How one start-up in Lombardy is coping with the pandemic

1 Apr 20201.57k Views

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The skyline of Milan, the city in Lombardy where Being Spoons is based. Image: Vaivirg/Stock.adobe.com

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Bending Spoons CEO Luca Ferrari talks about working life at the epicentre of Europe’s Covid-19 outbreak and making his apps free for Italian users.

Luca Ferrari is the CEO of Bending Spoons, an Italian start-up that has developed apps including Yoga Wave, 30 Day Fitness and video editing platform Splice.

It has been an unusual few weeks for the business as it is based in Milan – the biggest city in Lombardy, which was the first region to be locked down in Italy to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

After the lockdown was announced, Ferrari decided to make Yoga Wave and 30 Day Fitness free in Italy to help occupy those who want to take up exercising or continue their workout routines at home throughout the crisis.

Since doing so, Bending Spoons has seen a significant growth in the number of downloads of these apps, and has donated €1m to local hospitals and Italy’s civil protection department.

Fitness focus

Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Ferrari said that Bending Spoons develops and markets a range of apps, with around 300,000 downloads per day on iOS.

“We are primarily active in two verticals,” he said. “One is health and fitness, with apps like 30 Day Fitness and Yoga Wave that help people work out from home, which is currently relevant with the Covid-19 pandemic. Then we are also very active in the photo-video editing vertical.”

Luca Ferrari. Image: Bending Spoons

All of Bending Spoons’ apps are free to download but have paid subscription options or in-app purchases. For example, a 30 Day Fitness subscription plan typically costs €20 per month, paid weekly, after a seven-day free trial.

“People are stuck at home now, with more time on their hands. When it comes to staying healthy and working out, the option of going to the gym is off the table. Our app is an excellent proxy of that,” Ferrari explained.

“We made the decision to make the fitness apps free in Italy, which is a costly decision, but it’s one of a number of initiatives we took to help overcome the very tough moment for the country and the global community.”

Dealing with Covid-19 measures

Ferrari said that remote working is something Bending Spoons has always encouraged, so adjusting to the new measures put in place in Italy to slow the spread of the virus has not been too difficult so far.

“We were very lucky to have invested in supporting remote work early on, since the inception of our company. I never really measured it, but I’d guess that maybe half of our colleagues used remote work frequently or at least weekly,” he said.

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“When Covid-19 reached Italy and it was clear that this was going to be an issue, we told everybody to stay at home. We started a fully remote operation about a week earlier than the authorities asked us to. Lots of people had started even before that.

“For us, it has been pretty easy to cope, but it’s also true that we’ve only been in this situation for a month, give or take, in Italy. If this continues for multiple months, psychologically it could be pretty difficult for people who need to be around others physically to feel comfortable.”

‘Hopefully this will be a wake-up call that forces us to develop the technology and social norms to be able to react’
– LUCA FERRARI

Although the company hasn’t experienced any major problems yet, Ferrari is still preparing for the possibility of long-term restrictions.

“I think anybody that’s expecting this to be over in a few weeks is crazy. I think we should expect this to go on for many months, but I also don’t think that there is no possibility of getting out earlier.

“From a business point of view, base your plans on the idea of multiple months of shutdown. It could be four, it could be six. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

What the business has learned

Ferrari said that, although his business has been able to adapt, the Covid-19 situation has taught him that “you cannot predict everything”.

“Hopefully this will be a wake-up call that forces us to develop the technology and social norms to be able to react more successfully if something much more deadly were to happen,” he added.

“Having said that, we are among the few fortunate companies whose business has not been negatively affected by the situation. We have seen the opposite – an uplift in usage, paid users and downloads.”

Still, Ferrari said he hopes more businesses will see this as an opportunity for a culture change and embrace remote working.

“I think a big reason why we still do stuff in person is down to culture. For example, I don’t believe sales and management meetings need to happen in person. In general, we need to make more work remote even when a pandemic is not happening because of the impact that work has on traffic and the environment.

“A sales meeting should only happen in person if they believe it is really going to make a difference, otherwise we should stick to video conferencing. We are saving the environment and money, which we can spend elsewhere. The pandemic is a wake-up call to prioritise certain things. Remote working is a healthy thing to do in general.”

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com