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Third generation looks to keep Campagnolo relevant and growing

Published August 25, 2017

PUERTO DE MOGAN, Gran Canaria (BRAIN) — Davide Campagnolo, 36, sticks out in the riding group that heads out of Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria. The son of Valentino Campagnolo and grandson of company founder Tullio Campagnolo, he’s unusually tall and towers over many of the American journalists who are here to test Campagnolo’s long-awaited hydraulic road disc groupsets in early May. But as a key part of the development team of H11, he’s interested in hearing feedback from this particular group.

The middle child of Valentino, Davide, along with an older and a younger sister, is part of the third generation of Campagnolos who are being groomed to continue the company’s long legacy, which started back in 1933 with its first patented product — a quick release. He oversees 10 engineers who work on strategic new product at the company, including developing new technologies like those in Campagnolo’s new H11 groupsets.

Davide has worked for the family business for seven years, starting in cycling apparel, a division that was shuttered years ago. He then worked in the company’s product development department alongside project managers. With product development split into two — the core business and strategic new product/technologies — his responsibilities have evolved into the latter, though in his role he’s also able to provide input and feedback to other areas of the company including quality control, marketing and sales.

Davide works closely with his father, whom he describes as a workaholic. “He absolutely loves his job. He’s a product guy and he’s very involved and focused,” he said. Though Davide didn’t get to know his grandfather, Tullio, who died when he was only 2 years old, he describes him in much the same way that he describes his father. “He was a workaholic for sure and dedicated most of his life to the business and to building the company,” he said. That was why he had Valentino so late in life, at age 50, Davide added.

Valentino didn’t have the luxury of time. He took over the business at a young age. He was 33 years old when Tullio passed away, and has followed in his footsteps. “He’s there before everyone gets there in the morning and there after everyone leaves in the evening, and on Saturdays his car is sometimes there too,” said Joshua Riddle, who handles PR and communications for Campagnolo. “It’s not a Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5.”

Davide’s road into the family business has been a curvy one. After graduating with degrees in physical fitness/therapy and communications/politics, he joined his father. But the stint was short lived. After six months he felt he needed a taste of the outside business world. “I wanted to have other experiences,” he remembered. “These things were not appreciated by my father obviously, but this was my choice. At the time, I felt I could wait, so I started working in a completely different market.”

He worked in cardboard tube manufacturing and in banking, where he eventually worked his way up to financial adviser and consultant, selling many of the bank’s products. After gaining some work experience outside of his father’s company, he decided to return. “I felt I was ready,” Davide explained.

With Valentino still engrossed in the day to day, Davide and his sisters are not taking the helm just yet. But they are beginning to shape the company’s future and helping it change with the times. Campagnolo remains a privately owned company, and employs more than 1,000 people. “The world is changing, the market is changing, our clients are changing, and because of this we need to change internally,” Davide said. “Especially in recent years, with new segments like gravel and disc brakes. But not only in product. There are many other things in terms of marketing and sales that are important to evolve. 

“One of the most important topics for us is distribution, especially in America,” he added. Although Davide has a sharp focus on new product and technologies, he also takes a longer and wider view of business. And he’s keenly aware of the benefits and challenges of running a longstanding company with his family’s name. “It’s a tough job because we have a strong heritage, but at the same time we need to have a new face, a new image, more modern. This process is mandatory to stay in the market,” he said.

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