Interviews Start-up stories

Luca Emil Abirascid on Entrepreneurship “The first thing to look at is the team because if you have a good idea with a bad team you do not go anywhere”

Luca Emil Abirascid
Founder & Director at Startupbusiness
President of the evaluation committee at Premio Gaetano Marzotto
Co-founder and co-organizer at Italian Innovation Day Tokyo, Melbourne, Adelaide (Australia)
Senior Advisor at ScaleIT Showcase
Curator of Techstars StartupDigest Italy
Member of Scientific Board at Symbola Fondazione per le qualità Italiane
Journalist at Il Sole 24 Ore

ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP VS INNOVATION
You are a journalist of innovation as the core of yourself, transformed into entrepreneur and adviser to corporates and start-ups on innovation and collaboration. What is innovation for you? And how is the best way to use innovation during the entrepreneur path?

Innovation from an entrepreneurship point of view is the ability to transform an idea into something that is able to bring benefits to as many people as possible. Something that is able to make the world better, that’s why the main engine for innovative entrepreneurs is not making money but doing something good. Making money is important of course because is part of the entrepreneurship process and is important that innovation is also self-sustainable, but the money is not the primary reason to develop something innovative. Is also very important to keep in mind that the idea, even the best one, is nothing without a proper execution to transform it in something real, this is the core role of the innovative entrepreneurs.

Startupbusiness was created more than 10 years ago when the start-up scene was quiet than now. Why did you start with Startupbusiness? How did you grow successfully the online blog, now a must-read magazine?
Startupbusiness opened in 2008 when the Chamber of Commerce of Milan asked me to help them to better understand the start-ups’ phenomenon that at that time in Italy was taking the first steps. Even though we had the so-called, internet bubble before that time, the start-up concept was quite new in Italy and the original idea was to help the first innovative start-up entrepreneurs to be more known, to networking easier and to have chances to meet with traditional companies and corporations. That was the original mission of Startup business, being the first Italian community for start-ups, investors, incubators, accelerators, enterprises, and even academic and institutions. And also Startup business was created to be the main resource to anyone interested in the start-up ecosystem with news, analysis, stories, a complete online magazine. On 2015 Startup business did its own little exit and became part of the Digital360 Group that publishes several magazines and offers a series of services to companies that want to innovate and become more digital.

Nowadays, you are a founding member of several start-up awards in Italy and around the world. What are the criteria you are using to select the right start-up?
Well I have a role in some of the organizations promoting awards or helping start-ups and scale-ups to faster growth such are Premio Marzotto and ScaleIT and of course, both of them have a committee and a jury that is made by people with the right competencies to select the best start-ups. My personal opinion is that the first thing to look at is the team because if you have a good idea with a bad team you do not go anywhere, while if the idea is not perfect, you can improve it and transform it in a good start-up if the team is good.

“When you close the mindset gap you can develop a real collaboration where the company and the start-up can take the best from each other”

 

ABOUT START-UP COLLABORATIONS
You are helping corporates to work with start-ups. What are the major challenges when a company is working with a start-up?
More and more large and medium enterprises in Italy are starting to be interested in start-ups for their ability to innovate, for their technologies, for the skills of their teams, for their products, and this is very good. The main challenge is the mindset because the ‘old style’ entrepreneurs and the new generation of them are talking different languages and are looking at the world in a different way. The first thing is to help the old-style entrepreneurs to better understand how the start-ups’ entrepreneurs are thinking and working and the old-style entrepreneurs that are smart enough to have a vision are ready to do so and they are also happy to do so. Then when you close the mindset gap you can develop a real collaboration where the company and the start-up can take the best from each other.

During your experience, do you have a list of key factors when collaboration is successful between a start-up and a business? What is the secret source?
As I said making the company and the start-up speaking the same language is the first step. Then, of course, there must be some industrial, commercial or financial common interest but for example, I’m seeing that more and more start-ups are preferring investments from an industrial partner than purely financial ones because they know the industrial partner can bring them more than just money. That’s why event the smartest venture capitalists are working closely with companies in order to facilitate the growth process of the start-ups where they are investing, and of course create more option also for the exits.

“I personally consider the best time when the start-up already received its first investment, has an MVP (minimum viable product) or a POC (proof of concept) or is already on the market but need a partner to boost its business”

 

When is the right moment for starting a collaboration? When should a company look for a start-up?
The best moment is in the ‘middle’, not too early and not too late. When a start-up is a very early stage is hard for a company to help it to grow up, there are some cases but not many, and when a star-up is more a scale-up is hard too because the scale-up is already launched on its own path. I personally consider the best time when the start-up already received its first investment, has an Mvp (minimum viable product) or a POC (proof of concept) or is already on the market but need a partner to boost its business. If the company is also interested to invest in the start-up well the scale-up phase can be very expensive, while the ‘just after early-stage’ phase can be the best one.

ABOUT LIFE
You have a very busy life, you are a journalist, you are helping companies integrating start-ups, organizing start-ups events all over the world. How are you keeping the balance between all your different roles and your personal life?

I think there are some aspects you cannot compromise. For example for me is very important to be independent, that’s why I’m not investing in start-ups because when I write about them I do not want to have conflicts of interests, to be credible, to write about interesting things, since when I created Startupbusiness I was not caring about the number of readers or the visitors of the website but I was more caring about the quality of them, I want the right readers, not many readers that are clicking on my website because some funny title for example. Sometimes is hard to keep these values alive but that is my choice and I’m sure on the long run it will pay off.

I’m also transparent, and my different roles are public and are also intertwine, I leverage on all them to bring value to all of them.

Why did you become a journalist?
Because I like to write, I like to share my views and opinions and because I think is a good way to meet people, to keep myself, and my readers, always update, and today I think is an opportunity to integrate my journalism activity with other things I do, in a transparent way as I said.

What is the main achievement you are more proud of?
Well I’m quite proud of all I did so far but well I can say that the Italian Innovation Days I organized with many partners and the support of the Italian diplomatic representations in Tokyo, Melbourne, Adelaide and soon also in Perth and Singapore, is something I’m really proud. This because, like the other things I do, the main focus is to create real value for all participants, starting from start-ups and scale-ups to all potential industrial and financial partners, to all the organizers and all the people involved, and in this case this focus is translated in the collaborations that the Italian start-ups and scale-ups I invite in these missions are activating with local partners. And, of course, there are also some side effects such as allowing these Italian innovative companies to have a chance to know more about faraway markets and to show to the world that the ‘made in Italy’ is also technology in fields like biotech, fintech, entertainment, food-tech, fashion-tech, energy and not just food, fashion, furniture, and fast-cars.

Books recommended by Luca Emil Abirascid:

You can read the Golden Rules for Living, of Luca Emil Abirascid, here.

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