Venture capital watch: Interview with Alessandra Lomonaco (Huky)
1. Alessandra, can you tell us about Huky? What are the main purposes of this company and what are the main services that it offers and to whom?
Huky is an innovative startup founded in 2020—in the midst of the pandemic—by a team of experts in strategy, finance, technology, and branding/communication. Our aim is to support SMEs in the process of digital change and innovation. More than ever, a company needs business continuity, a plan, and operational tools to respond to the production, commercial, and social challenges we are facing.
On the strategy side, we support companies in reviewing their business models and business processes in light of changes to their customers’ priorities and needs.
Having a good strategy and establishing the right business models make it possible to anticipate needs, be competitive, and optimize resources. They also reduce the risk of unforeseen problems.
In the area of branding and communication, we support companies in building their brand identities, which means their corporate images and how they are perceived by the market.
Regardless of what we do and how we do it, we are valued because of how we present ourselves and communicate. Knowing how to value our assets the right way and being able to increase customer confidence is one of our main goals.
In the area of finance, we support companies in accessing tenders and grants for innovation and digitization projects. Moreover, since every business decision has an impact on a company’s accounts, we provide support in assessing the cost structure, product margins, liquidity, and all the economic and financial elements of the business.
Finally, the technology and digital area is crucial at a time when there is a strong push toward digitization of businesses. We support companies in the implementation of new digital tools (websites, applications, social channels) at every stage of product development (concept generation, prototyping, development, maintenance). Digital customer care methods (chatbots, content marketing, video conferencing) are also of strategic importance.
2. Why did you choose to set up a benefit company?
We created a benefit company because we believe the values of sustainability, ethics, and transparency are the foundation of a new way of innovating. Every company decision has an impact on the company accounts: it is essential to assess the implications for turnover, fixed and variable operating and extraordinary costs, product and business line margins, and liquidityTherefore, we have incorporated these values into our charter. In addition to the business objectives that are typical of a private company, we have other aims of common benefit and we work in a responsible, sustainable, and transparent manner toward people, communities, territories, the environment, cultural and social goods and activities, bodies and associations, and other stakeholders.
The company’s mission and programmatic intent are also expressed through the payoff of the new brand Chance to Change: an opportunity to change, including through ethical principles and a more inclusive, responsible, and sustainable way of doing business.
Examples of our aims of common benefit are:
– to contribute to the ability of employees to meet their basic human needs (subsistence, rest, understanding, identity, participation, affection, creation, freedom, protection) as a basis for people’s happiness, seeking solutions aimed at the possibility of satisfying these basic human needs;
– to promote, both internally and with other partner companies and associations, initiatives for the enhancement of human resources in terms of equal opportunities and inclusion;
– to set up partnerships with schools and universities to host internships as part of the school-to-work program, in order to encourage students, recent graduates, and those who are soon to graduate to gain work experience;
– to implement policies to participate in training or other projects and/or events on women’s entrepreneurship, CSR, and corporate welfare, potentially in collaboration with other companies or associations.
In an ideal world all companies should seek to become benefit companies for the interest and evolution of the global community.
3. In your opinion, could Covid offer an opportunity for SMEs and why?
Our payoff is Chance to Change. At Huky we always like to look at the glass as half full, and we aim to encourage and support other companies and startups to do the same.
“Never waste a good crisis,” to quote Churchill. Actually, this pandemic has forced us to change many of our habits. Think of remote working, online shopping, and online training, just to give a few examples. This has led many companies to review their business models from a digital perspective. What we do is this: support companies in the digital transition, acting on strategy, communication, finance, and technology.
4. What practical advice would you give to SMEs to help them navigate the crisis successfully?
One practical piece of advice we can give to SMEs is not to be overwhelmed by the complexity of this period. Asking for advice, networking, and relying on professionals, managers, and people with different experiences can be of great value and a way to find new and effective solutions.
If you want to achieve different results than those you are getting, you need to have the courage to do something different.
Today it is necessary to take a creative approach to identifying and solving problems. Digital is now an essential part of any business model, strategy, and operational process. That’s why I suggest that those who do business review their approaches to the market and to sales in favor of the digital mode, whatever sector they operate in (from services to manufacturing to agriculture). This means first and foremost having a digital presence and identity, through web platforms, and knowing how to communicate in the appropriate languages for the media in which you operate. It also means reviewing all business processes, simplifying them, and making them usable from a smartphone or PC.
To do this, you first need a mindset that is open to change and also to the possibility of making mistakes, since when you do something new, there is always the possibility of making mistakes. However, this is the path to take in uncertain and complex times like the one we are living in. Experimenting and innovating with new products, digital business models, and production and commercial processes is the way to stay relevant and competitive in the market.
5. From your point of view, how are companies coping with the major change introduced by remote working? What are the critical issues and opportunities?
In November 2020, we conducted a survey on how companies are experiencing remote working. It turned out that most people have experienced difficulties related to remote work: lack of social interaction, difficulty separating work and private life, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of a dedicated workstation, just to name the most common ones. In addition to this, people complain about hectic schedules and unscheduled video calls, a decrease in motivation and concentration, and corporate communication that is not always adequate.
We also asked what they would suggest to improve the remote working experience. Very interesting points emerged, which can be grouped into three macro categories: business organization, tools, and training.
Based on this survey, at the beginning of this year SmartNetWork was created. SmartNetWork is a network of companies that facilitate the transition to working remotely by working on corporate culture, technology, and people’s wellbeing.
At the moment, Manpower Academy, Aethra.net, and JustKnock are participating in this initiative, in addition to Huky, its creator. The network is open and wants to involve companies, HR managers and directors, HR-tech startups, and professionals interested in the future of work.
On April 21, at 6:30 p.m. we presented SmartNetWork at an online event dedicated to the future of work, during which we talked to HR directors, entrepreneurs, and managers. The event will also be available for later viewing, as it will be recorded and will remain available on our channel.