We interview Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, founder of Pedius, on the challenges his startup faced while growing and expanding internationally.
For a person suffering from an auditory deficit even a simple phone call can be impossible due to his condition.
This is what inspired Italian entrepreneur Lorenzo Di Ciaccio to develop Pedius, an app that allows deaf people to make and answer phone calls, thanks to a text translation.
Since his founding in 2012 Pedius has come a long way: it started all with an intuition of Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, after realizing how difficult life can be for a deaf person.
Mr Di Ciaccio’s efforts payed out in a very short time: the same year Pedius came first in the Global Social Venture Competition, an international contest set up by the Haas School of Business (at UC Berkeley) in Berkeley, California and reached the finals in a start up contest of the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan, Italy.
Thanks to these successes the funding came shortly after: the following year, in 2013, Telecom, a paramount Italian telecommunications company granted €25.000 via its investment program Working Capital.
This was only the beginning: the funding kept on growing throughout the years, raising a €410.000 seed from Embed Capital in 2014 and an outstanding €1.4 Mln funding from an Invitalia founding.
In the last five years Pedius kept growing at a fast pace.
In 2016 it took part to the 1776 Challenge cup, one of the most important startups contests on a global scale. Two years later, Pedius partnered with Enel, one of the most important energy company in Italy.
International growth has been one of Pedius biggest focuses since the very beginning of their journey. Their app is now offered to users in 14 countries across 5 continents.
Questions for Lorenzo Di Ciaccio
- Pedius is a great success story, well done! How did you come up with the idea of Pedius?
- Could you give us a quick intro to your services and business model?
- When did you start thinking about expanding internationally?
- Did you find or have partners helping you in your expansion?
- What difficulties did you experience while expanding your business abroad? What were the top issues you had to overcome?
- In your experience, should a startup start expanding abroad immediately, or consolidate first the position in their market?
- Would you have any tips for startups looking to expand internationally?
#1. Pedius is a great success story, well done! How did you come up with the idea of Pedius?
Pedius’ story begins with a TV program that featured the story of a Deaf man named Gabriele. One night he was involved in a car accident and left stranded for hours on the side of the road after the other driver discovered him to be deaf and ‘defenseless’.
As he couldn’t call for help, Gabriele’s only option was to wait in hopes that somebody would eventually come to his rescue. Unfortunately this situation is not infrequent for a percentage of the world population belonging to the Deaf community.
I was immediately inspired by Gabriele’s story – I thought it was unbelievable that with all the technology we have in this world a Deaf individual still cannot make a basic phone call, in an emergency nonetheless. So, I quit my job and together with Pedius co-founders Stefano La Cesa and Alessandro Gaeta made the app a reality.
#2. Could you give us a quick intro to your services and business model?
Pedius is a communication service that allows the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to make phone calls, without a third party intermediary, 24/7. Users can type or speak their message into their device and Pedius sends it to their chosen contact, using either their own voice or an automated voice through speech synthesis technology. In real-time the user reads the written translation of their contact’s answer.
Pedius is completely free to download on both Android and Apple devices, and can be used on smartphones, tablets, or even the PC. Every month, users receive 20 free conversation minutes, while premium subscriptions are also always available for purchase.
Alongside its personal and daily use, Pedius has established important partnerships with large companies, which have made their call centers and services accessible through the app.
In addition, Pedius offers companies with Deaf or Hard of Hearing employees our service to promote work inclusion by activating conference calls and unlimited incoming and outgoing calls. The work inclusion service has no impact on companies’ existing infrastructure and pricing is based on the company’s size.
#3. When did you start thinking about expanding internationally?
Since founding, our intention has always been to make Pedius accessible worldwide. Soon after Pedius was established in Italy we were ready to expand.
We are now available in 14 countries (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and The United States) and, as of today have registered over 35,000 users, supporting 7 languages.
#4. Did you find or have partners helping you in your expansion?
We find local country managers in expansion locations. For example, we have country managers in Brazil and Hong Kong that are responsible for events, conducting user trials, and facilitating business operations.
Our managers are fundamental in better understanding local culture, user values, social protocols, and general navigation of each country.
Pedius e @veasyt creano per TIM un nuovo servizio ibrido che consente ai dipendenti sordi dell’azienda di partecipare a tutti i processi aziendali, dalle call conference alle riunioni dal vivo. #inclusionelavorativa #accessibilità #sordità https://t.co/436gFZCfLm— Pedius (@PediusCall) July 3, 2020
#5. What difficulties did you experience while expanding your business abroad? What were the top issues you had to overcome?
The difficulties we experienced and still do experience during expansion are the localization and in depth understanding of cultural differences.
Each country requires a different approach in order to create a community. It is not a simple one size fits all approach and for this reason I would say we experience more learning curves instead of complete difficulties.
#6. In your experience, should a startup start expanding abroad immediately, or consolidate first the position in their market?
I think that the response can vary based on the vision and mission of the startup. There are many small details a startup must take into account before expanding.
For example, Pedius’ founding principle is modularity, allowing quick replacement of components and allowing easy replicability, both facilitating easy global expansion. Pedius is able to be integrated and adapted with any existing infrastructure.
This flexibility may not be the case for every start up and that is ok, the most important thing is to understand the strategic plan and use it as a guide for your decisions and planning.
#7. Would you have any tips for startups looking to expand internationally?
Look at where you can make the biggest impact! This begins by studying potential users and the market, as well as, finding local support that share your values.
Knowing the realities of your expansion location is crucial in order to adapt your global strategic plan and foster a meaningful community, helping you achieve long term goals, growing in accordance with your business vision, mission and values.
We thank Lorenzo for this inspiring interview: his insights are very useful to understand how to launch a startup from the beginning and expanding the business in different countries.
We would also like to thanks Lauren Anders, Pedius Business Developer for English countries, for her support in this interview.
Don’t forget to check our series of interviews with startup founders for more insights on growing and expanding startups.