What we are taught from an early age is that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. There are companies that have a special look – sometimes with shades of blue – through which dreams can be realized.
Cristian Fracassi sees hundreds of dreams, for the simple fact that they are placed on his desk every day.
Isinnova is the place where ideas are developed. One in particular is the one that gave “breath” to hundreds of Covid patients during the first pandemic wave, through a snorkeling mask and a small valve created with a 3D printer. An idea that earned the thirty-seven years old from Brescia the appointment of Knight of the Republic by President Mattarella. The story of the Charlotte valve, now known all over the world, is a great one, and there is also a book to tell it, “All in one breath”, and an interesting film project.
Cristian is happily at work when we talk on Saturday morning. Having some time to think ‘alone’ on the company’s future projects is for him a sort of relaxation space.
How do you manage to see the future in a few flashes and then try to share it, and how was the Isinnova reality born?
Isinnova, of course, was born from an idea: it could not be otherwise! I have always been a curious guy who wanted to understand things and solve problems. I finished university with a clear goal in mind: to give life to my first idea, BRIX (a kind of plastic and/or wooden brick that allows you to build houses in a short time). This is why I did a doctorate in materials, to know the subject better, and then a master, to understand how to develop a business project from an economic point of view. I was an engineer by now but I did not want a “normal” job in a company, I wanted something that was painted exactly on my being, a job that would allow me to learn, to solve, to think, to satisfy my desire for knowledge and novelty. A lucky meeting with an entrepreneur who was interested in one of my projects, thanks to which I had won a competition, gave me the opportunity to finally give life to what I had in mind since university: a reality of my own that had as its goal helping people and companies who, like me, had an idea and did not know how to make it happen. Isinnova precisely.What is the mechanism that governs the acquisition of other people’s dreams before making them come true?
We hear a lot of ideas here in Isinnova. The problem is not the quantity, that is, having them, but what makes the difference, that is, the possibility of realizing them. There are no intelligent ideas or stupid ideas, what strikes us most is the strength that comes from those who propose them to us in wanting to realize them. Usually those who do not believe in their idea and leave everything in our hands, as if they were to deposit a package, is not the type of inventor for us. I always try to explain it to those who come to visit us, perhaps with a sketch in their hands or even just with a verbal story, the important thing is to make me understand that they really believe in it and that it is a deep conviction to convey all this. Those who do not believe in their dreams but are looking for someone to make them come true can sometimes be demotivating. On the other hand, there are other people who with all humility decide to start this adventure by putting all the passion they have. It is like running a marathon, some of it will surely be for sports, but the highest percentage is included in the desire to do it.
How does Isinnova proceed with the acquisition and development of a good idea?
We certainly start from the analysis of the idea itself and pass it through three fundamental points: the novelty, the economic part of return and of course the technical feasibility. What we need to understand very quickly is whether the game is worth the effort, also because the market is strange and often does not correspond to forecasts, but this is not absolute truth either. After passing these three steps, we take care of all the design, the part relating to the various tests and then we protect it by filing and registering the patent. At this point it is all in the hands of production and of course communication. This is us, this is our job.
You were heroes in the pandemic.
This time of ‘hibernation’, which involved a lot of activities, was not easy for Isinnova either. At the beginning it scared us a lot and put us to the test since our turnover depends on other companies and how they decide to invest in design. With the crisis, because of the pandemic, many “taps were turned off” in advance and we had to deal, like many others, with several canceled contracts. We have been investing our work for free for more than five months. It was a choice that we felt like making and only now we see the first results. With the Charlotte valve we had the opportunity to expand our contacts and gain the trust of new customers, especially international, large companies who have believed in us and in our project. What kept us strong was precisely the desire to look beyond, towards the future, trying to solve everyday problems. And we did it well. When under pressure, the best in each of us often comes out.
Because it takes passion to do your job.
And I would also add adrenaline. Basic. Many times, a project is ready after several years of testing. There is an episode that I always carry in my heart. Three brothers came to the company a couple of years ago. They told me their story. One of them was an inventor. They arrived with the same idea in their hands, carrying it as if it were the most delicate of inventions. It was the mother’s illness with which they had been fighting for a long time and which they could not find a solution: sores that never healed, bedsores. Their love for this mother was so strong that it overcame the pain that arose every time she had to be medicated without any hint of improvement. One of them had an idea, to create something that would not allow the dressing bandages to adhere to the skin so as to let the wound heal naturally. All three had this strong desire and were asking me for help in finding an answer. So we thought about the design of a medical device, a silicone dome, which we immediately printed in 3D, to protect the delicate part of the skin. After fourteen months of tests we arrived, with great pride, to present Simopod – in honor of Simonetta, the mother of the three brothers – the first pharmacological device able to help quickly heal pressure sores. We have obtained all the certifications for distribution and now we are waiting for it to become an asset, so I want to define it, for all of us. I know the reality of sick people who suffer from this pathology and I understand how important such help can be. Here, this is my job, I am part of the dreams of other people’s lives for a short time, and if I can really help them make some of them come true, I go home to my family with a lighter heart. What I always say to the team of fourteen guys who work with me is that the important thing is to believe in it and always do your job well, without giving false hopes, but actively and concretely participating in the development of an idea by making it grow and leading it to become a resource for everyone.
Spending your professionalism to improve the society we live in should be the underlying goal of every company.
Being an entrepreneur is not just a job, it is a vocation. Not everyone is inclined to do this and this is good because if there were only entrepreneurs and no employees, the company could not move forward. Everything is based on the delicate balance that governs this proportion. Like any vocation, that of the entrepreneur must also have a goal to aim for, a goal that justifies the desire to build a company from nothing: from an idea, a dream, a hope, from anything. The reason, from my point of view, cannot just be “making money”. Of course it would be foolish and hypocritical to pretend that earning is not important and that it does not convey an incredible satisfaction and desire to have more and more. It is normal, it is human and it is also one of the main factors that allows a company to flourish and move forward. But there is not only this. From my point of view, an entrepreneur, to be defined as such, must aim for something more: the common good. It is evident that it cannot be the daily fixed thought, because there are very different thoughts that (unfortunately) we constantly find ourselves facing. I think it is more like a guideline that runs through the actions and life of the company itself, providing the correct direction. If an entrepreneur does not feel the desire to improve the society that surrounds him with his business, then it all is limited to a sterile business aimed only at profit. And this, in my opinion, cannot be defined as a ‘company’ but, above all, whoever leads it cannot be defined as an ‘entrepreneur’. The etymology of the Italian term “imprenditore” (entrepreneur) leads back to this: it derives from the Latin – and here I apologize for the classic quote but I have a wife who graduated in literature and I owe it to her! – from the word prahendere which means precisely “to take upon oneself”, “to take charge”… if this is not significant!
Cristian is really very young, and this makes him an excellent example for those who want to make their work one of the most important passions in life, despite the difficulties they will encounter along the way, the walls of existence and the structural incompatibilities of the market. It does not matter. What matters most is to believe in it, always.
Interview by Fabiana D’Urso
Translated by Céline Alcala
[ Pictures by Isinnova ]