to him about his work.
Gianluca and a Career in Software Engineering
First, we wanted to get to know Gianluca a bit more. We asked him to tell us about how it all started for him and what he currently does.
“I am a software engineer, and I have a degree in computer science. Upon graduating with a bachelor’s, I lived and worked for some years in a software house in Bari. Sometime later, I decided to move to Switzerland as I took a job as a consultant in a software company.”
We also wanted to know what he would say to anyone who is starting out as a software engineer. The keyword is passion.
“It’s a great opportunity because the engineers today have the capability to work everywhere and whenever they want. The first skill that you need to have is a passion for this kind of work. Then the studying part comes. With all the respect for platforms like Coursera, the academic path is a better option. However, it is not enough in itself.
At university, they’ll prepare you for analytical thinking and instill the needed mindset to approach this type of work. Of course, you’ll get into the technical aspects too, but the real work is done by you, hours of practicing, building, and trying. In the end, the proactive approach is the best you can do if you want to become a software engineer.
My suggestion is to be passionate because the software engineering field is one of the most dynamic that we have today. If you want to be at the top of technology, you never end studying. And, if you never end studying, you must be passionate about your work.”
Creating a Portfolio Website
People often complain that they don’t have a website because they are not a developer. Being one, we wanted to see what Gianluca thinks about this most common excuse for not creating a website. Also, we asked him to share any experience/hacks/tips he found useful when he was building his website.
“Uh, I think I am biased here. If you are a bit skilled from a technical point of view, you can create a website with a bit of knowledge of HTML and CSS. In case you have no technical knowledge, then I suggest you use drag and drop type of website building tools that can help you create a great website – without a line of coding. There are really no excuses not to have a website today.”
From Idea to Startup: Popark – Park and Recharge your Electric Scooter
Gianluca is another great example of a successful .MEr who took the plunge and launched a startup with his three colleagues. As a team, they recognized that parking of electrical scooters in cities is becoming a problem. To solve it, they created Popark, a parking and recharge station for electric scooters.
We were eager to find out more! A startup that tries to address the question of mobility in the cities and help on the environmental issues front? Do tell!
“We have developed a prototype and are currently working on finding investors. Moreover, we have a very large customer base including scooter-sharing services and private users of electric scooters. Here in Italy, this year , we have some government incentives to empower the usage of electric scooters for private users. So, really the number of customers with their own electric scooters has skyrocketed. Also, there are companies that provide electric scooter sharing services in most Italian cities.”
“There are some problems, because, from a government point of view, the sharing companies have the problem of public parking. Because in Italy, the problem is that people, for example, leave shared electric scooters on the road in front of the offices and so on. This, in turn, creates a big problem.
And from the private user’s point of view, the problem is different. Because, today it’s more or less always possible to take your electric scooter with you and maybe carry it inside the building, for example, because the number of users is still small. But already today, there are some places where you cannot enter with your electric scooters, for example. Places like little shops or restaurants and some bars, so there is a problem. The users think like ‘Okay. I will reach a place with my electric scooter, but where to park it?’ And they think it’s difficult to find a solution if they are not allowed to carry it inside, because it’s not a bike. You cannot leave the scooter on a street and lock it in a safe way.”
For the sharing companies, there is yet another problem that is related to the charge of the scooters. Today, companies use services to pick up the scooters around the city and bring them to the charging point. This is a big cost for them. In our value proposition, we are trying to solve this kind of problem for the electric companies. Again, we are in an early stage, so we have a prototype for private users, and are working on a solution in the meantime for the scooter sharing companies. This is not my main job, and neither is it for the other co-founders. We hope as the time passes, we’ll be able to transition and make this the main source of our income.”
Fingers crossed for Gianluca and the Popark team!
Gianluca’s Advice for Up-and-coming Entrepreneurs
As they started their Popark project in May 2020, we asked Gianluca for some fresh advice. Anyone who is wondering how to go from idea to startup, read closely.
“It’s a great experience in any case because I never did experience something like this. Especially if you take into account the opportunity to work with very clever and talented people that make a great team.”
Create a Real Value Proposition
He continues by saying that the first thing or the first big issue is to find the real value proposition for the customer.
“Finding the real value proposition for the customer is the first big issue. My point of view is to identify your customer and to identify your value proposition that you carry out for that customer. Otherwise, you will not have a market. And if you don’t really know who your customer is and what the customer wants, you will end up with a product or service that no one wants. Or only a very small portion of your customer base would use it.”
Find Support for Your Vision
Support matters, especially at the beginning of ambitious projects. Gianluca adds:
“Due to its nature, our product/service is not only locally applicable, but it can be applied worldwide. As it essentially supports sustainability and indirectly contributes towards the abandonment of energy-based fossil fuels in the area of transport, we were able to look into a wide variety of programs and possible investors that would back up our project.
It is crucial to find a backer, be it an investor or a program, that aligns with your beliefs and your vision. Otherwise, you might run into multiple problems you have not perceived in the beginning.”
(Not so) Secret Tip for all the Young Entrepreneurs
According to Gianluca, the secret lies in investing your time. The evolution from idea to startup takes time, patience, and persistence.
”If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must dedicate your time, in a full-time way. So, one of the mistakes that we did, was to move with Popark and at the same time, all of us, the four participants, have another full-time job. Hopefully, this will change in the near future. “
Ends with a smile.
To Sum Up
Gianluca Colaianni is a prime example of a software engineer who turned his vision from idea to startup. He pursues his passions day by day and continues to learn and develop his knowledge and competencies. Gianluca, thank you for such a great interview and we wish you the best of luck with turning Popark into your full-time occupation. We couldn’t be happier because you’re a part of the .ME team!