Diary of an Economic Crisis Survivor

Life, Death and Miracles of a Startup, in the Italy of the Economic Crisis

Tag: be ready

23. Fall in love with your Startup(but not too much)

30 SEPTEMBER, 2014, HOURS 15:21
DAY 227

Survivors.
Also this week, even today.

survivors diary of a crisis survivor

 

Saved by the bell.
The Great C was about to crush us like a flooding river, in a  rainy day.
In this rainy day, when the world seems to ignore the condition of a country which is wasting its assets and its “best youth“, we were about to make a wrong choice.
One of those choices that can make you fall.
And just because we were too in love with our business idea.

I don’t know the mistake that we made​​: I don’t really know.
Arrogance?
Carelessness?
Basically we were going to make a strategic choice that would have meant that our product couldn’t be used in easy way by our potential customers. We’re talking about small sliding doors that will change your life. And in our case, Victory would lose a lot of users: the only reason is that the use wouldn’t have been quite as intuitive, we hope it will be.

sliding doors diary of a crisis survivor

We became aware of the problem only through a “friend tester” that just asked us: “Why would I do such a thing?”.

It was not easy to make sure that the entire team was aware of the mistake. Including myself. We were too much in love with the initial setup.
It’s easier to change than stay in love with your business idea: the change is inevitable, so you have to predict it, control it and adapt to it.

Maybe we, young Italian startuppers,  will have to learn  something from the word of Eric Ries  in his “The Lean Startup“: “A startup is a human institution, created to give life to a new product, in conditions of extreme uncertainty“, and just because we are in this situation of extreme uncertainty, we need to be aware that the products / services created is such an experiments.  For this reason this product should be designed in a precise methodological synthesis of Creation -> Measurement -> Learning. Eric Ries docet.

the lean startup diary of a crisis survivor

Making mistakes is not wrong .. just be humble and brave to solve the problem on time:
Do not fall in love too much with your Startup. Make sure that your customers fall in love with her.

mistakes diary of a crisis survivor

22. 10 behavioral tips to survive the Great C

September 22, 2014, HOURS 22:00

DAY 219

This is another Monday of survival.

As expected, The Great C didn’t stop its advance, and Italy, despite the proclamations of the Premier Renzi, continues with false starts.
This story about Victory, my startup, has been created to try to make partakers about the incredible difficulty in setting up a business in Italy, not only the aspiring startuppers, , but also  the people who need to be encouraged. The moment is difficult for everyone.
So today I decided to play down and give you 10  behavioral tips that can help you to survive the Great C:

1) Be Watchful: 
Either because the opportunities are often before our eyes and we don’t realize them, or because  in this country, it’s always better to be careful,  you don’t know if someone will steal your business idea;

diary of a crisis survivor stay watchful

2) Be Positive:
No matter if you can’t improve the results of your business, no matter if you’re in trouble.
Tomorrow is a new day, and in an indefinite future Italy will have to get up and, to do so, will have to implement the reforms pro work, business and startup. Like your startup.

diary of a crisis survivor be positive

 

3) Stay Hungry …:
In Steve Jobs’ words  you have to be hungry: don’t get into the spiral of negativity that reigns in the streets of Italian cities, but always look for new challenges, new business adventures.

diary of a crisis survivor stay hungry

4) … Stay Foolish:
And it’s true. Only those who risk, achieve the results. As I said call me the Astronaut, for my ability to roam with the thinking and strategies in a concrete way.

diary of a crisis survivor astronaut madness

5) Be Maniac:
organizing your time, your work,  and constantly control the feedbacks and results.
You must  try always to find a way to objectively measure your results.
If you do it, your startup will be constantly improved and will be closer to defeat the Great C.

diary of a crisis survivor be maniac

6) Surround yourself with the right team:
And be available for them, so that they will solve your problems when you can’t do it and together, when you’ll be properly setup, you will form a winning team.

diary of a crisis survivor teamwork

7) Be Humble:
You are always head-on, but being in a country for old men, keep in mind that you don’t  hold the whip by the hand:
for this reason, and because “humility makes a great man” keep a low profile until the right moment.

