Meet the talent: Matteo Forte, a digital entrepreneur who grew up fast

Place of residence: Rome, Italy

Position: Founder, CEO @SWITCH – Street WITCHer / Board Member and Partner at ADPM Drones, Co-founder BeLoud.

Please describe a day in your life:

Meet the Talent

As a tech entrepreneur, my days vary significantly due to the ever-changing nature of the industry. I start early with exercise to energize myself for the day. My mornings are for tackling 3-5 key tasks, focusing on deep work while my energy and focus are high. This includes involvement in business development, fundraising, and high-level project management. Afternoons are for team collaboration and communication, discussing strategy, innovation, and project progress. It is also when I connect with partners and stakeholders. My day ends by catching up on global tech news, which often inspires my work for the coming days.

How many projects are you currently working on? Please describe them:

I am involved in several projects. I lead SWITCH, a B2B SaaS platform optimizing urban mobility. I am also a partner and board member at ADPM Drones, focusing on autonomous hardware and software solutions. Additionally, I co-founded BeLoud, a branding and digital marketing company, where I provide advisory support. Mentoring younger entrepreneurs and participating in various events and programs also keeps me engaged.

In your opinion, who is the most influential person/company in the world of technology these days?

OpenAI, particularly its leadership, stands out in the technology realm for its influence on innovation and market transformation. Their advancements in artificial intelligence, like natural language processing and machine learning, are reshaping technology. The GPT series is a prime example, setting new human-computer interaction standards and opening possibilities across various sectors. OpenAI’s pioneering work firmly positions it and its leadership among the most influential in technology.

If you could pick one app/product/project existing now that you wish you were involved in, what would it be?

Beyond my current focus on AI and autonomous drone technology, I am fascinated by quantum computing and cryptography advancements. Their potential to revolutionize computation and applications in AI and autonomous navigation systems is profound. If I was not involved in SWITCH, that’s my primary answer: contributing to a project at the intersection of quantum computing and AI, enhancing cryptographic measures, would align with my interests and promise transformative impacts.

What are the three characteristics you have that make you successful in tech?

Learning Agility: My passion for technology is driven by a commitment to continuous learning. The ability to unlearn and relearn, adapting to new information swiftly, is a cornerstone of my approach. Understanding my personal learning style enables me to acquire new skills and assimilate knowledge efficiently, keeping me at the forefront of innovation.

Adaptive Strategy: Agility is as crucial as foresight in the tech industry. My strategic thinking is focused on preparing for multiple outcomes, always maintaining a delicate balance between having a clear roadmap and the flexibility to pivot when necessary. This involves continuous scenario planning, where I mentally map out various possibilities to ensure we can capitalize on opportunities as they arise without losing sight of our long-term vision.

Collaborative Leadership: Success in tech is not a solo journey. I attribute a significant part of our achievements to working with individuals who are experts in their fields. I delegate aggressively but thoughtfully, trusting my team’s competencies, accelerating our progress and fostering a culture of trust and excellence.

What is the most challenging thing you had to deal with during your career?

Indeed, one of the most formidable challenges I have faced is ensuring that our work remains relevant and impactful beyond the echo chambers of cutting-edge tech and innovation circles. The fervour for the latest trends can be overwhelming and sometimes distracting. There’s a delicate balance between harnessing the excitement around new technologies and remembering that our solutions must serve real-world needs, not just speculative futures. Our clients and crucial stakeholders, like government entities, operate in the tangible present. They depend on practical, reliable, and accessible technology to meet today’s challenges.

Maintaining a focus on developing innovative and applicable technologies to current societal needs is a complex task. It demands an unwavering commitment to our core mission and values, ensuring that we do not merely chase the ‘next big thing’ but create value that resonates with the market and stands the test of time. This intersection—where the pace of innovation meets the practical demands of the current world—is where I like to spend my time and energy.

What is the biggest obstacle to entering the world of technology?

The biggest obstacle to entering the world of technology often lies in the perception that one needs to have a deep, intrinsic understanding of science, coding, or engineering from the start. This can create an intimidating barrier for many. Yet, while it’s true that not everyone needs to be a programmer or engineer, having at least a high-level understanding of technology trends is crucial. This foundational knowledge fosters a common language necessary for leading teams, conversing with clients, and engaging with stakeholders effectively. It empowers individuals to work alongside more specialized colleagues and contribute meaningfully to tech-centric discussions and decisions.

In addition, the rapid pace of technological change can be daunting for those trying to enter the field. Keeping abreast of the latest developments requires a commitment to continuous learning and adaptability. Access to resources, mentorship, and professional networks can also pose challenges, especially for those outside traditional tech hubs or lacking social capital.

To overcome these obstacles, it’s vital to demystify the field, encourage accessible education, and build inclusive communities that support diverse entry points into tech. It’s about expanding the view of who can be a technologist and recognizing the broad spectrum of skills contributing to the industry’s success.

