Roberto Toscani is a passionate innovator. He was among the first to develop a management software for railways that handles everything from employee training and scheduling to asset performance and security.
“I started to provide Software as a Service before the term existed,” he says. “My passion has always been to understand the needs of the customer and the market.”
After an engineering degree in telecommunications, he worked in IT for a dozen years as a developer, analyst and project manager with Microsoft Dynamics NAV for rail transport and food processing.
Transportation has been an inspiration since childhood, growing up in Piacenza, a city in northern Italy with great cuisine, architecture and mobility. Piacenza is also an important economic centre about 50 km south of Milan, and has a large intermodal freight and passenger station with connections to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.
This is where he played soccer, got married and stayed for his work and family life.
“I chose rail because of the potential, and my idea was to create a product for a vertical market,” he explains.
The rail market in Europe before the end of the 1990s was a public operation for both passenger and freight. Legislative changes opened up the industry to private enterprise, including entrepreneurs like Roberto.
While others were integrating solutions for transportation software, he was building a product from the ground up that could be tailored to evolving customer needs.
By now, Roberto had established himself as an expert in railway software; he decided to take the plunge and start his own company, Binary System, in 2012, with HQ right in his hometown.
The name is a clever play on the Italian “binario” for railway track and “binary” in computer language.
“I thought, I just have to do it. I rented an office and hired three employees in two months,” he says of the whirlwind business launch. “I had a house to pay for, kids and a business. Looking back, I’m not sure I would do it all the same way.”
Binary System had fast-rising success with its SoftRail modular solution setting the benchmark in Italy, expanding in Germany in 2015, and now serving 50 companies across Europe.
He had a very clear vision – and made a commitment to his wife – to sell his company by 2020. Which he did, joining the Modaxo group with a new goal to take Binary System to the global market.
While some owners sell their companies to enjoy retirement, Roberto says that was never part of his plan.
“I’m still young. I’m ready for the next step, a new opportunity.”
Now he’s excited to be part of Modaxo, helping shape the group’s mandate and offerings, and expanding Binary System from freight into the people transportation space. He’s keen on opening up new career paths for his dedicated employees who have stayed the course during the transition.
But it’s not all about railway systems for Roberto. He has many diverse interests, not the least of which is dogsledding.
“I’m a newcomer to the sport, I started two years ago, and just getting my third dog,” he says.
“My passion is the Siberian Huskies. I got my first one three years ago, but it’s been my dream since I was young.”
Building his dogsled team has required some negotiation, convincing his wife that he needed another dog. He has his two kids and a demanding work schedule, and the dogs need a lot of time and attention, too.
Of course, snow in Italy is a short season. When he’s not training the dogs with the sled, he’s using a three-wheeled scooter cart, which is the dry-land version of the sport worldwide.
Entrepreneurs like Roberto are achievers. They calculate outcomes, but certainly go with their gut instinct and take risks. They get things done.
So you never know, we might find Roberto heading to Alaska to compete in the Iditarod. He’s clearly got the drive for it.