diary of a crisis survivor be humble

8) Be Patient:
..wait for the right time. Italy will not start for at least another year. Until then try to stay on the crest of the wave, float and survive with your startup, but never stop trying.

diario-di-un-sopravvissuto-alla-crisis-startup-strategia-differenziazione-bassi-costi

9) Be curious:
Keep reading, testing, experimenting. In 2014 you have to be able to know how to create a website, managing a social network, but also you need to understand why your startup doesn’t  achieve the desired results …. and don’t forget to look at successful models abroad and try to apply them in your reality.

diary of a crisis survivor be curious

10) “Be Ready..
Because You don’t know when the right moment will arrive “you don’t know the moment when the Great C will knock at your door.
And in that moment, you have to know how to save your startup.

diary of a crisis survivor be ready

20. Start up Competition: a way to grow

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014, HOURS 13:20

DAY 197

diary of a crisis survivor startup competition win

We fight the Great C.

Now officially.

While the wars rage in the world, while Italy continues risking sinking (inaction is not usefull) and the Great C is looking for another victim, we face an important moment in the life of a startup.

 

Thanks to writing a Business Plan we are able to sign up to the Startup Competition that we have identified.

It will be an important step, because we will face the public for the first time.

The goal is plural:

  1. Finding financiers or “companions” that can help us on the journey;
  2. Giving visibility to our idea.

For this reason, we are motivated.

Obviously we don’t know yet if we can.

However, being able to “compete officially” gives us a lot of enthusiasm.

We decided to take this step because the first feedback (with friends, family and experts) has been extremely positive.

I’ll leave you, now is the time.

With my click we will be officially in the race.

I’m going to click on (and begin to think that, this time seriously and concretely this time, we will win our battle with the Great C).

diary of a crisis survivor startup competition

19. No Country for Young Men.

Agoust 6, 2014, HOURS 22:31

DAY 171. diary of a crisis survivor recession

Recession. GDP -0.2%.

The worst for 14 years.

“Recession is back in Italy”

No. The Great C is back. Rather. It was never gone. And we knew it, I always repeat it in this blog: the inaction of the country is evident, and the cultural, economic, structural gap with other European countries is widening. “The Italian growth will come between 10 years.”  The voice of the people…10 years because they realize that the job is so much to do that it will be a long path.

The problem is the lack of  trust and opportunities for the young men. We need to have our chanche to play, we are too brilliant to be wasted. Victory is the startup of my dreams. For her, I fight every day to overcome the obstacles that sometimes seems to be insurmountable.

I can’t continue to be an “aspiring old  in a country for old men,” in Italy I can’t afford to invest my few money in a startup(although it is my startup and my dream). The risk is too high. Am I a gambler? Perhaps. Maybe the solution is in another country…. I’ll propose this idea to Victory’s team.

How many startup will die before the end of The Great C?

How many entrepreneurs will waste their projects?

How many young man will leave the country?

Maybe there is no hope Italy. No country for young men.

diary of a crisis survivor No Country for Young Men

8. Save or Quality? The choice of the Competitive Strategy

MAY 8, 2014, h.12:26

DAY 82

diario-di-un-sopravvissuto-alla-crisis-startup-strategia-differenziazione-bassi-costi
I’m tired
. Tired of a sick system, in a country that tries to get up but has no strength in its legs .

And I feel people’s depression. The Great C is enlarging its ranks: everyday there are more victims. From the ” real victims “( those who really don’t make it), to those who, being too depressed, don’t do anything to survive, and, in this way, they enlarge the ranks of The Great C, abandoning wonderful work projects , including startup projects.

In this environment it’s very hard to work on a startup. Last night, infact, during our weekly meeting of the startup, there was a dispute. The reason ? The choice of the strategic competitive advantage to pursue.

Savings or quality, how many times I have heard this phrase.

On TV, in commercials. Theoretically , knowingly or unknowingly, when you start your own business, you make a strategic choice of competitive advantage: focus on the quality of your product, and then point to the fact that customers are willing to pay a premium price for that “plus”, or supporting low-cost and offer the product to the market at a more competitive price than competitors ?