What is your most outstanding achievement up until today?

Being chosen for the YTILI Fellowship by the U.S. Department of State and gaining admission to Berkeley Skydeck, with its highly selective acceptance rate of 1.6%, are indeed significant honours and personal triumphs. However, in my view, an even greater accomplishment is the privilege of collaborating with some of the industry’s most brilliant and talented minds. These are individuals of exceptional calibre, capable of achieving anything they set their minds to. Yet, they invest their energies and talents in collaborative ventures and projects alongside me. This represents my most substantial achievement, attracting and working with people of such extraordinary talent and dedication.

What do you wish yourself with respect to your career?

In my career, I aim for continuous growth in both business and knowledge, striving to drive meaningful societal innovation and technological advancements. I seek to maintain agility and foresight, ensuring my companies lead in ethical and sustainable tech practices. I also focus on fostering creative environments, encouraging team initiative and calculated risk-taking. A key part of my vision is mentoring the next generation of tech entrepreneurs, through which I both share my insights and learn from emerging talents. This mentorship, involving active participation in educational initiatives, not only contributes to the tech community but also enriches my understanding and leadership approach.

What are the three most important lessons you have learned in your career?

Reflecting on my career, I have learned three vital lessons:

Embracing Adaptability – Success in technology doesn’t come from avoiding failure but from adapting to it. Every challenge encountered has been a lesson in disguise, teaching me to evolve strategies and business models to stay ahead.

The Right Team is Your Keystone – Innovation is a team sport. Our breakthroughs were made possible by surrounding myself with talented individuals who share a collective vision. It is about assembling a team that complements each other’s strengths and drives forward with unity and purpose.

Navigating Change with a Steady Hand: Balancing the need to provide stable, reliable solutions with the agility to adopt new technologies is an art. Staying informed and ready to pivot when the moment is right, without losing focus on our core mission, has been crucial. This equilibrium has allowed us to integrate new technologies seamlessly and maintain relevance in a fast-paced industry.

What is your next goal?

My immediate goal is to propel our companies towards significant growth, enhancing our market presence and reinforcing our leadership in the tech industry. I am intent on seizing emerging opportunities, scaling our operations, and nurturing innovation to address the challenges of a swiftly changing global marketplace.

Simultaneously, as I lead my company, I diligently work toward completing my Global Executive MBA. My thesis’s research, composition, and defence are pivotal aspect that demands my attention. This scholarly pursuit transcends the mere attainment of an academic qualification; it is an in-depth explorative journey. I am poised to gain invaluable insights and formulate strategies to benefit my business endeavours. My thesis will delve into the realm of startup studios and venture building, drawing from the wealth of my professional experiences and the scholarly depth of the MBA program. The goal is to develop a thesis that not only fulfils the academic requisites but also acts as a strategic framework for our ventures’ sustained expansion and innovation.

What are your tips for people wanting to start in the tech world?

Starting a career in technology is an exciting journey, and I recommend a focused approach with the following tips:

Embrace Lifelong Learning: Technology is in constant flux, so your education never ends. Whether through formal coursework, online tutorials, or hands-on projects, always seek to expand your skill set and understanding of the field.

Engage with the Community: Building a network is crucial. Engage with tech professionals and peers. Industry events and tech forums are not just for making connections; they are also a great way to stay on top of industry trends and opportunities.

Practical Experience is Key: Jump into projects as soon as you can. Whether it’s personal projects or contributing to existing ones, real-world application of your skills will teach you more than theory ever could.

Discern Hype from Reality: It is important not to equate success in pitch competitions, communication campaigns, or winning awards with market validation. The actual success of a tech product or service is measured by its adoption and the value it brings to users. Always aim for genuine problem-solving that meets market needs rather than just the allure of accolades.

By prioritizing learning, community engagement, practical experience, and a clear understanding of what constitutes real-world success, you will lay a strong foundation for a meaningful career in technology.

If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?

Reflecting on advice for my younger self, I would focus on the virtues of patience and the ability to adapt. I would stress the significance of seeing challenges as growth opportunities. Life is full of changes and surprises; learning to welcome these as learning moments is essential. I would advocate for trusting in one’s own skills and appreciating the journey as much as the achievements. It’s important to remember that success isn’t just about external validation but the real impact and value your work adds to the world. Equally crucial is nurturing relationships in and out of the workplace with supportive and inspiring individuals, as these connections are just as vital as any professional achievement.

What is the invention of the century in your eyes?

AI is set to be the defining invention of our era, a catalyst for Change whose scope and significance may still be underestimated within the innovation community. It is a technological tide that promises to reshape industries, enhance human intellect, and redefine creative and analytical processes. AI is not merely an incremental step in technological evolution; it represents a paradigm shift in how we interact with the world and approach problem-solving.

