News for september 2010

Survey for my telecom startup idea

The startup I am trying to launch is a cheap, simple and online mobile phone operator. Since there is little data available about this it would be a great help if you can fill out the survey below.

And if you find it worthwhile to answer please share and retweet it! :)

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Posted: september 28th, 2010
Categories: Italy, marketing, telecom
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Don’t forget the VCs who don’t blog.

Like many people I like blogs written by VCs and entrepreneurs who have successfully raised VC funding. Some of the best information about startups and consumer web trends can be found on blogs by VCs such as Fred Wilson, Mark Suster and entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon. These blogs provide terrific insights into what some of the savviest people think and are also a great source for budding entrepreneurs on everything from how to pitch VCs to get ideas for your next startup.

Their blogs are a way to make a name for them selves, to clarify which kind of companies they invest in and of cours to ideally make their investments more valuable by giving them access to the best deals and entrepreneurs. While the final results remains to be seen it is worth noticing that some of the most successful VCs in the business do not blog and that clearly does not keep them from spotting the best deals or being approached by the best entrepreneurs.

Take a look at this post with the exits of Sequoia which shows that they are creating huge value. While Michael Moritz doesn’t blog his investments account for $5.5B of exits in the list. This is a good reminder that while VC blogs are a great asset to entrepreneurs some VCs do just fine without them. Another VC firm absent from much blogging is KCPB but clearly that does not prevent them from excellent deal flow and entrepreneurs who love them . While Kleiner Perkins and Michael Moritz do not share their thoughts via blogs they clearly do a great job adding values to the companies they invest in and help them build successful businesses.

p.s In Italy I have not been able to find many examples of VC blogs so if, you know any let me know where to find them.

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Posted: september 27th, 2010
Categories: marketing, VC
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Comments: 2 Comments.

Business Schools are the most Poorly Managed Institutions

It’s ironic that business schools, the places that are supposed to teach people management and leadership, always seem to be very poorly managed them selves. This was said by one of my former professors and I have found it to be surprisingly accurate.
Studying for my undergraduate degree at CBS there was a lot of bureaucracy and overall not a supportive administration. At Bocconi, the administration has been mostly helpful and cooperative, however my view has changes after I have had to register for graduation.
The process is mind-boggling complicated and very kafkaesque.

Here is what you have to do in order to graduate at Bocconi: It’s taken from the incredibly long guide to submitting the thesis and graduating.

  1. Access the thesis procedure online and enter the abstract
  2. Download and print an approval form in 2 copies
  3. Fill out and sign this form
  4. You now give this firm to your advisor who has to sign it
  5. Now hand in the signed approval form to the graduate secretary
  6. Now you’re finally ready to submit your thesis on a CD Rom and collect a receipt for having submitted!

Mind you that this is the very last step and before this you need to have handed in other signed forms and also have approved your internship which goes something like this:

  1. Bring internship documents to the internship office and get a signature
  2. Now get your program director to sign the same document
  3. Go back to the internship office and you can now sign it

It’s incredibly how poorly designed these processes are and they could and should easily change this to make it much less bureaucratic. It’s really a matter of trust and if Bocconi really trust their students they would not need this cumbersome bureaucracy and they could cut down on it and give their students a much better experience.

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Posted: september 25th, 2010
Categories: Bocconi, Italy
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Entrepreneurship in Italy from a non-Italians’ perspective

Following the interesting and lively debate about the Italia startup environment kicked off by he founders of Mashape and followed up by Stefano Bernardi, I want to add my point of view of the startup environment in Milan as I have experienced it. Particularly, I like a lot of the ideas and comments to the two blogs about an Italian eco-system and how we can improve the conditions for startups and entrepreneurs in Italy.

My perspective is after finishing a graduate degree at Bocconi and working on a startup idea in the Italian ICT sector for the past year. After two years at Bocconi it is hard to come away with any other conclusion that it is every young Bocconi students’ wet dream to either work in fincance, consulting or for a huge multinational corporation. That can be fine as well but it means that you’re an outsider if you want to start a business and while the US celebrates failure, it is scorned upon in Italy.

It is true that a major problem in Italy is the culture, and most Italians never fail because they never try. I had no contacts in the industry we’re trying to start a company in and yet I have received advice and help from Italian top executives and successful Danish entrepreneurs as well as been introduced to Italian VCs and angels. My experience has been that people are extremely helpful when you approach them as well-prepared and with an open mind.

First of all, there is only one elective in English at Bocconi focused on entrepreneurship and having taken that elective it leaves a lot to be desired. The ideas people had for startups and business plans were mostly very poor and showed the classical mistake to focus much more on the idea than the execution (Italian restaurant in Dubai anyone? Also we have no competitors were often considered to be a good thing).

The problem as Stefano pointed out, is simply that the pool of potential entrepreneurs is extremely small. Therefore the ideal strategy is to bring as man of these people together as often as possible.
What really disappointed me in my experience with the University here is the complete lack of interaction between the different universities. Why aren’t there common classed for CS students from Politecnico, business students from Bocconi and the Design students from Marangoni for example? Interesting things happen when people who think differently meet and I think this is vastly misisng in Italy! In a similar vein, the startup scene in Italy has seemed very un-international to me. Although it is silly and a waste of energy to dream of a Silicon Valley like eco-system there are nice things about Italy: People are friendly and helpful, the weather and food is good and the living standard is high compared to many countries. Certainly, Italy could leverage this to do much more to attract e.g Eastern European and South American talent but for that to happen the culture has to become more international.

Finally, Bocconi like many European business schools suffer from the problem that they view entrepreneurship from a very academic perspective and except for the interesting guest speakers students would be better off reading the list of popular startup and VC blogs. Instead of these courses being taught by accomplished entrepreneurs they are often taught by dry academics and it is easy to lose your hope if you only listen to this type of people. Our professor hated our idea and since it was the only idea that would require VC he also considered it far to risky and big for us to undertake.
This in many ways sums up my experience with entrepreneurship at Bocconi: An Italian restaurant in Dubai is considered a better idea than a business model with several successful exits in other European markets.

p.s a great and much needed initiative to encourage more startups is also to reduce bureaucracy. I particularly likeĀ David Welton’s initiative to reduce the costs of creating an SRL. Read about it here and sign the petition here

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Posted: september 22nd, 2010
Categories: Bocconi, Italy, startups
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Comments: 4 Comments.