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Digital innovation not only needs people, but it’s also meritocratic

Evo Pricing is a startup specializing in predictive analytics that has as its core DNA a man-machine alliance: it hunts for talents to put the algorithms in their hands

Italy, December 11, 2017

Italy is the least meritocratic country in Europe, but there is a way out. On the Meritometer of the non-profit association “Forum of Meritocracy”, Italy scored 23.15 points: 44 behind top-ranked Finland, and 10 behind Spain, in penultimate place in the table. The slogan of the association is summarized in the hashtag #iocredonelmerito, which aligns well with the politics of many companies, at least in their stated values.

Corporate welfare, lean working, work-life balance – these are some topics that are slowly entering the vocabulary of managers, but finding more fertile ground in large companies in a country where most companies are small and medium-sized.

“Meritocratic change in society will not trickle down from the top, but will depend on the will of so many of our fellow citizens to openly and transparently become champions of merit,” says the slogan of the think tank “Merit”, headed by Roger Abravanel. This philosophy is in line with the “new Turin model” that exploits the collaboration between universities and companies to identify the best university students and give them the opportunity to learn, grow and work in the most innovative companies. To cultivate this nose for talent there are obviously the giants, from Intesa Sanpaolo to Amazon, but in the front ranks startups are indispensable. Among them, there is Evo Pricing, a company specializing in predictive analytics.

Founded in London, the startup has chosen Turin for its data scientist “shopping campaign” and to build its future with an Italian sauce. Turin, the home to major avant-garde degree courses and European capital of social impact (as evidenced by a memorandum recently signed in Toolbox) where the Turin offices of Evo Pricing stand out.

The formula is simple: “Artificial intelligence is not an enemy but an ally, it must be known and exploited without regard to the human contribution, on the contrary, in our case we help companies to understand the importance of the man-machine alliance by using competent, highly specialized and motivated staff. All this thanks to the value of meritocracy, which for us is in first place,” asserts Fabrizio Fantini, founder of Evo Pricing and former colleague of Abravanel during their time at McKinsey.

It is therefore no coincidence that both are supporters of a better Italy based on overcoming favouritism and advancing the brightest and best. “We can put this country in order,” Abravanel has always maintained, and a few years ago he also wrote about it in a book published by Garzanti titled “Meritocracy”.

Proof of the fact that technology and inputs coming from abroad, perhaps, will save us, the intuition of Evo Pricing was born in the years in McKinsey when Fantini was in contact with the top managers of the whole world, finding the potential unexplored by companies, unable to understand the value of their data and to benefit from it, but also the lack of use of human intuition, the first and indispensable ally of the machines.

“Human intuition improves the results of artificial intelligence and, in the retail world in which, for example, we work, their combination reduces error by 40 percent. Decisions become more accurate and sales grow by more than ten percent,” says Fantini. “The biggest battle we are pursuing is to fight waste, risks and slowness due to uncertainty, by changing the way companies make decisions.” The productive world is beginning to understand this process and so the investor grows with them. “We started in 2015 with very few people and today our team is constantly expanding thanks to the development of “made in Italy” personnel and thanks to consultants from all over the world,” adds Evo Pricing’s founder. These are the observations of a man who, in just over three years, opened two offices (London and Turin), with customers in Europe and North America, dozens of advisors from the most prestigious international universities (Harvard, ESCP, London Business School, ESADE, University of Turin…) and a team of 23 people, most of them data scientists in their 20s.

The data scientist is among the most useful digital profiles to face the digital transformation underway in all sectors. This was also highlighted by a recent study by Boston Consulting Group describing this ‘profession 4.0’: the data scientist “analyzes and, above all, interprets the data collected in an advanced way, finding hidden connections and models to be applied to the business to encourage growth”.

While reports tell of some companies that entrust the selection of staff or shifts to “cold” algorithms, startups like Evo Pricing do the opposite: they choose resources based on their qualities already demonstrated during their course of study and put the algorithms in their hands to govern them. “We have collaborators all over the world, so the office is a resource for us, an opportunity, but it is not mandatory to work from the same site every day,” Fantini clarifies. “The important thing is the result, not where it is reached.”

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