Gaetano Volpe is Co-Founder and CEO of Latitudo 40, an Italian startup focused on “understanding our planet from above” through earth observation applications.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Gaetano worked in marketing, sales, consultancy, and business development for 20+ years across the IT and Space industries. He also worked as a coach and mentor for incubators, including the EU-funded program Copernicus.
Gaetano holds a Degree in Business Science & Marketing at Università degli Studi di Salerno, an Executive MBA at STOA Management School and a Master’s Degree in Accounting, Finance & Management Control at 24Ore Business School.
You started your career in marketing & sales, then various experiences in business development and consultancy with managerial roles until, in 2017, together with Mauro Manente, Vincenzo Vecchio and Donato Amitrano, you founded Latitudo 40, an Italian earth analytics startup. What led you to this decision, and how did the idea of Latitudo 40 come about?
Gaetano: I call myself a “space dinosaur”. I started working in “space 1.0” in 1999, on several projects for large companies, mainly in telecommunications and navigation. The role I had was to act as a “bridge” between research and the market, i.e., find use cases for technologies disconnected from the market.
Together with me, there was Mauro, a young engineer. Later, Vincenzo joined us, and as technology enthusiasts, we had several working adventures together.
Latitudo 40 was created from the encounter between a group of businesspeople (myself, Mauro and Vincenzo) and university researchers, including Donato, an expert in satellite remote sensing. The idea was to bring together concepts of artificial intelligence, automation and geospatial analysis to offer elaborations based on remote sensing.
So, Latitudo 40 is an earth observation analytics company providing insights into the precision farming and urban planning sectors. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company? What results have you achieved until now?
Gaetano: Latitudo 40 to date is the result of many reiterations. It is an easy-to-use urban data analytics platform that allows one to analyse the past, monitor the present, and design future cities. Our primary focus is the analysis of cities, considering aspects such as greenery, hydrogeological risk, pollution, understanding what environmental and general risk problems a city has and providing public decision-makers and urban planners with possible solutions. In essence, we turn pixel images into useful information for decision-making.
Recently we are entering the voluntary carbon credit market, which is becoming increasingly important. From talking to our forest owner clients, we have realised that small plots of land up to 100 hectares can hardly approach the voluntary carbon credit market because of the processes involved in obtaining the necessary certifications. However, since we have an algorithm to calculate carbon sequestration in the cities, we are turning the algorithm into a tool that allows small landowners to enter the market.
Our solutions are based on two different types of data, ground data and satellite data. It is crucial to rely on more than one type of data to develop precise analyses. So IoT-like data is merged with satellite data. Today we are connected to all the important satellite providers globally, such as Capella Space, Satellogic, Copernicus, Planet, Airbus.
Latitudo 40 recently graduated from the TechStars Smart Mobility Acceleration Program in Turin. What did you take away from this experience? What are the development plans of Latitudo 40 for the near future?
Gaetano: We started the TechStars acceleration programme with the idea of launching a horizontal platform to do any kind of processing based on remote sensing, and we finished the program with the current more market-oriented business model.
We are closing 2021 with a turnover of around € 300,000, almost double the 2020 figure. We have ongoing projects with Turin, Barcelona, Helsinki, Naples, and other cities. We also have a significant project in China to monitor 200,000 square kilometres of cities. Our goal for 2022 is to reach 30 and 40 cities as customers.
Ours is primarily a B2G model. The B2G market indeed has a longer cycle than B2B, but it is also true that the churn rate is low, the customer has a much higher resistance to change and a longer life cycle.
From an organisational point of view, we are 13 people, mainly technology professionals. We are looking for people with a business background to join the team.
And we are also working on the next fundraising round to scale the business.
What are the main challenges you experienced in creating Latitudo 40 and are facing now approaching the growth phase? What would you suggest to founders starting up a company?
Gaetano: I need to say that looking for a product-market fit with a very technological product is not always easy. What I have realised over time is that you don’t have to start from the idea but start from the problem, understand what the need is to be satisfied in the market.
Another challenge in launching and growing a startup is related to the team. The people involved in the startup must be aligned with your vision, proactive and flexible.
One last question: there is much interest raising, and consequently more capital gathering around the New Space Economy. What do you think about the latest evolutions in the industry?
Gaetano: For someone like me who comes from “space 1.0”, you know very well that the industry is changing fast.
Before, small companies worked exclusively in a subcontracting chain with large groups. This is no longer the case today. I see many young people with excellent technical skills developing successful products and business models.
In the downstream, the application of technologies from other industries, such as the cloud and artificial intelligence, leads to a simplification of models and greater scalability. The market is so large and with such high growth rates that, to date, although there are many players, there is no competition between companies. And big companies have yet to emerge. For example, in Europe, the only bigger company is perhaps Preligens, apart from the traditional space big players that still dominate the European downstream.
What is probably missing is that there is still no public market open to startups, such as in the US.
Finally, I see a lot of demand and a lot of technology to be deployed, not only in our atmosphere but also in deep space, a market that many imagine being vast and exponential.
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For more info on Latitudo 40, visit: https://www.latitudo40.com/