We met Renato Giacobbo Scavo, CEO of CrestOptics the Rome-based company that is a worldwide reference for scientists working in the field of microscopy.
Who is Renato Giacobbo Scavo?
Before becoming an entrepreneur, I spent an important part of my professional life at Bain & Company, a firm that enabled me to observe and work closely with top Italian entrepreneurs. Experience in consulting taught me that good ideas alone are rarely enough to start and grow solid businesses. It is imperative to build an organizational system that works well and can value people, their talent and skills. Later, I embarked on several digital and data ventures, including my first start-up in the field. Attracted by technology, I joined CrestOptics in 2013 as a partner alongside the founders, becoming CEO in the scale-up phase in 2020. This experience was the most important and well-rounded for me because it combined my passion for technology and innovation with my desire to build a firm with a meaningful social impact within the Roman territory, to which I feel deeply connected to. Today I lead a company, owned by institutional investors and run by managers, that researches, develops, manufactures in-house, and distributes technologies that, by improving the performance of fluorescence microscopes, get into the hands of the most important researchers within the life sciences world. The same technology is also being integrated into more complex systems in pharmaceutical and material studies.
CrestOptics employs a significant number of young people from both our technical schools and universities. You also told me that you brought back a former brain drain…
CrestOptics currently employs about 60 people, from 10 different nations, and with an average age of under 35. One of the most important areas is research into new technologies, where our engineers, physicists, and computer scientists work with outside researchers to identify, develop, and test new ideas before they enter the full design and development phase. This innovation process can last from a minimum of 24 months up to 4-5 years. Once the company is persuaded of the market potential of the new technology, the same team begins product engineering, where it takes at least 18 months to develop prototypes. Once tested with our best customers, the products go into production. This is a long, costly, and risky path, where the quality and dedication of the team are key success factors. Another important area is manufacturing, where a team from the best technical schools work to assemble and test finished products. The process requires quality and complexity comparable to that of the highest precision watchmaking. External mechanical and electronic companies are involved in the production process, which are part of the Roman area that has extensive experience in the defense and aerospace sectors. Finally, we work with customers all over the world (Italy represents less than 5 % of our target market) thanks to a sales structure comprising experts from the life sciences sector, often with significant research experience, capable of dialogue on an equal level with the world’s best scientists. We have built a team of people who in several cases have chosen to return to Italy, coming not only from other European countries, but also from the United States and Australia.
The concept of Made in Italy is rarely associated with that of innovation, although CrestOptics is proof of this, as Italy is able to compete with multinational giants even in high-tech sectors.
I believe that in Italy there are many firms capable of being innovative. We are a country where creativity abounds, and the quality of our technicians is extraordinary and recognized worldwide. In the microscopy sector, Japanese giants like Nikon and Olympus, or German giants like Leica and Zeiss, have more than 100 years of history. For us, these large companies are both customers in some cases and suppliers of alternative technologies with which to compete in others. They certainly represent an example to follow and exceed in terms of product quality and performance. However, in the complex domains in which we operate, Italian companies have innate strengths in our culture. We are very creative and able to be faster in identifying and launching new products. We have a great dedication to our customers, both in the sales and follow-up stages. These are just a few examples of the advantages with which we are highly competitive with our direct rivals, despite their history and size.
What is your dream/ambition as an entrepreneur and manager?
I would like CrestOptics to become a globally recognized player, not only for its products but more importantly for its ability to comprehensively help the world of scientific research to implement unique applications that bring tangible results in the field of neuroscience or cancer diagnostics. I would also like us to be capable of bringing new technologies to universities and research centers that cannot currently afford them, to provide more “widespread” access to tools that are now essential to keep up with the times. I would like Italy and the Roman territory, to continue to be the heart of the company’s innovation and production, becoming a point of reference for young researchers.
And now for my favorite question: Renato, what is Made in Italy for you?
Made in Italy is first and foremost a brand. Like all brands, today it is recognized for a variety of factors that make the difference, such as beauty, savoir vivre, and quality, which make this brand unbeatable in the areas of food, fashion, and culture. Based on what we discussed in this interview, I believe that in the future, Made in Italy could also include other differentiating factors that make it a strong brand in other industries as well. For example, where technological development will require a great ability to adapt quickly or where taking care of customer relations is a differentiating feature.