Cristian Parrino has travelled the world throughout his life. Born in Italy and US raised, he moved to the UK 14 years ago after a stint in Argentina, to help BT build their startup accelerator.
More recently, Cristian joined Canonical as Vice President of Mobile to create an Ubuntu operating system for phones and tablets. His latest venture is Greengame, co-founded with Victor Palau (who was also with Cristian at Ubuntu) – which aspires to make sustainable living simple, fun and incentivising.
Simpleweb has recently teamed up with Greengame to turn their technology and initial prototype into an engaging app that can help everyone live sustainably, and allows authorities, brands and universities to reward people for being green.
We asked Cristian to share his story so far, including his work on the Ubuntu Phone, the ambitious (but never released) Ubuntu Edge, and his vision for the future of sustainable living…
Ubuntu Edge – the never released mobile/desktop hybrid
Cristian joined Canonical as VP of Mobile with the mission of building a version of Ubuntu, the free, open source operating system, for mobile. During his time at Canonical, Cristian led the team behind the Ubuntu Phone operating system.
Back in 2013, Cristian and Victor attempted to get funding for the Ubuntu Edge – a high-concept smartphone that could be docked and used as a PC when connected with a monitor, keyboard and mouse – which included a leading edge hardware spec that had never been done before and hasn’t been realised since.
At the time, the Indiegogo campaign had the highest target of any crowdfunded project ever, trying to raise $32m in one month. “We raised $13 million” says Cristian, “and so we broke every record, including how much we raised and how much we missed by.”
When talking about the Edge, Cristian says “just about every component of it had never been realised in the market.”
The phone was going to use sapphire glass, the material used to protect the iPhone camera, for its entire screen, something Cristian says he had only seen done in the military. “We were in front of so many mobile phone manufacturers and operators where they had all this technology in their labs, but they couldn’t afford to bring it to market at scale without years of rigorous testing. Our point was that we could use crowdfunding to bring the latest software and hardware to market faster, without the risk of producing at scale from day one.”
The main plan, however, was always to release the Ubuntu Phone operating system on existing hardware, which was achieved in February 2014, when Canonical and BQ launched the first Ubuntu Phone with a well received and radically different user experience that didn’t revolve around apps.
Creating a sustainable future with Greengame
“Greengame is something I’ve wanted to do for many years” says Cristian, “but technology-wise what I wanted to do wasn’t possible 7 years ago.”
That hasn’t stopped Cristian from thinking about the idea to the point where, “when I left [Canonical] to do Greengame a little over year ago, I realised that the amount of documentation that I had accumulated (based on research, conversations, product specs) was over 25 pages long.
“Every time I saw a cue, I would put that information in a specific place… It’s always been in my head, I always knew the time would come when I would get to combine a passion for the environment with my tech experience to create something of impact.”
Cristian and Victor have built some pretty impressive technology to support the core of Greengame, which takes on a hard problem – behaviour change.
“If you look at behaviour change and sustainable living, it’s very complicated because its not touching on the greed, vanity or fear elements which typically drive people to change behaviour” Cristian says.
“Saving the planet is something everyone can support in principle, but changing everyday behaviour is hard, particularly when lacking personal incentive and when there is so much friction behind learning what you could be doing, and tracking what you’re already doing.”
“We’re now at a time now when there’s unprecedented awareness of sustainability and green living” says Cristian who cites Unilever studies “that show over 30% of their consumers are already buying from brands who can demonstrate positive environmental impact”.
In other words, it’s time for sustainability to become an unconscious, automatic way of living that everyone can contribute to effortlessly.
Simpleweb is working to turn Cristian and Victor’s prototype of Greengame into a product that makes sustainability rewarding and effortless. Watch this space to find out about Greengame’s story in real time, follow them on Twitter @greengme or visit greenga.me to sign up for exclusive early access.
If you’d like to collaborate with Simpleweb, get in touch today.