To these two basic competitive strategies, Michael Porter (in his “4 competitive strategies“) has added another variable: the choice of the range, how many customers compose your target? the entire market , a niche or even a niche within a niche?

To make you understand better, a few examples for the different competitive strategies :

Differentiation strategy (quality, entire market): Apple with its iPhones ;

Strategy of cost leadership (savings, entire market): Ikea;

Strategy of focusing on differentiation (quality, niche): Ferrari;

Strategy of focusing on cost leadership (savings, niche): (the begin) of McDonalds.

In fact there are those who say that the choice of a competitive advantage is not an important thing , and that, it consequently, it does not pay to be consistent.

Which is the best choice for a startup? You can’t answer this, the answer will vary from case to case, it is a very relative thing.

I believe that the future of our startup is a choice of competitive advantage – focusing on cost leadership (CLUE N.4), Tim thinks like me. The others don’t. And from here the fight. Unsolved.

Although there are those, like Instagram, who do not make a choice( before a certain determined time), and it’s successful.

It’s important not to stay in the middle of the road too long, because it is like being on one of those frail bridges in the Andes, suspended over a deep ravine, with the possibility to go from one part(quality) or the other (savings) .. but if you stay in the middle of the path too long, the ropes will be broken and the company goes bust.

And the same thing for Italy, a country that for history and capacity should strongly focus on quality, it is getting enchanted by the sirens of the low costs, and thus remains on the middle of the bridge, with the risk of falling.

While The Great C, at the foot of the ravine, waits. And every day there is, at least, one more victim.

6. We need a bit of madness to create a startup

diary of a crisis survivor astronaut madness

MARCH 09, 2014, h.19.00

DAY 22

It is said that Robert Smith, leader of The Cure, after writing his masterpiece  Friday I’m in love, couldn’t  believe that he had written such a perfect melody( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v mGgMZpGYiy8 = & feature = kp) .

He went from relatives to friends to ask if they had ever heard that melody, it was impossible that no one had thought of it before. The melody was so perfect  that even its creator could not comprehend what he had been able to compose .

 

The same thing happened with my startup.

Pigna and I have been dreaming of doing something great together for ages. When we were young we were in the front row at events and protest, when we grew up a little, we always had the desire to enter politics without ever finding a party that did the job.

Then we realized that we could only count on ourselves, and we had the desire to create a business, but the idea was always lacking.

Then startups were born.

Then came The Great C.

At first the area of infection seemed just closed up between the USA and England. Then came the turn of Europe.

And we all have in mind what has happened since the advent of The Great C in Greece today.

Unemployment, low wages and competitiveness. And so on.

 

But here we are left to try to survive The Great C and trying to do something great together.

Although used and abused, we have always enjoyed but never completely  understood, Steve Jobs’s phrase ” Stay Hungry , Stay Foolish.”

Until that rainy night.

During a Crazy Brainstorming sessionwhen Francis had also joined us(one of two of “I Nerd per caso” ),         I came up with the idea. Bring the idea that we wanted to create “physically”, on the worldwideweb(CLUE No.3).

A startup, in our opinion, to be one in a million. As Friday I’m in Love.

That ‘s what we, young Italians and the world, should do when we try to create a startup: act rationally with a bit of madness. That bit of insanity is what it takes to break the patterns. Patterns that we have created ourselves, try to simplify reality. But schemes in which we are continually brought to error by stereotypes , ignorance and anchors. So when you think of creating a startup it is essential to use proper programming of work and responsibility, but do not forget to dream a little, to travel with the mind to escape from our patterns .

 

Now you know why they call me the Astronaut.

5. Business Model in a time of crisis

MARCH 5, 2014, h.14:13

DAY 18

Yesterday was a good day. For me. For others,  I don’t know.

BUSINESS MODEL

In Eastern Europe the situation doesn’t seem to be good. How is it possible to risk this kind of escalation, in 2014? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to sit down and discuss it?

