On the lighter side of things we ask Marcos Monteiro, Co-Founder and CEO, Veezoo, what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Without a doubt it was winning the Hackathon back in 2015. It turned out to be truly life changing. This was when we built the first prototype of Veezoo. It took us only 24 hours to create a mock-up of the idea, but it was enough to see how enthusiastic people got with its potential and capabilities. That’s when we first realised we had struck something special. Then we started to think about the potential of such a platform and how we could build something of value and substance. This led me to scrapping my plan to do a PhD in data science and instead set up Veezoo with a goal to bring it to market.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
Ever since I was a kid I liked building things, especially electronic things. I remember I had a robot-making kit that I thought was amazing. When I was 12, this interest evolved from fun to practical and I programmed a software for my mum to manage the contact information of the clients from her clinic.
My fascination with Artificial Intelligence and robots grew, and I wanted to pursue that further as my career path. For me the most interesting part of the robot was its intelligence and I soon realised that this was all purely mathematics. This was at the core of intelligence and I understood that if I wanted to build something, I had to master mathematics to do so. I was still studying when Veezoo was created so the career in technology happened before I had even planned it.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
We have four cornerstones that form the culture and management philosophy of Veezoo. The first is to encourage our team to ask the right questions. For us, questions are the basis for innovation and transparency. They are our company’s driving force, they are at the core of our product. It’s our number one value. The second is about focusing on the essential. Not only is it critical for us to work efficiently, but also to get us thinking about what is really essential. Third, is about making decisions based on facts and reasonable assumptions, using data to build solid and palpable arguments. Data is deep at the heart of our company. Fourth is about doing the impossible beautifully. We push ourselves to do what most people think is impossible and we strive to accomplish them with beauty. It should feel like art.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Natural language processing will be one of the hottest topics in information technology for the next 15 to 20 years. If you think about how much information has changed humanity over the past 100 years it’s staggering. Even just in the past 10 years the power of information has made drastic changes to our lives. But with great amounts of information, comes great challenges in accessing the relevant information. They require disruptive solutions. Take search engines, they were a big leap on how to find the right website among billions of pages online. However, the data collected by companies is still not easily accessible to the employees. The tools are still too complex for non-technical people. However, if you think about it, the easiest way to request information is actually by simply asking for it. That’s what we believe at Veezoo and what we have been working for, we want to make it easy for everyone to understand what is happening, giving them eyes to see what is in the data.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
It might sound a bit cliché but I really like meditating. I’ve practiced Tai-Chi since I was a kid and I like to do it at least once a week. Or a few minutes of mindfulness meditation every day. It feels great, especially after a running session. Also, I’m currently training for a half iron-man. It is something I have never done before and it’s quite a challenging objective for me – especially as I have gained a few extra kilos since COVID-19 started. Also, it helps me to develop a more ambitious and resilient mindset. I take my role as CEO very seriously and want to make sure I am always the best I can be. What I do outside of the office is just as important as what I do in the office.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
Sometimes, when I look back, I wish I would have studied more in the area of computer science. I focused very heavily on maths and missed a bit of time to programme more. That said, my greatest passion has always been maths, so I decided to focus entirely on it. But computer science also has a strong place in my heart. I did a lot of coding but not as much as I would have wanted.
I am very lucky in that my career has always been CEO of Veezoo and there’s nothing I would change there. It’s been a great learning experience. Of course, I have made mistakes but sometimes these are hard to avoid and they’ve helped me and the company grow to where we are today.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
The first step is to build up a modern cloud data infrastructure. Tools like Fivetran or Airbyte help you gather data from different sources and load them into a modern cloud data warehouse, e.g. Snowflake or Redshift. Other great tools like DBT, enable you to transform your data effectively. They work together to build a database with quality data. This is fundamental before you can use your data to gain new insights.
Then, what we start to see more of, are companies investing in making data more accessible, not only for the technically skilled people but for everyone who needs information to aid their roles. Many don’t have time or expertise to work with data in the traditional way and need something that feels more natural. For example, if you think about sales or marketing managers, they need a lot of data to find new opportunities. However, they need something that is easy to use, otherwise they will be very limited. As organisations continue to see the value of data for their growth, we will see this need for accessibility to increase.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in EMEA?
Language. EMEA is a very fragmented market in terms of language and this creates many challenges when implementing a technology based on natural language processing, especially if you are a small company. For example, Veezoo provides a natural language interface to databases. In other words, it enables people to easily get answers to plain English questions about their data, such as ‘How many customers who have subscribed to our newsletter have placed no order in the last 6 months?’.
However, as a Swiss company, Veezoo had to understand three languages (DE, FR, IT) before it was rolled out nationwide. In that sense, the UK and US is a much more attractive market.
On the other hand, these additional challenges help us push our technology much further. Currently, Veezoo speaks four languages and each one of them helped us improve our artificial intelligence models further.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
The pandemic brought out a new way of working and many of the changes were very positive. One of the greatest changes for us was the increase of asynchronous processes. For example, in order to avoid virtual meetings, we started writing down more information about the topics to be discussed and their issues. This means that the team can read and digest it more efficiently, in their own time, providing us also with a better record of our decisions.
It helps make things more efficient and creates better documentation and more data. The past year has allowed us to be a global company. People are more receptive to virtual sales meetings now which has opened up new countries for us quicker than we projected. It also meant that we are able to hire from all over the world giving us access to great talent to join the Veezo team.
I had to adapt to it quickly but we will probably remain with a hybrid way of working, where we keep a mixture of virtual and physical to get the best out of the team.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
Well, I can only talk for entrepreneurs. If you are an entrepreneur, my number one tip is to excel at your core, the core of what you’re building. For the rest of it, leverage the best of what is out there. Stand tall on the shoulders of giants to get you further and build what you’re good at, better than anyone else.Click below to share this article