You don’t need to know anybody – Italy is full of good fellas

I find that a reason for why people in italy stay away from starting things is a misconception that they have to have some super-wealthy family or be very well-connected with a lot of influential people. In my experience this hasn’t been true at all and I would like to share how I have gotten many interesting people to listen to my startup idea because the recipe is very simple.

About a year ago two friends of mine and I got the idea to start an online discount mobile operator in Italy. It’s quite an ambitious idea since you essentially would be competing against Vodafone, Wind, TIM and 3 Italia (also called MNOs), but we had seen it work in Denmark, so we knew it could work. As I have written about here our professor was not very supportive of the idea but we wanted to give it a shot. I followed a guy on twitter who blogged about telecom and who turned out to work for one of the Italian MNOs. From twitter I emailed him more details about our project and he ended up introducing us to the most senior guy at his firm which was relevant for our project. From that point on we have continued negotiations and are still in contact.

In terms of investors and people from the startup environment, I was lucky to meet some investors through our course. Additionally, I really liked what Stefano was doing at www.thestartup.eu so I emailed him an we met a couple of times and through him I have been introduced to some great people and pitched my project to dpixel where he works. Additionally, a guy Stefano and his firm introduced me to has formerly held key management roles at three of Italy’s four MNOs and is now a very helpful advisor.

At conferences like “mifaccioimpresa” and Milan Startup Weekend, I have also met interesting people. Although introductions work best don’t be afraid to approach the people you meet at these kind of events. Most people, and this goes perhaps particularly for successful people are usually very friendly and are glad to help young entrepreneurs if they can. They have been in the situation you are in, and appreciate how much help and advice can mean.

As i said the recipe for this is really simple: Be very well prepared and try to be convincing. You’re selling your idea and you must convince people that you are going after something relevant and feasible. Also be friendly and flexible. Many people are busy and first impressions last a long time so if you haven’t done your homework and don’t know the market or your competitors or your business model you wont be taken seriously.

It’s fair enough to have blind spots (e.g I still don’t know a lot of things related to the technical aspects and telecom regulations) but be upfront about them and how you are going to solve them. In our case a mobile operator is really a lot of marketing and the legal aspect not even lawyers are sure about, but if you are honest about what you don’t know your can avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

Overall it should be clear that we have spent a lot of time seriously putting together convincing reasons for why an online discount mobile operator is a good idea and could be a good investment, we really haven’t done anything extraordinary but that, to meet a lot of interesting people so there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to do the same, if you have an good idea and a compelling reason for why you are the right people to execute it. Take my word for it, Italy is full of nice and supportive people that are doing what they can to help people start something cool, you just have to be proactive and persistent to find them and get in touch with them.

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Posted: november 19th, 2010
Categories: Italy, startups, telecom, VC
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Comments: 7 Comments.
  • Marencopaolo

    “dane in Milan” I fully agree with you. I do think that the idea of the “the next garden is better than mine” is a very common sense in Italy…it’s very encouraging that a foreigner like you tell us the reality.

  • http://twitter.com/0m4r 0m4r

    I am Italian, moved to Germany, but, thanks man, you gave me back some hope…

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrea.giannangelo Andrea Giannangelo

    My story is exactly the same, except that I’m Italian :)

    We are in two, Jesper. We could be thousands :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716330190 Jesper Bergmann

    Thanks a lot guys. I am happy that I am not the only one with some optimistic news about trying to do something in Italy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716330190 Jesper Bergmann

    Thanks a lot guys. I am happy that I am not the only one with some optimistic news about trying to do something in Italy.

  • http://www.stefanobernardi.com/ stefanobernardi

    Glad to have helped. It’s such a small community, and I really think most people are very helpful and will gladly share their network. Just ask.

  • http://www.stefanobernardi.com/ stefanobernardi

    Glad to have helped. It’s such a small community, and I really think most people are very helpful and will gladly share their network. Just ask.