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Fireside chat with Al Costa

Who is Al?

Good question, guess the closest I can find is “someone who tries to live life at its fullest”. Founded 5 companies in 4 countries, lived in 8 (dad diplomat), published 5 books, a music album (keyboardist wannabe), studied biology and then IT… so life’s been fun! But, I think most importantly, “tried to do good”. For the market has enough great entrepreneurs, executives, etc: what is really needs is caring people

Tell us more about your role in TeknTrash.

We are an AI+analytics company which developed Stipra: a software which manages post-sales data for companies to understand consumer patterns.

TeknTrash builds on the vision that companies today do not know the full lifecycle of their products as they do not know what happens with them after they’ve been sold, which is unforgivable in a data-centric world. So our mission is to be the world leader in providing companies with that “missing link”: post-sales data

I am its founder and CEO. I lead the company in terms of strategy and IT: both are part of my kitchen and no one is allowed in. For the rest, I try to give people as much freedom as possible so they can never say they did not have the means to perform their jobs.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

Getting people onboard, and that includes investors. I try to find people who are, above all, good persons. For, like the saying goes: “Where there is a will (goodwill), there is a way (results)”. However, if we invert it “Where there is a way (results), there is a will (goodwill)”, it does not work. So, getting people onboard just because they offer results does not work.

Having said that, I’ve refused many offers of funding from investors who were clearly just on to create dissent, make a quick buck regardless of anything, etc, as I prefer those who are truly passionate on what we do and the potential of our technology to improve society

It is ultimately very rewarding, as you create a team you can trust: startups are roller-coasters and there is always good and bad days, so knowing your people will go through the bad days is very reassuring

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

I’d try to be more compassionate. I used to be very demanding, rough, and inflexible, and that only brought me bad karma. And bad karma means no business coming your way, your phone not ringing, getting ridiculously-based “no”s. So, if I could change something, that’d definitely be #1 in my list

What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?

We are putting all our chips in StipraBin. This is the world’s first smarbin which recycles and rewards for its use. So, instead of having to choose among 4 bins which one is the correct one for recycling, the bin can do it for you and, on top of that, reward you if you are registered.

And, thanks to its sensors, it is able to see for example if a product is not completely used, which indicates customer dissatisfation.

And it is really flashy, being made of wood, having a screen, an NFC card reader, a solar panel, etc. so it is a natural billboard, which means free advertising

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

To be honest, I am a little tired of these vultures always claiming the worst is still to come. It is almost like it expects it to happen so it can say “I warned it! I am a prophet! Hear mine oracle, ye infidels!”
What we need is to tell people that, despite the obvious incoming problems, there will be a sun afterwards. So they can get ready but still keep the hope, which is ultimately what will make then succeed.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Cloud: we use Azure thanks to a generous 155K grant from Microsoft. This allows us to scale quick with just pressing a few buttons. And “quick” is a key requirement in our company: we do things at breakneck speed.

Crypto: we plan to, instead of people getting points and trading them for perks as it happens now at Stipra, getting instead our coins and trading them for money. This would simplify the reward procedure and offer something which has ultimately universal value which is cash. Also, it would allow us to raise funds through an ICO

What books do you have on your nightstand?

I recommend the works of Maria Valtorta: it explains so much about life that, regardless of one’s beliefs, it is impossible to come out of it not seriously shaken.

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