News for the ‘Bocconi’ Category

Bocconi’s Learning Lab

One of the lesser know parts of Bocconi which deserves a lot more recognition is the Bocconi Learning Lab. On a daily basis the learning lab creates various applications and games, primarily for the executive management school SDA Bocconi, however they also do all sorts of hacks on other projects.

I went there a couple a weeks ago to see what my two friends who work there Luca and Luca were up to and they are extremely helpful and passionate about building applications and talking about technology. Their philosophy is inspired by that of 37signals and they’re particularly into building web applications with Ruby on Rails. Very few people know about the Learning Lab and that’s really a shame. I would also hope that a place like the learning lab could organize evening courses or events in general for the Bocconi students who are interested in web and startups. Something like in “web development for beginners” or something like that.

Both Luca and Luca are very helpful and great at explaining complex concepts in a simple no-fuss manner so if you’re at Bocconi and interested in technology you should send them a message or just drop by their office and see if they have time for a chat.

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Posted: oktober 8th, 2010
Categories: Bocconi
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Entrepreneurship news from the past week

Last week there were a couple of positive entrepreneurship-related events that I think deserve to be mentioned.

The first was the inaugural meeting for Bocconi’s new entrepreneurshup club Young Entrepreneurs at Bocconi. The club has the valiant purpose to encourage more entrepreneurship and to be a place where young entrepreneurs can meet and exchange ideas and help each other out. The idea is also to have guest speakers and work shops with various purposes so its activities are like entrepreneurship clubs at most universities. It’s a great initiative and it seems like Bocconi is also supportive, so I hope it’ll be succesful. However there is also room for improvement:

  • First of all more people have to know about it. Only 6 people showed up and three of us were foreigners so foreigners are perhaps more apt than Italians to have entrepreneurial aspirations?
  • If it’s going to be helpful people have to openly share their ideas and what they need help to! I can’t say this enough but it’s really a banal and unjustified fear to be afraid of having ones idea copied.
  • More technical focus and not being afraid of bold projects. The challenge with an entrepreneurship club just for business students is that the skill sets are very similar and whenever somebody has to built somethng technical, software developers are needed. I think it would be ideal to have the entrepreneurship clubs of Bocconi and the different technical universities meet up and share ideas.

The club doesn’t yet have a website but if you are at Bocconi and interested in joining I really suggest you go check it out, since it is just getting started you have a great opportunity to get a lot of influence from the beginnig! If you want to know more then send me an email and I will get you in touch with the founders.

The second event I attended was “mifaccioimpresa” this weekend at Bocconi. It was a fair dedicated to entrepreneurship and with lots of panel discussions about everything from financing and marketing to legal issues and the role of VC in Italy. The fair lasted all of Friday and Saturday however I only attended on Friday and the most interesting thing for me was a panelk discussion about innovation and financing and SMEs and the role of VC in this.

The panel consisted of Roberto del Giudice head of the Italian Private Equity and Venture Capital association AIFI, Francesco Perrini from Bocconi and an investment manager from the Italian VF fund Quantica sgr. The discussion was about the status of VC in Italy and although this might be already know to some, the state of affairs is pretty bleek. Here are the main takeaways from the discussion:

  • A total of only 20 VC investments were made in Italy in 2009
  • 5 VCs represent 50% of all the deals and out of these, the most active were Innogest, Piemonte High Technology and Quantica
  • Some funds barely average 1 investment per year from 2004-2009
  • Italy is completely divided in North-South in terms of VC and no investments at all in e.g. Calabria, Puglia and Sicily.
  • Overall, Italy is a country of SMEs but not innovative SMS.
  • To put innovativeness in perspective, the 20 VC investments are out of 5000 new firms formed every year.

Overall, the picture is bleek and anyone who has tried to raise seed or venture capital in Italy knows that it is extremely difficult, however one can also look at in a more contrarian and positive way. Since so few innovative companies are founded in Italy you actually have a better shot at being funded if you offer something cool and innovative!  The start-up scene is not exactly Silicon Valley so if you do something original there are plenty of chances to get yourself noticed. One of the reasons I do not worry much about anybody copying our business idea is simply that most people Italians think it’s nuts and that it can’t be done.

So get started and don’t blame the bad economy, now is a great time to start a company!

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Posted: oktober 4th, 2010
Categories: Bocconi, Italy, startups, VC
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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 like 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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