Stay focused on achieving your goals, but don’t be afraid to embrace change, and change your approach, or the goals themselves, when circumstances or new information suggests it is warranted.
Mario Proietti is co-founder and CEO of LocationSmart, a provider of location-based services (LBS) software as a service (SaaS) solutions for wireless carriers, service providers, and enterprises. Mario co-founded the company in 1995 with the primary objective of helping wireless carriers and technology suppliers work toward achieving the U.S. FCC mandate to enable wireless E911 caller location to enhance public safety for mobile users. Since its founding, Mario has guided LocationSmart through a number of strategic initiatives including: obtaining a seed investment from a publicly-traded company; two venture capital financing rounds; the sale of its vehicle location product line to Calamp Corporation; and the sale of its dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) product line to Kapsch TrafficCom of Austria. In 2015, Mario executed the acquisition of LocationSmart’s primary competitor, Loc-Aid Technologies, and oversaw the successful integration of the two companies within six months.
Prior to LocationSmart, Mario was the Director of Advanced Development at AirTouch Teletrac where he led R&D activities, including managing relationships with key suppliers and strategic partners. He also provided technical and analytical support for FCC rulemaking proceedings affecting AirTouch’s use of spectrum for location monitoring services. In this capacity, he met with and presented to officials and staff at the FCC, NTIA, Congress, and the White House. Before joining Teletrac, Mario worked at GM Hughes Electronics as Technical Director and Project Manager on wireless communications and geolocation programs. In those roles, he was able to aid in the transition of government and defense-oriented technologies to automotive and transportation applications.
Mario is an inventor of over a dozen patents related to geolocation technologies and location-based services. He earned his MSEE from the University of Southern California (USC) and BSEE from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He is a member of IEEE, has served on the Editorial Advisory Board of GPS World Magazine, and was a founding member and committee chairman of the E9-1-1 Institute. In addition, Mario recently authored a chapter on wireless location technologies for the reference book entitled “Beacon Technologies: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Beacosystem.”
Where did the idea for LocationSmart come from?
After working with wireless carriers to implement location technologies for wireless E911, we saw an opportunity to enable other lifesaving, safety, and productivity-enhancing commercial services with similar technology. We had experience in delivering such services using dedicated vehicle equipment, electronic tags, and mobile apps, but the implementation of E911 offered a means of location that was far more applicable to use cases where specialized hardware or software was not a viable solution (such as call routing or roadside assistance for mobile callers).
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I typically start my day around 6 a.m. While I drink a cup of coffee, or two, I’ll catch up on general and industry-specific news and check any overnight emails that may require immediate attention. Then, I try to have a walk with my dog before showering and heading for the office.
I make a point to allocate blocks of time for the top two or three items on my day’s agenda and avoid being interrupted during those times. I also block out time to triage my email inbox by handling issues that can be dealt with immediately with only one touch and leave those that require further work or thought for later. They usually go on my next day’s morning review list, or my top two or three task list. I also like to keep tabs on selected KPIs for our business by reviewing system reports each day. By doing this, I’m able to have a pulse on the business and be aware of what’s happening under the hood. Along those lines, I also engage directly in lead follow-up, sales, and customer support threads on a round-robin basis with other team members. This helps me learn what is resonating with new prospects and maintain first-hand insight into customer experience with our services and organization.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually plant a seed for an idea by flagging an issue or question that has recently come up from a customer, employee or partner. Then, I let team members share their experience and perspective on the situation, be it good or bad. In some cases, I may try to challenge the group’s thinking by proposing an off-the-wall or non-obvious solution. I find this helps us flesh out proposed solutions more thoughtfully. I also revisit previous solutions when new information becomes available that may suggest another look at a topic is warranted. I have come to find that having a fresh look after some time has transpired or armed with new information helps drive better solutions over time.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am fascinated by the development and application of sensor technologies in healthcare. The areas range from mobility aids, prosthetics, dispensing medications, monitoring body functions, and diagnosing symptoms. They are accelerating the advancement of treatments at a pace we’ve never seen before.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I try to handle an email, piece of paper, or phone message only once, whenever possible. This means offering a solution or answer with only one touch, rather than needlessly returning to it multiple times before taking action.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t wait to do something. If you want to do it, do it now. Don’t put it off needlessly because you’re afraid or nervous. Just dive in and make the most of it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A flip phone is one of the best tools for staying in touch. I use one as the back-up to my iPhone because it can go in any pocket, I can sit or fall on it without breaking it, I can drop it without concern, and the battery lasts for days between charges. Whether I’m out for a walk or biking, working under the car, climbing around the house or trees in my yard, it is there for me. My wife swears by her Apple watch to accomplish the same thing, but I hate wearing watches. I find my trusty flip phone to be a much better choice for me when I don’t need or can’t have a smartphone handy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m always challenging the thinking on key topics, both my own thinking and that of others. You should always encourage yourself and others to play devil’s advocate with the position currently held. While the position may not change, it could lead to the finding stronger solutions or perspectives.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Keeping our options open. While having all the oars rowing in the same direction is very important, it is also essential to scan the horizon and be prepared to change course if needed. Growing a business is never a straight line, and the twists and turns can be unpredictable, so always be prepared for change and embrace it when it is warranted.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We launched an ad-funded navigation application called SpotOnGPS about six months before free navigation became table stakes on smartphones. We faced reality, assessed our options, killed the program immediately, and pivoted to what is today’s business. If you notice something isn’t working, before anyone wastes any more time, you need to look for a direction that will better suit the business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One thing I’ve noticed that is way too complicated and confusing today is consumer data management. We need a one-stop service to help consumers view, manage, delete and transfer their data across social media, cloud, and other online services through a simple unified interface. Having multiple interfaces that don’t interconnect across platforms is extremely inefficient and unproductive.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That trusty flip phone I was telling you about earlier. In fact, it was far less than $100!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There are so many, but Google search is the workhorse that helps me gather information and find things of interest day in and day out. It is my browser home page, and I use it many times a day.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. It is only 32 pages and about the right level for me. It discusses how the basis of life involves unexpected change, how it’s essential to get used to that concept, and to embrace it.
What is your favorite quote?
“Failure is not an option.” This is a phrase attributed to Gene Krantz, a NASA Flight Director during the Gemini and Apollo space programs. A close second is: “Onward and upward!” This is a sentiment from “The Present Crisis”, a poem by James Russell Lowell and used in a speech by Abraham Lincoln during the same time period. These are two quotes I live by, or try to at least. If you keep pushing forward with this mentality in all your endeavors, you won’t have to worry that you didn’t do enough to accomplish a goal, and you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
• Stay focused on achieving your goals, but don’t be afraid to embrace change, and change your approach, or the goals themselves, when circumstances or new information suggests it is warranted.
• While it may be difficult to overcome some changes or challenges, don’t get hung up on them. Change course quickly, if you need to, and move on full steam ahead to your next objective. Focus on the future while learning from the past.
• Sometimes it is the simple things that can make the most significant impacts, so don’t overcomplicate things needlessly. When simple is not an option, shoot for a solution that is as simple as possible.