AI’s impact will be more profound than many anticipate. It is a revolution in the making that will likely surpass the forecasts of even the most forward-thinking among us. However, there is a note of caution that must be sounded, particularly for Europe. The colossal investments necessary to spearhead advancements in AI are daunting. The risk of Europe lagging is a concern, given the massive financial and intellectual capital being poured into AI by other global powers. This disparity in investment could lead to a significant technological and economic gap that Europe must strategically address to remain competitive in the burgeoning AI arena.

What can’t you do without? (app/product)

Currently, in my personal workflow, there are three indispensable tools I can’t do without:

Todoist: This task management app helps me stay organized and on top of my daily tasks and projects. Its simplicity and flexibility make it an essential part of my productivity toolkit.

Superhuman – Superhuman is my go-to email client. Its speed and advanced features make managing emails efficient and enjoyable. It has significantly improved my email management workflow.

ChatGPT: As a powerful AI assistant, ChatGPT assists me in various tasks, especially generating content.

Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and why?

If given the chance, a fascinating dinner would be with Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin. The intrigue begins with not knowing if Satoshi is an individual or a group of people so I would reserve a table with extra seats just in case! The conversation would be extraordinary, delving into the origins of Bitcoin, the philosophy behind decentralizing currency, and the profound impact of blockchain technology on finance and beyond. It would be a unique opportunity to gain direct insights into the thought process behind a revolutionary technology that has created an entirely new paradigm of economic exchange and individual financial autonomy.

Where would you like to travel next?

My next travel destination of choice would be South America. The continent holds a wealth of diverse cultures, stunning natural landscapes, and an incredibly appealing historical tapestry. From the majestic Andes mountains to the vibrant rhythms of cities like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, a dynamic contrast is enticing. I am particularly drawn to exploring ancient civilizations, such as the Inca ruins in Peru. The chance to engage with the wide array of culinary delights, the warmth of the people, and the opportunity to learn from the vast array of traditional knowledge and practices that have been preserved over centuries are all reasons that make South America a top destination on my list.

Do you have a person who influences or motivates you?

In my journey, I have found that rather than looking to public figures for inspiration, I am most influenced and motivated by the people around me. These are individuals I interact with daily who are passionately striving to achieve their goals. Observing their dedication, overcoming obstacles, and witnessing their moments of triumph provides a profound source of motivation. In the collective ambition and resilience of my peers, colleagues, and the broader community, I find the drive to push forward and the encouragement to aim higher in my endeavours continually. These role models may not be globally recognized names, but their impact on my life is just as significant.

Last thing regarding which you told yourself, “how come no one has ever thought of it”?

During my apartment renovation, I was struck by how much practical knowledge—like electrical work and masonry—our generation lacks, a stark contrast to our parents. This sparked the concept of an “Academy of Practical Life,” a hybrid of digital and physical learning spaces to master these essential life skills. A recent chat with a renovator friend showed real potential for this idea. Such an academy could bridge the knowledge gap, blending online learning with hands-on practice, potentially revolutionizing our approach to everyday practicality. Who knows…

What is the product/service you want that still needs to be added?

The product I envision is a comprehensive productivity platform that seamlessly integrates email, task management, and communication. This tool would use advanced AI to prioritize and organize emails, schedule tasks, and streamline communications intelligently. Its capability would go beyond existing solutions by understanding context, managing workflows, and perhaps even anticipating needs, thus significantly enhancing efficiency and minimizing the cognitive load of daily digital management.

What did you dream of creating/inventing/doing as a child?

As a child, my ambitions were sky-high; I wanted to be an astronaut. But I have always joked that I was simply too tall for a spacecraft. It is a convenient excuse that I have held onto because, in truth, it is much easier to blame my height than to admit I just didn’t pursue a career at NASA. Let’s keep that between us—I am still holding out hope that it’s the only reason I am not floating in zero gravity right now.

Then, there was a time I yearned to work at a petrol station, convinced that the attendants must be wealthy given the thick wads of cash I saw them handling. It was only when I grew older that I realized that the money wasn’t theirs to keep. Quite a disappointing revelation for a young, entrepreneurial spirit. So, there go both of my childhood dreams, one lost to the stars and the other to economic reality.

How did COVID-19 change the way people view technological development?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way people view technological development. The pandemic has forced people to adapt to new ways of working and communicating, which has led to a wider adoption of digital technologies and services. Remote work has become the norm, and videoconferencing has replaced in-person meetings. This has not only made people more comfortable with technology, but it has also made them more aware of its potential.

In addition to remote work and videoconferencing, the pandemic has also led to an increased use of digital tools and services. For example, online shopping has become more popular, and people are using digital tools to stay connected with friends and family. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of technology in healthcare, with telemedicine becoming more common.

Alessio Caprodossi is a technology, sports, and lifestyle journalist. He navigates between three areas of expertise, telling stories, experiences, and innovations to understand how the world is shifting. You can follow him on Twitter (@alecap23) and Instagram (Alessio Caprodossi) to report projects and initiatives on startups, sustainability, digital nomads, and web3.