Roberto Ugo – Co-Founder and CTO of Movvo

In the beginning, I lost a lot of time perfecting the product instead of selling it. I’ve learned that you need to start listening to your customers as early as possible.

It all started when Roberto Ugo opened his first bank when he was 5 years old. While it was a simple family bank that only accepted deposits, it was a very lucrative business for him. After all, his customers couldn’t withdraw money.

Ugo always knew that he wanted to bring his profitable projects to the real world. He’s now the chief technology officer and co-founder of Movvo, a company that won the first MIT Portugal Venture Competition. Movvo creates innovative technology that can measure the flow of people in physical spaces, answer retailers’ needs, and enhance customers’ shopping experiences. It has offices in Portugal, Boston, and Silicon Valley.

Ugo speaks five languages fluently and has an international background in engineering and computer science. He specialized in business data networks and e-commerce at Boston University and the University of the West of Scotland.

Where did the idea for Movvo come from?

When Suzy, Diana, and I were university researchers, one of our instructors didn’t like to go shopping. To help him, we developed a “shortest shopping path” mobile app, which would give the shortest path based on a list of groceries he needed to buy. But we figured if everyone shopped like him, retailers wouldn’t make money! Impulsive shoppers simply wouldn’t exist. We wondered what tools retailers used to understand their customers, and we discovered that what they used was very outdated. That was the start of Movvo.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

My days can get chaotic sometimes. Normally, I enjoy working through the night. For me, that’s the best time to work without interruptions and distractions. During the day, I try to catch up with all my teams and delegate the most critical issues. I go to the gym at noon to get an energy boost and clear some of the pressure from the morning. That helps me be more productive in the afternoon.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Having a technical background allows me to create prototypes in a very short time. Sometimes, I need to get help from my development team members, so I try to sell them on an idea. If it passes their judgment, I know it’s a good idea that will be rapidly implemented.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I hate to shop, but I’m fascinated by everything related to the retail industry because it’s one of the world’s toughest markets. To be successful, you have to overcome some incredible challenges. For example, I’m very excited to see how the industry will solve the “showroom” problem that retailers are currently facing.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I meditate; it helps me relax and think about daily problems.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

My worst job was replacing old computers in a big telecommunications corporation. I had to do very repetitive tasks. I was young, but I learned a lot about how big corporations work. I was able to spend some time in each department, and that helped increase my understanding.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would take some personal time. A break can sometimes help us see the big picture and find excellent solutions to problems. There are many mistakes that I wouldn’t repeat, but that’s part of the learning process.

As an entrepreneur, what’s the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always keep your team motivated and informed. You need to pay attention to all aspects of your team and try to bring balance. Always listen to your advisors and mentors, too. Try to get as much information from them as you can so that you can overcome your problems with more knowledge.

What’s one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Staying focused was the most important strategy that helped us grow. We could have diversified and used our technology for different verticals, but we focused on one specific vertical: retail. Focusing helped us better understand customer needs and grow in that sector. Otherwise, our growth would have been much slower.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the beginning, I lost a lot of time perfecting the product instead of selling it. I’ve learned that you need to start listening to your customers as early as possible. Otherwise, you’ll have an excellent product that won’t be helpful to anyone.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One crazy idea that I have is to create a service where people create a crowdsourced film with footage they’ve collected during live concerts. You don’t need to film everything from the concert — just you enjoying it. In the end, you probably could get a great video of your experience.

What’s the best $100 you recently spent, and why?

I spent $75 on a tuk-tuk ride with my development team. We went to places downtown that we don’t normally visit. It was refreshing to be tourists in our own city. We learned a lot of new stuff!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Podio to organize and connect with my teammates, and I use Zoom for video conferencing. So far, it’s the most intuitive software for connecting not only with each other, but also with partners and customers. I like Spotify for music, Google Docs for document writing and spreadsheets, and Slack for internal chatting.

What’s the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

If you love to understand how the world and the economy move, then I recommend “Freakonomics” and “Hipster Business Models.” Another interesting book is “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I’m influenced by a few blogs, including Priceonomics, Tim Ferriss’ blog, and Y Combinator’s Hacker News.


Robert Ougo on LinkedIn: