Claudio Rossi, entrepreneur, mentor and angel investor: “How I can help fast learners and passionate teams”
In this interview, we introduce Claudio Rossi, entrepreneur, business advisor, angel investor, mentor, co-founder and Vice President Startup Engagement of Neomobile. You can meet him at BLAST 2017, in fact he will be one of the guest stars at our tech event. Meanwhile, here below the interview in which he talks about himself, the startups situation in Italy, the mentor role and much more. Good reading!
You are co-founder and Vice President Startup Engagement of Neomobile. Would you tell us more about it?
I am Cofounder of the company and and former co-CEO, now, after 10 years, I want to focus more on innovation and the best way to innovate is working with startups and investing in them. What I’m doing for Neomobile is looking for interesting startups that can help the company in growing faster. So, I first started as business angel by investing by myself on these startups and, if and when I feel they are good enough, I can bring the startups on the table, with the board of director of Neomobile, and the board will judge if it’s interesting also to invest in these startups or we can start even before with a commercial deal with startups and see if we can do good business together and then maybe do an investment
You are also an Angel Investor: could you tell us about the most relevant results you achieved and, in general, how is it going?
It’s going pretty well, even if it’s difficult to talk about results in term of exits, or how much I’ve been able to make money, because I started almost one year and a half ago so I have not still sold any share of the companies I have invested in. I’m still investing, but the great results achieved for me are more in term of seeing the companies where I have invested growing very fast, in term of people, in term of revenues and skills, above all when there is something that is not going in the expected direction. I’m very passionate about learning and for me also seeing the ability of these new companies to learn fast on the field, how to increase their business, how to generate more value for the shareholders, is something that makes me very happy. So the results so far are good: are good in term of people, in term of increase of revenues and in term of value generation. I can’t tell more so far on this.
You have invested in startups that work in very different fields: from social, music and fun (Karaoke One) to wellness (Fitprime), passing by selling products from China (Yakkyo): how do you choose the right startup to invest in?
I’ve invested in the startups you listed and in much more, because there’s one also specialized on chatbot that is named Hej!, and few days ago I did another investment in Elaisian, a startup in the foodtech industry, and many others are coming. What I judge first when I invest in a startup is the team, I need to meet the people many times to understand if they are fast learner, if they are flexible people, if I see they have entrepreneurial mindset. On top of this,
when I decide to invest is because I feel, as a shareholder, as a mentor, I can add value to this startup, so I look for people that are looking for the so call “smart money”, so not only a person putting money investing on them, but also helping them in growing.
The third thing that make me choose a startup is passion for what they do. I invest on things where I feel it can be interesting for me. Working hard, I always say, is not a problem when you have passion for something. Helping these guys for me has to be a pleasure and it can be easily done if I invest in something that I’m passionate about.
What about your future goals? What are you investing on, at this moment or in the next future? Is there a specific field or company which are you interested in?
I want to keep focusing on the portfolio company that I have to help them. My next investments will be probably in the Artificial Intelligence industry, where I’ve already done one investment in this company that is called Hej!, which is developing chatbots, and also on the Fintech area, where I’ve close a term sheet with a company that is doing something special in helping Millennials in saving money, that is a big problem worldwide. Millennials are not used on saving money as I was when I had that age! But also I’d like to invest in companies where I see great potential: AI and Fintech are for sure something that are on the track for the next few months, but if in the meantime I see something that I like I will probably evaluate it and, if it’s good, I will invest on it.
You are also a mentor for StartupBootcamp: why a startup should contact a mentor? Sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs may be confused about his role and the actual need to contact a professional…
Sometimes people are confused about why they should contact a mentor. My recommendation is they should, because
a mentor normally is a senior person that already had experience, already made mistakes, already failed maybe in the past and he can help a lot the startups in avoiding mistakes or other problems he had, so he can really help in accelerating their business.
In my opinion it’s really relevant to find someone that had already a strong experience (so let’s say 10-15 years experience) and finding someone that has experience in certain fields. Mentors normally have one or two topics where they are stronger and other where they are less stronger, so my recommendation is to have more than one mentor (two or three), according to the know-how and the experience that the mentors have. Anyway the recommendation is: having mentors is recommended because they can really be helpful and they can accelerate the grow of the startup 3 or 10 times what it can happen for startups that don’t have mentors.
In your opinion, what is the current startups situation in Italy and what are the possible developments?
I think that the startups situation in Italy is getting better. I don’t want to say it’s good, because compare to other markets like UK, Germany or even France and many others we are quite far, but what I’ve seen (in the last year especially) coming from the Italian government with fiscal advantages for investors in startups, but also watching the overall ecosystem I have seen a strong improvement, compare to previous years.
So we still far from the rest of Europe (and of course very far from Silicon Valley) but the growth rate is quite good and that makes me think that soon we’re going to reach some of the best European practices. The good news is that I see international investors starting to come to Italy because they feel that the know-how (the people, the startups we have, the founders…) are not that far compare to the ones that they find in other markets, but the price of this companies, compare to the ones (of course in Silicon Valley, but even to the ones that you can find in London or in Berlin) are instead much cheaper. So my feeling is that the interest from the international investors to Italian startups in increasing and this is a very good news that can help all the ecosystem growing faster.
What is the most relevant lesson that you received working in an international level?
I think that the most important lesson is “never stop learning”. Because what I learned travelling is that in every business you start out of your country (or in other fields in your country) you have always to learn something new and the key is exactly this: be able to never stop learning and build a team that is able to learn very fast and translate that learning into actions quickly.
This is the key to start every business, in my opinion, and to create a competitive advantage. Then, of course, there are many others lessons that I learned during the years: such as giving a try in things where you believe in, but be also able to judge any case that can be a failure or that will fail fast.
Another key thing I’ve learned is the importance to follow your gut. The gut feelings, after some years, is always teaching you something good and so I’ve learned that is important also to listen to the gut feeling and follow it, but also having scientific data, when it’s possible, to challenge your gut feeling is something relevant to land into the right decision. These are some of the key learning I had in my experience, I will share many others advices in the next interview!
What do you see in BLAST? Which is the reason why you decided to support this event and join this adventure?
Many reasons, but the main one is because I travelled a lot in the last ten years, I’ve been in many conferences and after every conference in Barcelona, in Dublin, around USA, in Latin America, my thought was: “Why don’t we have a very good conference in Italy? Where the environment is good (we have very nice cities), we can attract people from all around the world…what do we miss?”. I never had an answer on this, then the answer came from the BLAST team, because I met them (the first feeling was very good about the team) and they told me they wanted to organize this tech conference in Rome, that is also the city I love, so I was engaged from the first minute about this project and I decided to support.
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