On the one hand, Russia is right, because there are the inhabitants of the Crimea claiming a different country(and according to Wikipedia, since 1992 they have been actually been an autonomous republic within Ukraine); on the other hand , there are disproportionate economic interests. On February 19, 1954, Crimea was given by the Soviet leader Khrushchev to the Ukraine, but only since 1989, Russia (URSS no longer) could no longer benefit from the powerful harbour on the Black Sea. Consequently Russia is looking for a way to resume earning from that region.

Strange but true my startup has the same goal: to figure out how to earn.

In a few words, set the business model to implement the business idea: we’re talking about a myriad of variables to bind together with consistency, from the procurement of customers, purchasing real product / service , through the use of forms of sponsorship or B2B . Without this step, any startup is doomed.

We don’t want to work for glory nor charity.

In my short career as a consultant, I’ve heard of entrepreneurs with great business ideas but who are dying from the lack of an effective business model.

To create our model D, our designer, bought a board, one of those with n-sheets.

Since yesterday the magic board is in Nerd per Caso’s home(now it’s not a house anymore, because it has become our startup’s office), and so yesterday we started to design our business model to understand how we can monetize. Simply be able to explain with a drawing, a diagram or a table model, gave us the opportunity to reflect . It’ssomething that I highly recommend to aspiring startuppers like us.

For now, we still see a little darkness, most likely we will try to differentiate the forms of income(although it can be a risky move), but definitely a source of income will be made by Pay Per Click (CLUE No.2).

The point is that:

  • Italy is not Silicon Valley, the home of the successful startup, where the business model works (probably it’s also a matter of entrepreneurial culture and openness to change);
  • Silicon Valley has apparently found a way to fight and defeat the Great C, Italy on the other hand is still in the process of evaluating how to survive the Great C;

 

By the way, the need to monetize it is among the top reasons why you create a startup, so it is an important step that we face; infact only in this way we can continue to have big dreams with our startup( in spite of the Great C).

4. Angels don’t come here (neither do Investors)

February 28, 2014, h.18:51

DAY 13

diary of a crisis survivor team angels crisis

Friday night .

Finished work, but I’m still here .

I look forward to a routine call “confirmation ” to close everything .

I’ll have to deal with the traffic & the consequent boredom.

Then home and shower.

Relax?

No Relax . I’ll eat pasta, then we’ll have the chance, after afortnight , of meeting, all 8 members of our startup. The problem, that we are trying to solve , is not a small problem whatsoever.

We are thinking about where to find the money. I don’t like call it money, I prefer calling it the funds: all the resources you need to cover start-up costs and the implementation of the first evolutions.

Today was another day by Survivor, while the unemployment rate rose to 12.9 % (they say it’s the highest, but I have not figured out whether since 1990 or since 1977 ), and people still complain. Surely in Italy the Great C is one of those variables that helps to increase the difficulty of raising funds with a too high taxation too high and with a government that in recent years has done nothing. And for these reasons and others, Investors don’t come here. I understand them. But we need them: foreign investors.

 

Let’s step back . Essentially, in the research of funds, the first thing to do is to “see what funds you can get your hands on.

You, your team, your parents and the parents of the members of your team, and even friends, yours and your team’s.

Usually, as in our case, you can’t hardly ever raise the money required.

Because we have to face a series of tasks that increases more and more : the constitution of the company, advertising and marketing, taxes , servers & domains, production of the product. In our case (CLUE No. 1) do not have to face costs of physical production of the products, nor rent rooms(we use the house of “I Nerd per caso”), because our startup is linked to the web.

Consequently, if you find yourself in our situation, fortunately, there are still many doors to knock on.

During a crazy brainstorming, 15 days ago, we named among others:

– Incubators;

– Find someone foolish ( and hungry ) , with lots of money , who is willing to invest in us ;

– Venture Capitalists;

Angels.

Another big problem , which comes from the previous consideration is, “are you willing to give up some of your shares in the company to give them to someone definitely bigger and more powerful?” Some of our team say that this is a bit like selling out, or sell off the idea, however, I believe that it is at least a solution to evaluate.

