A smart umbrella stand and other things invented by OpenPicus. But Italy isn't ready for Internet of Things

OpenPicus is a sort of Arduino platform for professional applications. It’s founded by Claudio Carnevali and Gabriele Allegria. The startup was the first italian invited by New York City for Global Industry Challenge

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OpenPicus is the first ever Italian company that was invited to come to New York by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) for a program organized and paid by the City. The program was the Global Industry Challenge and ran from May 12 to 14.

OpenPicus was selected with other 14 startups from all over the world for a three day full immersion into NYC’s manufacturing-tech ecosystem, with a chance «to build partnerships with local and national firms».

«My experience was so awesome that I decided to stay one week longer, and in the end I’ve been able to find our first representative in New York, where we plan to open an office and start building our operations in the U.S. market» Claudio Carnevali, CEO and co-founder of openPicus, told me.

Claudio is 38 years old – «a startupper with some white hair», he jokes –, he’s originally from Fano, Marche and has a degree in Engineering and Management. «I am an electronic hardware passionate from my childhood, I was lucky enough to transform my hobby into my profession»,  he explains. It helped that his family owned an electronic manufacturing company.

Claudio started his company three years ago in Rome with Gabriele Allegria, who is now the Chief Technology Officer. «We started with a blog because I thought that storytelling was important to create a community before launching a real product – says Claudio -. We design and manufacture open hardware programmable modules for Internet of Things. You could call it a sort of Arduino platform for professional applications. In other words, we are the missing link between cloud computing and hardware, we create hardware that talks to the cloud. So our clients are mostly software companies».

As an example, Claudio mentions a company that used OpenPicus to make a «smart umbrella stand»: if the weather forecast says it will rain, the stand lights up in order to remind you to get the umbrella before leaving home. A big project was Evian Smart Drop, designed for the famous French brand of mineral water: it’s an Internet connected fridge magnet that you can press when you’re running out of bottles, and it transmits a new home delivery order.

«We employ ten people, half in Rome and half in our factory in Marche – says Claudio -. We have around 3,000 clients and 95% of our sales are abroad. So far we’ve grown with our own money, and we are break even. We’ve been very successful in Europe, from Germany to Great Britain, including Spain and East Europe. Unfortunately the Italian market is quite slow to embrace our kind of innovation».

Actually OpenPicus didn’t apply for the Global Industry Challenge. «It was W2NYC that contacted us – recalls Claudio -. I was so surprised to see a public administration that really helps entrepreneurs. In Europe we don’t apply for grants or other public programs because they cost so much in terms of red tape and bureaucracy, more than the benefits they give you. With initiatives like W2NYC the City of New York shows it understands the power of knowledge sharing to foster the tech community and attract new talent» (see here W2NYC thanking the spring participants, and their photo).

«I couldn’t dream of being able to learn so much and make so many business contacts in only three days – goes on Claudio -. We visited a lot of exciting places: the incubator New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the digital advertising agency R/GA, Quirky. We attended a Hardwired NYC event and met a few venture capitalists. I’ve understood that the NYC tech community is very diverse, it has so many different players, and they are all available: they will help you even if you don’t ask. That’s a big difference from Europe where they help you only in exchange of something. But you must be good at networking, which is a crucial skill in this environment. I think this is the right moment to be here, also for fund raising».

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