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Inspiring Best Practice 2 November Nov 2018 0830 2 November 2018

The brain drain is in reverse and Netflix and Spotify are facing competition

Bending Spoons is one of the top 10 companies in the world for application downloads. It is even ahead of some of the sharing economy’s untouchable champions. And it was founded by five young men who returned from Copenhagen to work in Milan

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Five friends who studied together - four Italians and one Pole - meet in Copenhagen and decide to found a startup: the company falls through, but in 2013 they take up the gauntlet again to create Bending Spoons. A year later they move to Milan and today Bending Spoons is one of the top 10 companies in the world for application downloads, according to Sensor Tower, a Californian app intelligence agency. It sits in ninth place, ahead of web giants like Netflix and Spotify, and has 120 million downloads to its name, producing 20 products, chosen by an average of 200,000 users every day. Bending Spoons is headquartered at 15 Corso Como, among the skyscrapers of Milan. The office is a vast, bright open space that the founders themselves designed. “We thought we had a chance to offer some really interesting work in an innovative field that provides enormous growth opportunities, and we wanted to open that option up to the many young people who would otherwise have gone abroad,” says Matteo Danieli, 34, Co-Founder and Product Manager.

The idea for the name and then the company’s logo - an open infinity symbol made up of two bent spoons - comes from the film, The Matrix: “There’s a scene in the film where a child bends a spoon with his thoughts: the name’s meaning links back to that idea, that, in order to have a significant impact on life, the best way is to look at things from a point of view that is completely different to all others,” Danieli explains.

Bending Spoons’ recipe for success is all about their approach and is based around three key points: Technology, which helps automate and eliminate manual and repetitive tasks; data, because decisions taken in a company are based around mathematical models that predict users’ future behaviour; and, most importantly, people. “We invest a lot more resources first in selecting staff and then in helping those who work for us to grow and in making them happy. They are the most important asset we have,” says the founder. “What has brought us success in this extremely competitive field is having professionalised the sector: our strategy is not to focus on one category but to develop applications in very different categories.”

In order to have a significant impact on life, the best way is to look at things from a point of view that is completely different to all others.

Matteo Danieli, co-founder of Bending Spoons

At work in the Bending Spoons offices in Corso Como, Milan

There are 70 people working at Bending Spoons, consisting of nine nationalities. 10% are foreigners and 30% women. Software engineers are the most sought after employees - and it’s the role for which it is typically the most difficult to hire - but recently, the company has hired into other areas, such as marketing. “Lots of young Italians study and go abroad to work for big companies like Google and Facebook. It’s also likely that the universities don’t provide enough training for the professions,” explains Matteo Danieli. “We find it very difficult to find young women to hire, especially in this field. I think the problem is linked to a cultural and social issue - for some reason they find themselves directed towards other types of careers. We would be very happy to welcome loads of them.”

Bending Spoons’ recipe for success is all about the approach and is based around three key points: technology, data and, most importantly, people.

Matteo Danieli, co-founder of Bending Spoons

Bending Spoons’ most well known apps include 30 Day Fitness, for training at home, and Slide Show, for selecting photos and videos to post on social media. The company - which has no external investors, leaving 100% in the hands of its founders and employees - is aiming to round off 2018 having generated over 40 million. Its development plan sees it doubling its staff within two years.

Danieli believes that the fact that Bending Spoons has made the global top ten for application downloads, “Proves that it’s possible to create a company in Italy that can compete on the global scene,” and this can, “Make people seriously think how important it is to learn about how the market is evolving, about the new markets opening up and about making investments in sectors that allow us to progress.” “Our objective is to become the leading publishers in the app world, to create the most well known apps, of the highest quality, and to perform financially in as many categories as possible. I think we'll manage it within a few years,” he concludes with a smile.

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