Founder and CEO of Italian startup Digital Business Innovation Srl, Antonio is regarded as one of the top digital transformation influencers and researchers on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and sustainability. He is an enterprise and public sector consultant. He collaborates with large multinationals and public institutions as an advisor, b2b influencer, author, and software innovator. Currently, he is involved in two projects by the European Commission: the Next Generation Internet and the AI4EU – Artificial Intelligence for Europe as an external expert and ambassador. Antonio is an Accredited and Qualified Global Mentor for Startups and Scaleups by the World Business Angels Investment Forum. In 2021 he joined The Society of Professional Journalists as a professional member. His ethical vision regarding digital transformation has seen him active on numerous social channels, all dedicated to spreading knowledge, most notably to developing countries. Antonio aims to help spread the concept of digital transformation, and he actively engages on social media to bring the latest content on new, emerging technologies and their uses to secure a better future. Antonio Grasso has over 37 years of experience handling numerous projects in the field of information technology for both enterprise and public sectors. He believes that digital transformation is a digital evolution process that involves many aspects, and technology is only a component of the puzzle. For him, the biggest hurdle is cultural change, and a strategic approach to face this epochal change is paramount.
As an entrepreneur, what are some of the battles you had to win to become successful?
Aside from the financial battle, the business model aligned with today’s market needs was complex to predict. I thought about exposing myself as a person with my skills rather than highlighting the company logo. It worked.
When did you realize that business and tech was your passion?
When I was a teenager, I was enchanted by technology’s mechanisms. I opened everything to find out what was inside, closed it again, and resold it to other friends in exchange for other instruments or toys. Later it was a natural evolution.
What led you to pursue a career in AI and IoT? Is it something that always fascinated you, or was it an acquired taste?
I started as a software developer in 1983 and wrote ERP software for local clients. My whole working life has been immersed in software. Then with the arrival of the new probabilistic algorithms of artificial intelligence, I embraced the evolution. The Internet of Things has always been present in my working life because I have been programming devices for many years, which is part of my passion for technology.
Which moment in your life would you consider a sign that you have arrived as a top professional in the industry?
That time hasn’t come for me yet. Like many I live the concept expressed by many that “the race for excellence has no finish line”
Being an enterprise and public sector consultant, how do you find well-tailored solutions for each client?
I always put people at the organization’s center, try to understand the specific requirements of each assignment, and then adapt my professional action to optimize the delicate mechanisms that govern all organizations, whether private or public.
What is your role as an external consultant on your projects with the European Commission: the Next Generation Internet and the AI4EU – Artificial Intelligence for Europe?
For AI4EU I am an external expert and a mentor. I participate in independent evaluations of projects that should be funded by the European Commission as an external expert, but I also do mentorship actions for companies benefiting from European funds. In addition, thanks to my extensive presence on social media, I am also an ambassador of the NGI initiative to make the objectives and specific characteristics of the project known in Europe.
You have visited many countries to spread knowledge about digital transformation. What, according to you, was one of the most memorable events in your travels?
I can’t make a ranking because I consider them all memorable events from my point of view. But if I had to choose one, I would say that one of the events in South Africa was the one that most caught my attention thanks to the great power of positive contamination that I felt during the trip and the keynote.
Starting a new business isn’t easy, and sustaining it is the hardest part of being your own boss. How did you cope during the pandemic and what is one takeaway you’d like to share with budding entrepreneurs today?
I consider myself a lucky entrepreneur because during the pandemic, thanks to the business model of my business, I was able to work almost the same as before. For those starting now, I believe that underestimating online channels is a big mistake and putting your skills first is the right thing to do. People matter more than brands.
What forced you to start your own company?
More than being forced by something, I was driven by an unstoppable desire to put myself, my skills, and the desire to share them with those who have the same passions as me. This allowed me to gain reputation for myself and my new business
Can you tell us your opinion about the digital transformation we see today? Do you think it is the future is now?
Digital transformation is not a point of arrival but an evolutionary path toward the post-digital era that involves all aspects of an organization. Now, we are getting used to digital as we did with electricity and TV at that time. Then we got used to these innovations, and today we can no longer live without them. I believe that the same thing will happen in a few years with digital. It will become so widespread and essential to us that, as with electricity, we will only notice its absence and no longer its presence.