An open reflexion on “free advice and mentoring” with Startups

This post comes from a reflection of a great and dear friend of mine, a person I respect without questioning and for a very long time already.

He always say to me :
“Matteo, you are doing too many things you are not paid for, not sure your intangible gain is there and it ain’t charity work. You loose focus, dilute your own brand and you are not doing for the greater Good either.”

Just come off the phone, before taking today’s plane, with a Fintech startup managed by a fellow Italian – someone who seems to me a great person and obviously the familiarity of the common native language – made us have a great conversation about his startup : with some very concrete advice on how to proceed, which type of money to look for and what information a Business Angel is likely to ask (and in which format) to better position the company in a seed raise.

I happen to know very well almost everyone who deals with Fintech on a venture side (mind you, they are not that many) and my job is actually to vet, coach, manage, mentor start-ups (with particular care of the ones in SBT Venture Capital portfolio of course).

So the question is : where does the “free advice” stop and starts the “consultation” work ?

I came across several people getting 5% of the amount of money a start-up would raise in their series A and all they have done is manage to have an informal meeting with a VC and send a deck. After that, not a single interaction (except for some noise in the contractual negotiation, frankly more slowing down things than helping) happened with that intermediary.

Reason why I am asking (to myself) this question is the following : I believe I have an extreme sense of mindfulness when it comes to recognise being in debt with someone.
Especially if this came out as an unsolicited help or better even as a clear solicited help I could not afford to pay for.

The problem is that I am expecting the same in return.
I shall not.

“Do ut des” says ancient Latin. Give and you will be given. This is my philosophy so far.

Not sure it should be applied in business. Still have to think about it.
There is also another thought I would like to throw in the mix : people, in general, don’t value what they don’t pay for.
The truth of this saying is inversely proportional to how clever is the person you are dealing with.
Also, every business is about the network you can leverage.

Let me tell you a story : back to Innotribe time, we had an expression, amongst ourselves, about shooting a silver bullet.
In our way of saying, it specifically meant to go bypass whomever we have to and go straight to the top of the hierarchy to ask whatever we had to ask for.
That was a silver bullet.
My silver bullet now, are the person with reciprocal trust, who will listen to someone without reserve just because I ask for it (and would be absolutely the same in return).
That is why I want to shoot that bullet when I know for sure that the quality of the matter, the motivation, and eventually the outcome has a defined value.

Do I sound cynical ?

When was the last time you made an introduction that really made a difference to someone’s company and had absolutely nothing in return ? How did you feel about it ?

What is required, in your books, to introduce someone coming from the “external world” to your inner circle ?

Shall I write a book about network and relationships ?


Stay tuned


Highlights from the New York Innotribe Challenge

Sorry for the delay, I have been caught in a number of other events (like Innotribe Start up Disrupt in Madrid, the first experiment of a co-branded Innotribe event focused on Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, for which a dedicated blog is due soon).
As a preview, this is a picture from the coaching day, where the nine startups showed up and made us think that the the idea was a good one.


In case some of you missed it, these are the last finalists that will fly to Dubai:


P2P Cash, a safe mobile system that lowers money transfer price to zero by using SWIFT standards to enable cash to get delivered or obtained from just about any mobile wallet or lender accounts world- wide. P2P Cash is first-to-market with a VISA clearing and settlement strategy creating a worldwide standard to meet the needs of the under-banked in emerging markets.
Realty Mogul, an advanced net system which permits traders to display, search and sign rare property opportunities which are historically hard to get.
XYverify, a practically “undetectable” mobile transaction authentication option that protects consumers, retailers and fin ancial institutions from id theft and trade-related breaches.


Quantum4d, visual analytic software that allows users to access large-scale data systems, andconstruct, edit and explore interlinked 3D arenas and workspaces intuitively.
The Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, an automated service that has helped companies and lenders in more than 20 countries to identify high potential, credit-worthy entrepreneurs based on a psychometric system, while reducing their default rates and risks

What else to add…
We are now into the Sibos logistic, flight arrangement, hotel bookings, and doing the same for the winner of the Madrid challenge (LICUOS, you will hear soon about them).

I think it s a good moment to thank Nektarios and Ioana for mastering the production of the challenge (here the happy bunnies pic during the Singapore challenge, as a souvenir)


A special mention as well for our great SWIFT colleagues in NYC who helped us greatly from the beginning to the (dismantling the room) very end.
One of them defined it “the longest, heaviest, and best day of work I had at SWIFT”!

Courtesy of Ioana, the traditional all round picture of the amazing view from the very same window of the room where the competition took place.


Stay tuned


The Grand Finale of the start up Challenge

There are zillions of articles and blogs about the Innotribe Start-up Challenge finals @ Sibos in Osaka, so you all know playMoolah and Gust won.
Let me put here, for reference, the Banking Technology article.

The reason I wanted to blog about it is not the news, but the vibes and the way forward.

First of all, the challenge put together a beautifully crowded room, our Innotribe tent, and – not only because it was the last day – the air you could breath in the room was special.
I felt very proud for what we achieved.
Kudos to Nektarios (@nekliolios) for having put so much energy, wisdom and structure to the Challenge during the whole program.

What we achieved?

Well, I would start by a number of financial industry professionals feeling something different, sparkling, intellectually challenging, and simply worth to take off line in conversations that will lead – I am positive – in business opportunities.

Also,the Innotribe start-up challenge generated over 120 M EUR in VC funding or in acquisitions, if we take into the account the participants to last year challenge in Toronto.
And this is not what matters. It s just a number.
The fact that Playmoolah (even before Osaka) struck a deal with OCBC and integrated their program in all the branches of the bank in Singapore, for example, is what makes us proud. And willing to do more.

What is more?
Let me share the objectives for the 2013 challenge.
We will of course run the Challenge again, with London, New York and Singapore as designated locations.
The opportunity is to leverage the Challenge in other locations, with specific innovation themes and in specific Eco-systems. Think Africa for Mobile or Latin America for Remittances. Our network is not as strong there as in the rest of the world, but trough the Challenge we would open the door to innovators, VCs and FI professionals.

The call for judges Is open as well.
Go on and register with your LinkedIn account. We would love you to get the word out as well as helping Innotribe in screening the best and brightest.

Stay tuned



Innotribe start-up challenge, NYC

  February 8th, NYC, SWIFT Office

The Innotribe start-up challenge started with a full crowd of 30+ large Financial Institutions, as many VCs and entrepreneurs in the financial  space and 15 top start-ups pre-selected online by the Innotribe network.

I was very proud to remark that the bankers were responding and interacting with the companies with an incredible energy (and after some 1:1 conversation, I realize that many of the companies will actually be connected with the relevant department of the bank thanks to the “link” we made that day.

Quoting one of the bankers: If any of these start-ups would have tried to get in contact with me directly, it simply would not have happened. Now, I’m happy to link them with (in this case) commercial banking contacts as I see potential.

This is exactly the reason why we did this challenge.

Nex one is in SIngapore, on april 24th.

Applications can be posted os of now on

Stay tuned, more interviews, reports, videos and blog to come