Diving into the World of Innovation: A Conversation with Roberto Iannone
In the vibrant tapestry of international business, few stand out as brilliantly as Roberto Iannone, CEO and Founder of Zoundream AG. Originating from Switzerland but speaking to us from Italy, Roberto’s journey is as multifaceted as it is intriguing. Recently, we had the privilege of joining him for a candid video interview for ‘Bright Founders Talk’, hosted by the international software development company, Temy.
Our discussion traversed the landscapes of his personal and professional life, from the early days as an ambitious engineer to his role as a trailblazing entrepreneur. Through it all, a consistent theme emerged: the drive to challenge conventions, break boundaries, and seek innovation.
This article offers a deep dive into that conversation, inviting readers to explore the motivations, challenges, and successes that have shaped Roberto’s captivating narrative. Join us, as we uncover the story of a man driven by passion, purpose, and an unyielding commitment to reimagining the future.
Breaking Free: Roberto Iannone on the Journey from Corporate Chains to Entrepreneurship
Roberto Iannone, the CEO and founder of Zoundream, offers a raw glimpse into the fabric of his entrepreneurial journey. Sitting comfortably, yet audibly passionate, Roberto shares, “When I see something that doesn’t make a lot of sense for me, and then I have to do it anyway… because someone above me tells me to do that, I cannot stand.” Such visceral reactions towards established norms nudged him into the challenging world of startups.
His formative years began in the unpredictability of engineering studies – not because he was chasing a dream but more out of practicality. Roberto candidly admits, “I honestly didn’t know. I started this when I was 18-19, and thought if I do engineering, I keep all the options open for me.” However, the bedrock of engineering — dissecting problems and seeking solutions methodically — has been a companion in his journey, even if indirectly. Perhaps this engineered mindset played its part in his 8-year stint at a management consultancy, a role he initially planned for a mere year. The constant learning, the dive into diverse projects and sectors, kept him anchored. But a pivotal realization dawned, “I was not a person that wants to get where he gets because he’s the son of somebody. I realized I want to find my own way.”
Yet, life wasn’t all rosy after stepping out of consulting. The gap between leaving that job and founding Zoundream spanned almost half a decade. But Roberto’s narrative is more than just chronology; it’s about introspection, understanding oneself, and chasing not just success, but meaning. As he steers Zoundream forward, he remains driven, if not by the illusion of work-life balance, then by the pursuit of genuine fulfillment.
“When I see something that doesn’t make a lot of sense for me… I cannot stand.” – Roberto Iannone
From Corporate Ladders to Baby Cries: Roberto’s Unexpected Journey to Entrepreneurship
A Detour to Discover the Dream
The allure of a startup can often feel like a siren song to those in the corporate world, but for Roberto, it was a song he intentionally ignored. Despite working in a consulting role and gathering immense knowledge, his ambitions had always been aimed towards the grandeur of billion-dollar corporations. In his words, “Starting my own company was definitely not something that I wanted.” He craved the stability of well-established organizations over the volatility of startups. However, as fate would have it, Roberto’s course was altered not by a career epiphany, but by an academic obligation.
The MBA Course that Changed Everything
A mandatory entrepreneurship course during his executive MBA program was all it took to trigger a series of life-altering realizations for Roberto. At the heart of these revelations was an exercise, a simple pitch that would intertwine his personal life with his professional trajectory. Roberto pitched “Zoundream”, an AI tool designed to analyze a baby’s cries. The inspiration? His four-month-old daughter. “It was just for the purpose of the exercise,” he recollected, but soon enough, Zoundream went from being a mere class activity to Roberto’s passion project. He added, “I started working [on it] in my free time. It was just for fun.”
Deciphering Cries and Changing Lives with Zoundream
While many could simplify Zoundream as a translator of infant cries, its scope is far broader and profoundly impactful. Beyond notifying parents if their child is hungry or needs to burp, Zoundream’s AI can detect early signs of developmental disorders like autism from the patterns of an infant’s cries. Roberto emphasized, “The first period is the most relevant… because the brain is still developing.” By potentially identifying early indicators of developmental disorders, Zoundream offers a window of opportunity for timely interventions, shaping a healthier developmental journey for infants.
“From a personality point of view, and from who I am… that’s exactly where I fit the most,” Roberto mused. It’s a powerful testament to how a deep personal connection, combined with professional expertise, can lead to groundbreaking innovations.
Revolutionizing Parenting: Roberto’s Vision of a World Connected by Infant Sounds
“Remember the time when you were puzzled about your baby’s cry, wishing for a universal translator? Roberto does. His venture is on the cusp of something groundbreaking: an AI-driven solution designed to understand and decode infant sounds. He admits, “Not with the first child, but definitely with the second,” referring to using his technology on his own offspring. His raw honesty, coupled with his venture’s promise, sheds light on a futuristic parenting paradigm.”
Roberto’s enterprise is not just about innovation but also about expansion. From roots in Spain and Switzerland, they’re spreading their wings to the US and China. And this isn’t just about global domination in a traditional business sense. It’s about creating a new market segment from scratch, navigating the tricky waters of entrepreneurship where, as Roberto candidly shares, “The segment doesn’t exist. So we had to completely understand how to reach the market.”
At the heart of this business venture is not just technology, but also people. Roberto, despite being at the helm of this revolutionary idea, still takes an active part in the hiring process, emphasizing cultural fit. It’s not just about having the right skills; it’s about the right mindset. As he aptly puts it, “Having people that fit in the team, from a personality point of view, is the most important factor. You can change a person’s way of thinking, but you can’t change who they are at their core.”
Roberto on Entrepreneurship: Balancing Family, Work, and the Illusive ‘Perfect Idea’
The ambiance in the room shifted as Roberto leaned forward, reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey. “Look for people that can give you advice. A lot,” he advised earnestly. With a knowing smirk, he added, “You don’t have to listen to everybody. But hear them out.” Roberto’s message was clear – feedback is everywhere, but the art is in discerning what to take to heart. He cautioned against the chase for the ‘perfect idea’, emphasizing its evolution over time. “Perfect ideas never come,” he mused, “and even when you think you’ve landed on one, it changes.”
The conversation took a personal turn as the challenges of being both a father and an entrepreneur came into focus. There was a palpable sense of vulnerability in his voice when he spoke of the constant guilt tug-of-war between work and family. “When you work, you feel like you’re taking time off your family and vice versa.” Roberto candidly admitted to sidelining hobbies and personal time to manage this duality. His words painted a vivid picture of the intricate dance of managing professional ambition with the responsibilities of parenthood.
In a world that often glamorizes the ‘hustle’, Roberto’s perspective was refreshingly grounded. He emphasized the importance of mental well-being, noting the ever-looming risk of burnout. “Sometimes, it’s okay to go slow,” he shared, a nugget of wisdom that seemed at odds with the frantic pace of startup life, yet resonated deeply. Wrapping up, he left us with a poignant sentiment to ponder, “The company needs me, but it needs me well.”