Startupper's Swing/Fabrizio Ferreri/ URList
“Startup”, “Startupper”: if someone had asked me the meaning of these words a few years ago, I probably would not have been able to answer.
I have come a long way, with other interests and expectations, but if today I find myself dealing with startups I believe it is because I have taken a distinctly indirect path in my life, made up of turning points and second thoughts, mistakes and unexpected accelerations".
I was born in Catania, a city which I bear the marks of, shown by my desire to do things and propose ideas. I have years of study in philosophy behind me in cities such as Pisa, Berlin and Edinburgh, and a Phd in History of Logic from the University of Milan. I would have liked to teach and dedicate myself to research, but at a certain point, I understood that that type of career only partly matched my ambitions.
The first significant shift: I attended a Master in Economics and precisely - to at least stay in the same sphere of values as my initial studies - in the management of social enterprises at SDA Bocconi in Milan. It was the first important contact with the business world, in particular, from a very interesting and fast-changing perspective: a nonprofit company.
These two or three stages, seemingly so different, have however something in common that I want to underline because I believe it is a crucial component for startupper: the desire and the will to create.
I do not believe that a person chooses to launch a startup for mere financial interest – also because it is an uncertain path – nor simply as one of many job options because working in a startup “is better and more fulfilling”. I believe that fundamentally there is the urgency, almost the necessity, to create.
From this point of view it seems to me there is a close connection between the artistic world, artistic expression in general and “making of start-up”. But that is another matter.
After finishing the Master, for a moment (well a couple of years) I fell back into the world of research, not, however dealing with quidditas, bocardo or other themes such these, but sociology and "social" economics.
In the end (finally!), "Work", a word which for me does not only mean an intellectual commitment but a wide range of qualities and abilities. I handled programming and control for nonprofit organisations and I also worked as a consultant.
And this is the "ante ". Why did I want to explain all this? Certainly not because mine was an example or a model to be followed. Simply because in my case it was exactly this mix of different places and experiences that gave me the energy necessary - and you need a lot - to begin, to commence, literally "to make a startup".
The rest is more recent history. But I want to go back again to my early studies: in getting closer to the "startup world" I went through a bit of "trial and error", recurring Popperian claims, referred to a few days ago by Nicola Mattina in his blog.
After the first few mild attempts, which failed because the team did not work well due to character differences even if it was made up of quality people, some encounters were decisive.
And this is another point I would underline: the human aspect is fundamental in building a professional relationship. And all the more so in the case of a startup in which, at least initially, it is a sort of prevailing "domestic" dimension which forces relationships between people in a very "familiar" way - in the very literal sense of "family".
The first significant meeting was with Alberto Granzotto. It was from this point that my experience with URList, of which I am the co-founder and COO, started. URList is a web app for creating and sharing lists of link; its position is between the content curation and the social bookmarking. Everyone of us in the URList group has invested a lot in this start-up. It says a lot that we all resigned from our previous jobs in order to dedicate ourselves full time to the project. Courage, trust, willingness to take a risk: these are invaluable ingredients to be able to launch a startup. And today the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem and Italian economy now seems more ready than in the past to appreciate this type of choice, as is demonstrated by the support, fundamental for us, that we immediately received from Enlabs - a Roman incubator of startups - and more recently from PoliMi.
In the meantime, driven by my passion for sport, I founded an association, Sportiamo – lo sport che unisce, and also in this case it was important to have met the guys from We-Sport, with whom we launched the We-Sport For Social project, a meeting platform for sportspeople aimed specifically at those in disadvantaged categories with the objective of guaranteeing access to sports activities also for people with disabilities. In partnership with We-Sport, and to present the We-Sport For Social project, we participated in SMAU 2011, finishing third in the "Percorsi dell’Innovazione" section dedicated to the most promising and innovative Italian startups.
I mention this result not so much for the result itself but to point out the importance, in a sector still in fieri like the Italian startup world, of building and making networks. Making a network not for selfish personal interest, that at most gives results immediately and only for itself, but with a forward-thinking willingness to set up solid relationships of exchange, interaction and reciprocal fertilisation, to the benefit of the entire system. In this sense, networks like StartupBusiness, the previously mentioned "Percorsi dell’innovazione", and initiatives such as Innovaction Lab, the Startup Weekends, the different incubators and business accelerators, etc, perform an invaluable function - that the entrepreneur should support in person, giving his own contribution, in other words "participating" - giving substance to a sector which is still too fragmented and filled with projects which are often isolated from each other.
And lastly, with an old friend from high school, who in the meantime founded the company Cubosys Srl in Catania, purely and simply to work together, we started to produce an app for Facebook, Plusres, an application that works like a discovery engine inside the huge volume of information that moves around Facebook.
Ultimately the life of a start-up, at least in this phase, is shaky and uncertain. But I do not regret it. In this precariousness you can experiment, explore, create and make mistakes. And to be able to do this is extremely lucky.