A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced by a MEET ITALY member to Expert Dojo, an accelerator in Santa Monica, where a few Italian start-ups are sharpening their skills in an effort to grow into global businesses.
I was kindly invited to spend some time with these young entrepreneurs and share my experiences dealing professionally in the USA and help highlight what differences mark the two business cultures.
These start-ups were chosen via a program designated by the Italian Ministry for Economic Development and ICE (the Italian Trade Commission). The two institutions screen a maximum of 120 innovative Italian start-ups and help them grow in the international markets. After a first period of training in Italy, the chosen entrepreneurs are then sent for a period of 3 months to develop their plans with accelerators located in different countries.
The group I interacted with was very diverse in terms of products and business approach. The businesses pursued ranged from sustainable ice-cream production (a twist on an Italian classic) to road safety solutions, from energy related innovations to high-tech fashion. There was also room for a technology dedicated to transform the pet-master relationship and “dialogue.”
Our discussion was highly interactive and it showed the passion and great commitment these entrepreneurs are making to turn an idea and a dream into a sustainable reality. No doubt I was witnessing Italian passion and excellence (the backbone of our mission at MEE ITALY) in full action.
Some of the topics I introduced as key elements in the dichotomy between the Italian market environment and the USA were:
High Franchise Value
Early Success Value
In my experience, I noticed that the value of a franchise seems to have disproportionate returns in this market. Once one has reached significant brand value, the leveraging effect of being able to franchise your name has a return on capital that is very much magnified. Naturally, part of the reason, is the generally uniform and large market that the US represent but I believe much is due to behavioral and cultural elements.
On the subject of early success value, while that is true everywhere, I also believe that its positive effects are turbo-charged in the US. Probably because early success acts as a linkage with the other two elements. Early success increases the potential to achieve franchise value and accelerates the formation of a high-value network. Additionally, the significant capital available in Venture Capital and Private Equity also becomes much more readily available to entrepreneurs that clear that tipping point sooner rather than later.
Two of the entrepreneurs have followed up on our initial meeting and came to visit my office in Malibu for more brainstorming. Giacomo Bizzarri, founder of MashCream, and Domenico Gallo, founder of LaserAid.
Mashcream comes from the region of Marche and proposes a new ice-cream production system that aims at cutting time, ingredient and energy waste.
Conversely, LaserAid operates in the field of road safety. LaserAid developed its first phase in Naples and now its working here in Los Angeles to acquire an international identity. This start-up has created the first laser-based illumination system for road safety.
The complete list of the entrepreneurs present at my meeting at Expert Dojo is as follows:
To conclude, I would like to give to all of them a great “in bocca al lupo!”