EIC Coffee Break with Alberto Hernando: Building innovative ideas step by step
Every month, during a Coffee Break, we dive into the stories of EIC innovators and get a glimpse of the people behind the start-ups. Today’s guest is Alberto Hernando, Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer at Kido Dynamics. A company that uses Big Data by providing tools for companies, governments, and public institutions to understand people’s mobility patterns and make cities and services smarter. Find out more about it in this month’s EIC Coffee Break.
Tell us how the idea for your innovation started. Was it something that was bouncing in the back of your head for a long time?
I was working as a researcher in quantum physics at the time, using computer tools to understand the movements of molecules and atoms. When we first thought about this idea, we wanted to understand how we could use those tools but with the movement of people. Initially, we worked on the concept of this idea, and at one point, we realised that we had something concrete there. After doing some market research, we did find that these tools were useful for people and industries.
Also, at the time, we talked with different players about it from the business areas of tourism or retail. The feedback we got was great. That’s why we decided to go for it and started a pipeline that would automatise the entire process. So, this was the process: raw data, collaborating with mobile operators, getting information from the network, and getting useful information for e.g., shop owners, municipalities and their public transportations, tourism agencies, etc.
How did your family respond to your ideas/innovation?
I received mixed feedback (laughs!). My friends knew that sooner or later, I would do something like starting a company or doing something on my own.
My family, on the other hand, hardly understood what I was doing as a quantum physicist, let alone with this spontaneous idea. Of course, it’s difficult to assimilate in the beginning, but know they’re sure it was the right idea.
There were hard and uncertain moments in these years, but fortunately, my wife Monica was always there supporting and believing in me. Having this kind of support from your most loved one is an essential element to succeed in any personal journey like creating and running a company.
The team we now have working in Kido Dynamics and all the people who believe in the project are proof enough that it was the right thing to do and the right choice.
Who or what has shaped where you are?
Professionally, I would have to say, my thesis supervisor, Manuel. I learned a lot from him, and we keep in touch, even though he’s retired. From the practical view of dealing with different situations to having the passion for committing to things that are of interest to a person, his advice and input were important to helping me be where I am today.
In addition, I would like to also mention my physics teacher at school, Carlos. He played an important role in my life as well, because I got interested in physics due to him. Ultimately, this is what pushed me to be here, so I would say these two people were important in my career.
Can you tell us about a tough moment you had at your company and how you pushed through?
I had several (laughs!), especially during the time of creating the company. Specifically related to Kido Dynamics, I think my co-founder Ignacio Barrios was key in dealing with the ordeals we faced. Having tough moments is always tricky, but we always learn from them because we must find ways to solve them, plus we get to learn along the way and evolve as a person too. And that’s exactly what we did.
What advice can you give to people who are currently playing with the idea of starting a company?
Make sure you’re aware of the world you’re getting into. When you come up with an idea or project and must pave the way to make it happen you are exposed to the positive and negative forces that come with it. That’s why having confidence and strength in what you’re doing is pivotal during your journey.
Also, being positive and believing that there’s a solution for everything is something that will also make you push through whatever adversities you may encounter in your path. Of course, you’ll have to find solutions and plan things well to ensure you have the right tools to execute what you wish to do but be brave and just go for it.
What are you currently reading and what book inspired you the most?
Currently, I’m reading a fiction novel – a trilogy – named The Three Body Problem written by Cixin Liu. I’m also reading books by The Oatmeal which was created by Matthew Inman – a very famous and hilarious writer. Plus, you can learn many things from reading it as well. Besides that, I’m also reading more business-oriented books.
Regarding the book that inspired me the most, I would have to say it was Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software written by Steven Berlin Johnson. It was the first contact I had with the multidisciplinary concept, in the sense that even if I was a physicist, I could apply this knowledge to many things. In the end, reading that book gave me the power to apply the knowledge I had discovered to things like biosystems, social systems, etc. This was something that enabled me to think outside of the box that I also used when creating Kido Dynamics.
Did you come to use any of the books you read or book passages to help you during a moment of your life to help you push through something?
There’s one thing that helped me a lot that I read in a scientific paper. It involved researchers working on a mathematical concept to mimic artificial intelligence, and they were using the entropy concept to explain it. A path to multiplying your future choices. For me, that was a deep message because it implied you have to make a decision that could open more possibilities instead of one that doesn’t.
This is something I take in mind, because of all the decision-making that we need to do at Kido Dynamics and in our lives. So, the key thing to retain is making sure we opt for choices that grant us more possibilities of good things happening in the future when walking our path.
If you could talk business over lunch with a large corporate CEO or global leader, which one would you choose and why?
I wouldn’t pick a famous person as an answer to this question. Instead, I would like to mention all the people that we meet and interact with when we attend events, business meetings, etc. I get the chance to speak with interesting people all the time and for me that's invaluable.
From science to technology, to business and others, I always find people to discuss interesting topics with and that’s amazing because they’re all very stimulating. Therefore, in my opinion, every time you talk with people that are from different areas than yours, have different backgrounds, are from different parts of the world, and share distinct opinions and ideas, you get to learn from it and that's something amazing and truly gratifying.