Startup building for dummies, based on a true story – part ONE: italiansonline.net

It took a bit more than 42 years…after being the initiator, the catalyst, or simply a co-founder of 5 startups, in different domains and in different contexts… 42 years to start understanding how build a new venture looks like, and the role I am best at playing.
This actually gives me the opportunity to share what I believe is a good mix of talent and skills that you need to have, if you want to set up your venture for success.
This is a personal story. And an experiment.
It’s a journey into my vision of entrepreneurship. My journey.

In 2003, before Facebook came out as a more-than-for-students platform, before the expression “social networks” became as used as any other software related terms, together with 3 other friends, we founded www.italiansonline.net
Great idea. THE network for Italian expatriates. Virally grown, huge media exposure, from one location (Paris) to 30 in less than 6 months, now 120000 Italians in some 80 locations (but many more countries) have joined, thousands of events, small ads, blogs, pictures … All very exciting, energizing, even noble, certainly useful …., but not a business. It became an not for profit venture, now crowd managed, producing enough revenue to self-sustain. Still active, and growing, but at its own pace.
Lessons learned: you might have a good idea and execute well. But in order to make it grow you need to put full time attention and dedication to it, and if you can’t, partner with someone you trust who can. Let him run the venture, give him a good share of the company. The one who risks more, should have more, even if that means more than yourself, inventor.
If your idea is good, it will stay stick. The gap between make a business out of it or simply a good service the glory of what will be your sole reward, depends from the focus you will grant to it.

Italiansonline.net had everything to become a good business, in the most noble sense of it. Timing of founders life was not the right one to abandon everything for it, and we didn’t find (or look for) the right partner.
Still, in it’s almost 10 years of existence, it helped plenty of Italians to find job, house, fun, company, love, support, and in this sense it filled (and still does) the purpose.
Personally, it made never ending friendship and relationships all over the world, and when I had time I mingled with the local communities during my trips. It happened in more than 20 countries already, and just for this that was worth the journey.

It gave me also the hint to my second idea, that will be the topic of my next blog: www.swiftcommunity.net

But this is another story, and more lessons…

Stay tuned

Matteo

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