In a perfect day for going to the beach or to a pool I was crossing the burning Milanese asphalt to meet Carlo Rossi Chauvenet under Cattelan’s middle finger in the center of the financial district.
Carlo is a young and successful Milanese layer and professor of private law at the prestigious Bocconi University, 30 years old originally from Veneto and since one year startupper in the legal startup “Iubenda”
If we look in the common use of the low budget web developer we can see that it’s diffused to just copy-paste the PP from some other similar websites.
The idea behind Iubenda is simple but innovative: to give an easy tool that enable users to adapt existing models by filling some variables, giving a more reliable document than what a non-legal expert could arrange.
The young startupper made several attempts to find the resources he needed to realize his project, first of all he needed people and skills, and after that obviously the capital. At first Domenico Vele (Mimmo) joins the project; he’s a programmer of 38 years old. The boost arrives when on of the mayor Italian VC notices Iubenda.
At that point the idea went through a long journey of refinements and developments to take it till the state defined as seed, when the economic potential on the middle-term is well calculated and backed up; this information is fundamental to present the seed project to the fund who will then decide if investing and how much.
During the process the idea has been “published” online on a testing webpage, where people could register in order to follow the project and be kept up-to-date. At this point my interviewee joins the story. Carlo registered himself and Andrea noticed him and decided to contact him for a Skype call. The first meeting between the future partners happened to be a video call between Milan, where Carlo works and Bologna, Andrea’s hometown. There is immediately a good feeling.
After this first meeting Carlo joined the project by helping draw up the contract where DPixel promised to give to Iubenda the Capital it required to start up; phase which is known as one of the most delicate in the birth of a startup incubated by a VC.
After that the presence of a legal expert in the startup team was crucial so Carlo decided to take the risk himself becoming partner of the society.
The real boost for the Iubenda project arrived when its pitch has been selected by DPixel for the investment fund Venture Capital Digital Investment SCA SICAR, The business idea has been then refined and economically evaluated to arrive at the funding.
Talking with Carlo it came out the strategic role that DPixel played for the birth of Iubenda, the fund in fact in addition to the given 100.000€ capital opened his network to the young team giving a great media coverage and credibility to the online legal service, which for its nature needed to be reliable and to get the trust of its users, especially working in Italy, where people are still skeptical even of using credit cards.
I was extremely fascinated by the fact that the Iubenda team is composed by 3 people of 8 years difference and many kilometers distance one another. In reality we are all victim of the same stereotype where startups have birth in garages or in dormitory rooms among beers and sleepless nights spent listening to Prodigy and drinking cokes and coffee.
The reality was much different. Carlo tells me about a much more corporate routine, the success of Iubenda depends on a precise task management, that enable each component to autonomously work on different areas of the business.
Carlo, in addition, keeps on working as layer in his previous job, for him waiting times and lunch breaks are a real value, they give him the time to work on his project. Carlo believes that this is the best way to start up a new activity in this historical period: “the idea to do everything full time in 3 months isn’t realistic, in my opinion it’s much better to spread the resources in 12 months keeping open other channels and having the time to go deeper the various opportunities that normally a startup meets in his development” this gives the startup the physiologic time to grow, settle without pressure and too high expectations. This strategy has also the advantage to spread in a longer span of time the capital invested by the fund: “the true challenge is to last as longer as possible, optimizing the expenses, saving on everything. More time passes the more the team settles, the idea gets focused and therefore the probabilities to success increase.”
In addition to the part time involvement of 2 out of 3 members of the team there is also the factor inhomogeneity to increase the complexity of this startup. One benefit of inhomogeneity is that it reduces overlapping but on the other hand it makes it difficult to share uniform expectations and necessities, making it difficult to have a shared scale of evaluation of the personal effort and contribution: “keeping an homogeneity of objectives isn’t simple, especially because usually objectives change with the age of people… there are external factors such as family, career that influences the scale of value, whereas everyone needs to feel equally valuable and active, none has to have the perception to push the others or to be pulled” this is key for maintaining a positive working atmosphere, which by the way is the engine of each good startup, powered by passion.
A startup is a bet, a future grant investment as Carlo likes to say; the energy and efforts you put into it haven’t an immediate reward, and on the same way the commitment is the only real resource a startup has at the beginning.
This topic took as to discuss about the challenge that iubenda is facing now, which at the end is a crucial step for most of startups: it comes the time in which spare time isn’t enough and new skills are needed, it’s time to open the door to external resources; but this isn’t as easy as it might seem. The promise of future incomes and the personal satisfaction to see a project grow aren’t enough to pay back the contribution of external people, unless they decide to become shareholders, option that risks breaking the equilibrium among the funders team.
What can a startup offer to its collaborators/employees? It hasn’t stability, the roles aren’t well defined and there is a basic uncertainty about the future of the activity, there is no guarantee that the business succeeds. Startups are challenges, a round at Poker and as such they need green carpet lovers, willing to take the risk and keep on playing even when the game get tough.
The question is: today who can afford taking this kind of risk? Perhaps youngsters are more suited as they don’t have much to lose, but when they get closer to the thirties having a family in mind, then the idea of risking that much isn’t that fascinating anymore. On the other hand a startup would need resources rich of expertise and competences on the field to compensate the young age of the company itself, but to experts a startup has really few to offer compared to what big corporation usually pay.
The startup success at the end depends by many variables: a good idea, a capable and cohesive team, a great execution, an adequate capital both monetary and smart capital, good media coverage and finally the capability to attract new talents in order to keep on growing beyond its funders commitment.