The “Alumni E.Stories” took place online last Wednesday, November 18. Two Técnico alumni and entrepreneurs participated in this session: Amelia Santos, co-founder and CEO of Innuos, and Guilherme Farinha, co-founder of Alfredo AI.
After finishing the Computer Science and Engineering course, Amélia Santos embraced several professional challenges, and when the whole adventure started she was working at Tesco, in London. Innuos was created by the Técnico alumna and her husband Nuno Vitorino, who is also a Técnico alumnus. The two entrepreneurs turned their hobby into a successful business based on high quality digital audio.
“It was interesting because it all started as a hobby”, recalled Amélia Santos. The two Técnico alumni liked to listen to high-fidelity music, and managed to set up their own digital music server at home. “We started using it at home and our friends asked where they could buy one. We thought about it and decided to sell it on eBay ”, recalled Amélia Santos. After about six months, they had already sold around 200 units. “We realized that there was huge market potential. We decided to leave our jobs and start our own company”, shared Amélia Santos.
The Mechanical Engineering alumnus Guilherme Farinha recalls his early days as a Técnico student as his “involvement in various extracurricular activities”, which have given him a wealth of knowledge and experience. After a brief research experience, he decided to learn more about software. “I believe that to be good at engineering, we must feel completely at ease working on software, because today everything is software”, he recalled.
After a less successful experience in a startup he co-founded, the alumnus joined 3 Técnico colleagues and created Alfredo AI. They had just finished their courses and they were looking for a house. They often asked themselves if the most suitable apartments fulfilled their requirements and had a fair price. They found out that there was not a single tool in the market that could provide that information and they decided to create Alfredo AI. “Basically, what we do at Alfredo AI is to collect data on a large scale, across the country, and monitor how prices change over time. Based on this information, we can create a series of products”, highlighted Guilherme Farinha. “The main reason why we started was to bring transparency to the real estate market,” he added.
The importance of branding for business, intellectual property, recruitment process, strategies adopted at different stages, expansion of startups and gender equality in engineering and in the world of entrepreneurship were some of the topics covered during the session.
According to Amélia Santos, one of the differentiating factors in the world of entrepreneurship is the ability to solve problems. “When a problem arises, make sure you solve it very quickly, because that is what makes the biggest difference”. Guilherme Farinha added “adapting your product to meet the needs of the market is very important”, which has been one of the aims of Alfredo AI. “From the first day, we strive to build a highly scalable system”, he stressed.
“We have a very good and multidisciplinary team, with very qualified people, many of them from Técnico, which makes us confident to build a solid business”, stressed Amélia Santos, who shared that despite the pandemic, Innous continues to grow. According to Gulherme Farinha, the best way to protect a project “is to hire many more people, to recruit top talent, to work with the best professionals”.
The Técnico alumna took the opportunity to inform that Innous is offering a scholarship for Técnico students enrolled in Computer Science and Engineering course (BSc). “This should be done more often in Portugal: to give back. We are grateful for all we have learnt at Técnico, and I think this is a good way of giving back, because there are many people struggling financially to continue their studies”, she said.
“Whatever you do, make sure that you balance your personal and professional lives”, said Amélia Santos. “Sometimes you may be tempted to say ‘I am not learning anything here’, but you should ask yourselves if you are in fact doing your best, because we can learn in any position”, she added. The CEO of Innous left words of encouragement to students who aspire to be entrepreneurs: “Entrepreneurship is all about being persistent”. “It’s all about being able to continue evolving and fighting even when you fail”.
Guilherme Farinha highlighted the importance of continuous learning: “Don’t be afraid to take risks and to learn new things. One of the most amazing things about Técnico is that when you finish your course you will be able to learn anything”.
The participants had the opportunity to visit the Launch Pad Show Room and learn more about the 20 projects developed by students enrolled in Entrepreneurship curricular units.
The entrepreneurship students were also challenged to participate in The Web Startup Game (TWSG), developed by professor Luís Caldas de Oliveira and supported by EIT InnoEnergy, and Armilar Venture Partners. The winners will be announced on 16th December, the date for which the E.Awards Final Pitch is scheduled.
The Alumni E.Stories are organised by NAPE, in collaboration with TT@Técnico and have the support of Santander Universities Portugal.