New Entrepreneur (NE)
Name & surname: Giovanni Belforte
Age: 54 years
Sector of activity: Energy
Have you already started your business? No.
What is your future business? Renewable energy systems’ provider
Host Entrepreneur (HE)
Name & surname: Marco Maiocco
Sector of activity: Energy
Experience in running a business (in years): 5
Name of business/website: SEAC / www.seac-esco.it
What is your business? Systems for cottages
Period of exchange: 09/09/2020 – 07/03/2021
Duration of exchange: 6 months
How did Giovanni bring back experience from the Subalps to the Subtropics through the unprecedented year of a pandemic crisis?
My name is Giovanni, I have been living on the island of Tenerife (Spain, Atlantic Ocean) for 13 years. After a twenty-year career in IT in Italy, a few years ago I started studying renewable energy, given the potential of that market in my new homeland. Since 2018 I have been working in that sector, as a commercial technical employee for two companies.
My goal today is to start my own company in the renewable energy sector. I believe that I could have more rewarding results, both moral and economic, by collaborating with other companies and/or professionals, than those I have had working on behalf of others. With this in mind, I have always tried to grow professionally through training and keeping up to date by collecting information and contacts.
I learned about the EYE program by getting in touch with the ITC (Instituto Tecnologico de Canarias), my local contact entity in Tenerife. In a moment of impasse and uncertainty due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, I was determined to react and start planning alternative solutions to my personal, professional, and economic life. I then attended a general Small Enterprise course and got back in touch with ITC.
Having lived in the past in Piedmont (Italy), I was aware of its high potential in the Hi-Tech field, thanks to its industrial background. In fact, people are widely competent, ingenious, and concrete. I got in touch with a local EYE intermediary organization in Turin named CODEX, who referred me to an architect specialized in renewable energy projects. After a mutual exchange of e-mails, we decided to go ahead and embark together on the EYE project.
In architect Marco Maiocco I saw the potential of what I was planning to become: a freelance professional with strong partners and a light work structure. Right there, I thought, I was going to experience situations which I would probably meet on my return home.
Before and during the exchange, I had to face the obstacle of the pandemic, which made my traveling and stay quite problematic. Furthermore, there was the challenge of managing personal and professional relationships left pending in Tenerife. However, the tension finally eased once I set off for Italy.
I was pleased to return to continental Europe, where I could perceive a more advanced evolutionary level, in positive and negative. Turin in particular has changed a lot from how I knew it. It is a hi-tech metropolis of the third millennium, with typical problems of a large European town, but with many opportunities. The city today is more than ever before oriented towards services than to industry. But people are more stressed-out than in Tenerife, where every day feels like the day before and where tourists go to seek relaxation and fun.
Once settled in Italy, my participation in the EYE programme was of direct support to the architect, while following online training courses. The activities accomplished have therefore ranged from IT support to marketing (creation, printing, and distribution of brochures), support in purchases, up to technical and commercial visits to customers and partners. The activities of the last three months orbited around the great opportunity just created by the Italian government through the “Relaunch Decree”, which promotes a series of strong financial benefits for families who decided to install renewable energy plants.
My HE gave me constant support. We engaged in many different activities together. The relationship with him was friendly and mutually beneficial. On the other hand, a new lockdown came about after the first month of a much more relaxed stay, compared to what was happening in Spain at the same time.
The long lockdown regime was addressed with smart working and intelligent logistics techniques, but a further problem was the excessive bureaucracy and lack of clarity that accompanied the “Relaunch Decree”; as usual, good intentions are frustrated in practice by various tangles that can discourage potential buyers.
The constant support to the architect has certainly enriched me with a further valid experience; on my return, I will be able to evaluate the real weight of what I have learned. The exchange allowed me to have a valuable experience in a “protected” environment, and I believe it was equally useful for my HE, given the complementary previous professional experiences of both of us. On balance, the experience was mutually productive, satisfying and advanced at the technological and organizational level. My HE has already adopted some solutions found by me that have helped him to improve his work tools. In the future, I will stay in contact with him. He remains interested in potential market developments in my homeland. I also got in touch with some suppliers or partners who could generate some interesting business opportunities in the future.
Back home, I will make contact with potential partners and customers, who will certainly have changed orientation during the pandemic emergency. I will also make aim to a short-term development of the initiative.
My idea regarding the role of an entrepreneur has fundamentally stayed the same, but with a new edge. For example, it has been useful to see the real effect on the market of public subsidies, as they represent a double-edged sword: if on the one hand they powerfully attract the attention of potential customers, on the other hand, they can create a discouraging increase in bureaucracy ending in nothing done.
Giovanni Belforte (NE): “I definitely recommend the EYE program to other NEs. It is a highly educational experience abroad, under the patronage and monitoring of experienced professionals that allowed me to carry out a feasibility study in the field, minimizing risks and investments.”
Marco Maiocco (HE): “It is always instructive to interact with other people, and while teaching, you always learn something about yourself thanks to the process of re-analyzing your knowledge, which is necessary to transmit it correctly. The support of a person with skills complementary to mine also helped me to solve practical problems and to optimize some daily procedures that are now more fluid, which required the use of time resources that I didn’t have. I can recommend the EYE program to other HEs, especially to those interested in intensifying trade relations with foreign countries. I will probably be able to repeat the exchange experience in the future.”