CNME Editor Mark Forker spoke to Massimo Cannizzo, CEO and co-founder of GELLIFY Middle East, to find out how the company is leveraging its technological expertise and knowhow to help foster and develop high-potential B2B startups.
Cannizzo has enjoyed a celebrated career in the technology ecosystem here in the Gulf and has carved out a reputation as one of the region’s prominent technology thought leaders in his previous role as Managing Director of Accenture Middle East.
What is evident throughout my conversation with the charismatic Italian is the genuine excitement he has at being tasked with the responsibility of driving the growth of GELLIFY across the Middle East. But what exactly is GELLIFY?
Cannizzo explains by disclosing the unique layers of its business model that ultimately differentiates the company from other similarly branded startup accelerators.
“I decided to join GELLIFY because I found it extremely new, intriguing, interesting and something very different. GELLIFY is quite a unique concept in the environment of innovation, because while it’s an accelerator for startups it also serves as a fund for venture capitalists. In addition to this, it also provides an innovation consultancy arm specifically for corporate entities. Essentially, we select high-potential startups and provide them with what they need through investment, and this approach makes the startup a much, much more attractive proposition to entice other investors,” said Cannizzo.
According to Cannizzo many corporate enterprises love the idea of leveraging innovative ideas from startup companies but are reluctant to invest as there are conscious of the fact that startups tend to not have the capabilities and capacity to scale up quickly. However, that’s where GELLIFY can bridge a gap in the market.
“GELLIFY serves as an incubator for the startups to help them grow. We’ve created a concept called Gellification. The ideation phase in which you process the ideas is what we call the ‘air state.’ Then the first prototypes, contracts and pilots represent what we call the ‘liquid state’ of a startup, but then the process of Gellification is needed to reach the ‘solid state’ as a startup company, which will either position yourself to attract further investment, or have your technology acquired by a large tech company,” said Cannizzo.
The dynamic tech expert also heralded the impact of Fabio Nalucci, Group CEO and Founder of GELLIFY, in terms of making the startup accelerator such a success since its inception in 2017. Cannizzo pointed out that Nalucci has a storied history and track record of building, growing and selling innovative B2B tech solutions to major companies like IBM and Accenture.
Following the initial success of GELLIFY in Italy, the decision was taken to embark upon an international expansion.
“We felt the time had come for us to extend our operations on an international scale, and we decided to launch in the UK, Spain and the Middle East, which will represent the first wave of our expansion strategy. Our overall aim is to replicate the same kind of services, style and ideas that we were successfully applying in Italy,” said Cannizzo.
Cannizzo believes the company is well-positioned to grow in the Middle East and have already started engaging with key stakeholders here in the ICT environment in the region. He also disclosed that they’ve started growing their advisory portfolio, and in the second part of the year will build the local startup portfolio and opening their venture capital fund.
Business continuity has been severely affected by the current global COVID-19 pandemic which has ground the global economy to a halt. These unprecedented market conditions are not particularly conducive for launching operations in a new market, but Cannizzo and the GELLIFY shareholders were undeterred, and decided to go ahead with their plans.
“Naturally, the global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and impacted our plans and we had a meeting with all our shareholders to determine whether we would slow down, speed up, or simply stop. However, in the end we decided to go ahead with the plan for two reasons. Firstly, we were still able to communicate and market ourselves despite the pandemic, so we continued with our plans here in the region. Secondly, digital and innovation is a big component of the solutions that we need to adopt to emerge from this crisis, so we felt the time was right to position ourselves in the Middle East, to help new businesses survive, grow and expand,” said Cannizzo.
GELLIFY have also recently announced a new initiative called ‘Future-Proof Your Organization with Black Swan Capabilities,’ a weekly series of online webinars in which they provide details on how companies can ‘future proof’ their businesses.
“We believe that COVID-19 is not creating a new paradigm shift in terms of new changes. Most of the shifts that we see occurring all over the world is more an acceleration of shifts that were already ongoing prior to the outbreak of the crisis. The transformation call towards agility, liquid workforce, remote collaboration, business virtualization and digital adoption is not new, but now this becomes vital for any business and a strong acceleration is needed.” said Cannizzo.
Cannizzo also claimed that GELLIFY has been observing over the last few years a progression in the change of human attitudes and ethical values because of the exponential growth of technology.
“It has become evidently clear that the advancements in AI is posing a question. Where are we going? What will be the future of mankind? There are huge opportunities, but also massive risks with AI, and we need to manage them and mitigate those risks. However, I’m very optimistic and positive about these changes, because if we do the right things at the right time, then we can create an incredible future for all in society, by “elevating” the role of humans to be more creative and emotional in organizations, ” concluded Cannizzo.
Whilst the debates about AI and the impact of other emerging technologies will rage on and the fallout from COVID-19 will take precedence, one thing is for sure and that is GELLIFY Middle East, with Cannizzo at the helm are set to make a huge impact in the tech ecosystem here in the region.