 

Finally came the phone call. I can leave this place .

Here in Italy, an ordinary person can’t think about new projects, future ideas or new business developments in the markets. They think only about the present, to survive the Great C in this present. For this reason, we are trying to come into contact with foreign investors: Venture Capitalist, Foolish or Angels, it’s the same thing.

 

Then I remember one thing.

Angels don’t come here.

3. The Importance of being a Team

FEBRUARY 25, 2014, h.13:53

DAY 10

dIARY OF A CRISIS SURVIVOR team work

Today I risked. I risked my life in the survival of the Great C.

In a figurative sense, yes. But if it was not for Timothy, would I be here having to work overtime to pay a high tax collection box(which is not correct). 30 years. In Italy.

Luckily I have a group of people to rely on.

I do not know . Maybe in my case the 10 years spent playing basketball, and the subsequent mentality that I have “acquired”: the result of the team is more important than the result of the individual.

Italy , and our young people have forgotten what it means, or rather, we have forgotten this sentence .

At apolitical level, as in the rest of the world, we are tied to a prominent leader (see Berlusconi and Renzi), and not the party and the ideas that embodies them. Moreover, we are so anchored to the idea of ​​Right & Left , which we did not realize how the content of these have become interchangeable.

In Italy in 2014, the things to do are really under the eyes of everyone.

 

Our government will succeed? Only if it manages to work like a team, forgetting hostile strategies and pre-determined negativity for each proposal, being optimistic and aware that we can defeat the Great C.

 

Sharing & Helping .

But even planning, dividing the tasks and responsibilities, establishing and respecting the Deadline.

As you know, when I’m not too busy actively surviving Great C and working, I carry on a business project .

I don’t want to talk about the idea(I’m too scared of being copied and replicated faster than I can develop my own idea ), but as I said earlier, I will tell you steps and essential elements of my career as an aspiring startupper. And maybe, sometimes, I will provide you some clues.

 

Today I am talking about the importance of being a team.

The right balance .

My team consists of 8 people.

Originally we were :

– Romina, called Pigna, not because she looks like one of those things that are on the trees, nor that she’s a drug user, but just because she’s a very fussy person, and not surprisingly she takes deals with the legal, accounting and tax things;

– Francesco, the first developer, who with David (arrived later),we have sadly nicknamed “I Nerd per caso”(in Italy exists a musical group called “I Neri per caso”), our geeks .;

– Vittorio(Victor if you prefere), the undersigned, the managerial figure of the group, called the Astronaut. This will be explained it later.

Then there are added in order :

– Luca, our Marketing Manager, called the Thinker;

– Sofia, the designer, simply D;

– Enrico, the Sales Manager, the man who would be able to sell an Ipad to my grandmother(who died), called The Wolf(references to recent Scorsese film are not random ) ;

– And finally , last but not least, Timothy, called Tim, the all-rounder.

 

Our skills and capabilities are blended with each other , fortunately , and I repeat , fortunately, we have very different ideas among us and we often fight. Which is good .. if we had not had the verve to fight that night, this idea would never have been born (we might have had trouble even if we had not bought the n(which stands for n-number unquantifiable) beers).

 

It’s this desire to ” succeed together “, that will make the difference.

In good times and bad , such as in a marriage. Also because we are aware that from the organizational point of view, for now, we are able to cover any position needed to create a start-up. A recipe created with a good dose of Devolpers , Lawyers & Economists, Advertisers & Dealers, and the right touch of madness (and also on this we will be back) .

 

But back to this morning .

I was at work without the possibility of moving, wrapped between one meeting and another.

Today a Deadline. And I forget to respect it. Submit the application for appeal.

Moments of sheer panic. Then, I managed to think: Timothy. It was enough to give him a call. He perfectly knew perfectly what to do and he did it .

I am safe. At least for now. At least today.

