Today we have the pleasure of introducing Domenico Palmisani, CEO and founder of iPratico, the first POS in the world to be designed for iPad and published on the App Store. During the interview, we had the chance to learn more about the entrepreneur Domenico Palmisani, the company's mission and vision, its product offerings, and its plans for the future.
How did you approach the restaurant business? And under what needs was iPratico born?
I was a university student who wanted to be financially independent, so I started practicing in an accountant's office and helping set up the bookkeeping of stores in my locality. Moreover, I also enjoyed organizing private parties in taverns and private gardens. When the disco craze hit in the 80s, I transitioned to arranging parties there and understood the business potential. Then, I started following a principle that has been with me all my life: if I don't give anything, I don't want anything; if I give something, I would like a small part of that something. And this way, I got an arrangement that would have allowed me to get 10% over my parties' earnings. However, there was a problem. I was skeptical about how to compute that 10% because there were too many payment points in the discos. So I put in place a system that would allow me to control the takings, the "Drink card" system: each customer would receive a card at the entrance, use it to make orders, and pay the bill only at the end. Before then, people had to pay each time they purchased something in the disco; it was not optimal from an operational point of view. And this operational strategy had success back then: we distributed almost 18 million drink cards at the peak of its success. As the era of discos began to fade, I decided to move into the restaurant business, which had a more reliable structure and a greater customer base. This is how I approached this sector: I thought of streamlining and speeding up the ordering system by having a smartphone become a POS. Initially, as usual, I was told it could not be done. I convinced my programmers to try it anyway, and eventually, we succeeded. We installed the world's first POS on iPhone, and in September 2010, we launched it in the Apple Store. Consider that we had a tax receipt printed by an iPhone one year and a half before Apple developed AirPrint. That's how iPratico was born. Then, when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad, he seemed to have created it exactly for us because the only limitation we had up to that point was that the iPhone had a screen that was too small. Apple noticed us, and in 2017 we became their first and only Italian partner for the development of vertical and management solutions for catering, as well as being part of their Mobility Partner Program comprising 140 companies, including Deloitte, Cisco, and other big names.
How do you define yourself as an entrepreneur?
iPratico has not been a conventional start-up because we have not done any round of financing. It was born with a typically Italian approach, with the entrepreneur investing in himself and growing in self-financing. Indeed, iPratico today has only one partner: me. So I am an old-style entrepreneur, and I have to say I am not exactly proud of that because I realize that things change (I am the first one to say that change means growth), and my approach is a bit too vintage. It has limited the potential of the company a lot. To give you an example: there exists a Canadian company offering a product similar to ours. By comparing the two applications, we see that they are practically overlapping, except that iPratico has extra features, such as the ability to converse directly with the application, to give it commands, and a higher level of interface design and user experience. The difference is that this other company is public and has billions in market capitalization. So I reiterate that my approach up to this point has been a limitation. However, one always learns: our product has now reached a maturity that allows us to make a dimensional leap. We will soon present new features in our offering that will allow us to launch more strongly into international markets and new sectors such as retail.
Do you think the IPratico and Cryptocurrencies worlds could converge at some point?
Surely. Already a couple of years ago, I went to a big bank and proposed to integrate their famous wallet with our product; we would have gone to newspapers saying that from then on, it would have been possible to pay for a coffee with a bitcoin. They replied that it would have been difficult for them, as an institution, to do such a thing. We could have already been far ahead, but in the Fintech world, there is still a lot of fear of the possible consequences. I am ready for this to happen, and I don't exclude that we will do something about it soon. In Italy, however, entrepreneurship has always been very complicated, even at the beginning of my journey.
In an interview at Sigep 2022, there is one point that particularly attracted our attention: customer loyalty. At what point did iPratico also start offering solutions in this direction, and what was the market response?
The topic of a specialized offer for the customer is a topic that affects all sectors of the economy. Commercial communication has become increasingly aggressive over the years. Most of this, however, is generalist, and this way, you do not have great results. You clearly should try to speak to every single customer. As an entrepreneur, you must profile as much as possible and address customers with personalized messages. IPratico, which wants to be a forerunner of efficient and innovative solutions, has also thought of this: it allows you to profile users to formulate personalized offers. It is not only a POS; it also has a promotional engine linked to a CRM, with a database of profiled customers, and offers engagement tools to build this database. The bigger it is, the better it becomes a tangible asset.
What do you recommend to young people who want to do business? And would you recommend Italy for this?
I identify with the stereotype of the Italian entrepreneur, both in strengths and weaknesses. Among the latter, I wanted to do everything on my own for a long time, when maybe today I could already be listed on the stock exchange. Italians invent coffee, and Americans arrive and start a multinational company out of it. Abroad everything would have been easier and faster for me. Despite everything, I'm happy to have done business in Italy. I advise young people to be, first of all, open-minded. It is also true that one cannot believe in an important project at a local level; you have to put yourself in the perspective of expanding it. Italy or abroad? Follow your intuitions, not what others say. You get to the bottom of your projects if you do what you believe in. The difference between those who have success and those who don't is only partially the idea; however, the decisive component is called tenacity. When I went to my first clients, at 24 years old, to propose the idea for my first business, I only received disheartening opinions, even from successful people in the industry. If I had quit, the drink card system would not have existed. Tenacity makes the difference because there are always problems; there are no simple things. Then for others, retrospectively, they will always be good ideas, once they are already developed.