Adriano Fontanari: FAIL is the first attempt in learning

25 oct. 19
Adriano Fontanari digital innovation healthcare EIT

This article from Agile&Innovation people inspirational series is about Adriano Fontanari, an enthusiastic digital health innovator that I met during my EIT experience. I want to showcase many other people form that program, since I truly believe in healthcare need-based innovation as a leverage for societal progress.

Who is Adriano? What would you like your audience to know about you? What about your clients?

Hello there!

I am Adriano Fontanari, a digital health enthusiast. My interest in this field started in 2013 when I developed a narrative medicine platform for people that suffer from a chronic disease. Since then, I have been involved in several innovation projects. I am currently a business analyst intern for Nina Capital, a VC fund investing in health tech, Starship Health Innovation fellow of EIT Health and Ambassador of Digital Health Today. I truly believe in the power of communities this is why I am a proud member and local representative (Italy) of the EIT Health Alumni network.

If you were to describe Innovation to a 3-year-old or your grandmother, how would you do it?

I would describe innovation as cooking a chocolate cake without knowing the recipe. The only way to figure out how to prepare it is to try. Most likely you will burn the first cake and you will be disappointed. But… after two, three or even four failures you will weigh each ingredient and at the end of the process you will be proud of the result.

 Was there a trigger to send you on this journey related to Innovation? How did you get to be here?

Everything started in 2015. I was googling for medical information and I realized the importance of trust when talking about healthcare. If we ask a person to think about a social network, very likely the answer will be Facebook or Instagram. What about healthcare? Why is still does not exist THE WEBSITE everybody knows?

By working with doctors and patients I realized that the people that people go online because they are not enough satisfied with the answers they receive during a consultation. This is why I am very much focused on using digital tools to improve the doctor-patient relationship and the disease management of chronic diseases. I believe digital health as a huge potential to humanize healthcare by saving time to doctors and let them to be more focused on the person.

 Do you have a recent or important project that you want to showcase? Something that makes you proud or something that is concerning you and you want people to know about?

In the past few months, I have worked on market research to shed some light on the European Healthcare Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. What I found out is that:

  • Investments in digital health are growing (YoY)
  • There are 162 accelerators in Europe accepting healthcare companies, but few (around 30) have successful startups (fundraising of at least one startup that is greater than € 5M)
  • Universities are important institutions generating a high number of successful health tech spin-off companies. The geographical concentration of these is very much similar to the one of successful accelerators. The full report is available here:

I would like also to mention Ponterosso , the first care management service available in Italy that I co-founded in 2017. Ponterosso is a non-profit project offering up to four consultations with psychotherapists. The specialists are providing emotional support, orientation, and information related to the chronic disease.

 You are one of the 2019 select group of people attending the EIT Health Starship fellowship. What changed you during this program? Can you give a tip and a top for people that want to join EIT educational programs in the future?

EIT health Starship Fellowship is an eight -months (part-time) health innovation program around Europe. What the program taught me is that innovation is not a linear process. It is made of up and down but it is always important to keep the momentum going. My tip for future fellows is to look for a need that you feel close and not to worry about setbacks during the process.

 Why does innovation fail? Are there any caveats, advice, tips or tools you might want to share for people that are just starting this bumpy road?

Innovation is about creating the future. Something that it still does not exist and it is by definition uncertain. Imagine you have today an idea for a new startup. The idea is crystal clear in your mind but the first feedback with a potential user destroys it. There are a lot of things that we, as innovators, do not know. This is why it is important to adopt lean methodologies and keep testing ideas until there is traction.

As I always like to say FAIL is the first attempt in learning, but we can do an educated guess when developing our solution if we build it with the feedback of our users.

What about healthcare? It is even more challenging and this is why I am fascinated by this field. You have to check the stakeholders' alignments (end-user, beneficiary, and payer), the regulatory pathways, innovation has to be evidence-based and last but not least value-based (outcome/costs).

If you were to be a Lego character, how would you look like? Please describe to us and let your imagination go free. Visualization is a powerful tool and we might all find new things about ourselves when trying to step out of the old shoes.

 If I were a LEGO I would be a Penguin. It is an animal I admire since I were a child, because it travels thousands of miles each year and it lives in extreme conditions. Penguins are an example of resilience and determination.

Sorry Adriano, no LEGO penguin this time. I see you as the resilient digital innovator / researcher minifig.

You can reach Adriano via these links:,

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