And all thanks to Tim, who in reality is not even called that. But simply embodies so well the idea of ​​team that we couldn’t not nickname him so, Tim( giving credit to the stereotype that we young Italians do not know English—In Italy the pronunciation of Team is the same of Tim). In any case, Tim is in charge of operational aspects(perhaps because is the only unemployed person in the group), with a very Calcuttian availability.

 

Back to work, I used my break to write, this time, outdoors, in a city park, one of those oases(safety points), within this city, scared like many others, from The Great C.

 

dIARY OF A CRISIS SURVIVOR naming

2. Be Positive to be Ready

FEBRUARY 20, 2014, h.21:45

DAY 5

Immagine

Another nightmare day.

Wrapped between one job and another, between one order and another, between one shout and another (from my boss).

I’m feeling it. My attitudes and my talents can’t grow and can’t be expressed here. I have had little time to think about my startup project, just a few hours. But I realized that when the fire is burning, it is very hard to blows it out. It’s like the Jovanotti’s song that I heard yesterday morning, while I was going to work, in the hideout of the wolf:

“Io penso positivo, perchè son vivo, perché sono vivo, niente e nessuno al mondo potrà fermarmi dal ragionare, niente e nessuno al mondo potrà fermare, fermare, fermare, fermare..quest’onda che va, quest’onda che viene e che va” (..in few words…”I think positive, because I’m alive”, if you want you can translate the rest of the text).

I don’t know what’s happening. It’s hard just imagining the reasons for this sickness, that has damaged the world of work and us, the brave young men that have decided to stay in Italy, in the period of the advent of the Great C.

Maybe, in 100 years, in history books, rather in history-ebooks, there will be this emigration of young men. Maybe we will study it, like now we study the Italian emigration in the first decade of ‘900(and maybe, in 100 years, there will be a country, where a lot of families have an Italian surname, like Argentina or Uruguay now).

My opinion is that, among all of the causes of this problem, we can find:

  1. The lacking motivation/will/desire of young Italian men between 20 and 35;
  2. The generation that governs Italy doesn’t give attention to us.

Also Renzi’s generation, finds huge difficulty in achieving to help the country: Maybe..is also this generation too old to create innovative and brilliant ideas? Is this generation too full of old patterns that doesn’t realize that the Italian Titanic is sinking?

However, presently, I have faith in the youngest premier of Europe. Stop talking about politics.

The generation in charge, or simply the citizens, haven’t the time(and the “space”) to listen to their creative genius…imagine if they have the time for our ideas:

–>they are too stressed to bring home the bread for the family,

–>they are too stressed to fill the hunger of the tax authorities,

–>they are too stressed to survive the Great C.

How many suicides in Italy from the advent of the Great C?

No one has listened to the prayers of these citizens in pain.

Young Italian men don’t have motivation. You must to search the young Italian men that realize their work dream, starting from the fact that most don’t dream anymore. I have my dream. In my hearth, and in my drawer(does this expression also exist in England?).

In my life the number of  failures is bigger than the number of successes(sometimes when I’m sad I try to remember what a roman friend said to me in the past about failures:“Vittò, questi quando te fanno un colloquio de lavoro, non te chiedono Ahò ma quanto sei bravo…ma te chiedono quante volte hai fallito nella tu vita? se hai pochi fallimenti sei una merda.” Substantially some American managers, during a job interview, appreciate if you have had more failures than successes).

But this time no, we can’t fail…my team and I.

Because we’re motivated, and we have the will to survive.

Without the right motivation your startup can’t go anywhere.

I repeat: will. Like don’t give up in front of the complications, like most of startuppers do.

Even if there are who give up the first time that they explain their entrepreneurial idea: when they realize that this idea is very, very awful.

Everyday my team and I search solutions in our whatsapp group. The threats aren’t missing, like hard moments, when there isn’t nothing to light up the way.

But we’re motivated. We have love and bravery.

And we want to continue, insist, at least try.

We want to be a lot, staying together, doing networking and sharing.

We want to be the exception from the rule.

We want to be pioneer in a sick country.

We want them to come to us to ask where we have found the resources and the forces.

We want to survive the Great C, and we want to do it with success.

%d bloggers like this: