We got a very short time to decide how to meet Snip2Code founder Cristiano Ghersi in a TalentTour event. The 34 years old super energetic talent was passing by in Genova for only few days, and we wanted to get the most from the meeting. So there we go: we propose to Cristiano a lunch break in Porto Antico, with us TalenTour trio and a couple of friends well inside the software business, running a solid and growing company in Genova, now expanding to Canada: A-Sign.
We immediately realized the mix was powerful! Cristiano has a gift in telling his story in passionate and involving way: he took us from his early days as graduate in engineering, getting a stable job in a software consulting company, and soon after breaking the myth of the italian family of the permanent job to run his own business, first joining start-ups seeking for talents and then jumping to SIlicon Valley to run his company, now valued multiple millions dollars.
His story is not about willing to leave Italy: he loves Italy and would have loved to stay here, but he realized soon that it was not possible for him to run the company he had in mind from Italy. As soon as his Snip2Code prototype was ready – not speaking of a landing page: a working high quality software sharing community with hundreds of thousands of visits – he started to look for funders: he realized that for a small funding he should have given away most of the value of the company. Too much for too little. Then he started his journey to San Francisco: with the support of the Mind the Bridge program and some well positioned contact he got a meeting with the Plug&Play accelerator and get offered his first round of funding, putting his company in the range of the million dollar value.
He was thinking of a joke. But a follow up call confirmed it was real and there he started to grow, learning on his skin all the lessons on running a software business, in a place where everybody grows up breathing entrepeneurship from childhood. He realized that Italian university can be very good in providing technical skills but leaves business preparation totally out of the students curriculum.
Another important insight from Cristiano’s experience across Italy and USA is how difficult it is for a US entrepeneur to hire people in Italy. He would like to grow his italian team (Ship2Code is a 10 people company, 5 in USA, 5 in Italy) but there is no way for providing regular employment without entering in a over complicated and over expensive path.
Moreover in his experience italian software engineers are extremely well positioned in terms of competence and skills, also for the high Silicon Valley standards, so a very good deal for an employer. But few of them are open to work as freelance or to get stock options as a reward and regular employment is unaffordable for a small business.
Finally he told us about the the product itself: Snip2Code as it is now is very close the initial idea, but it had to pivot few times before getting the current momentum. To our comments about Snip2Code looking very much specialistic and not easy to undertsand for a funder, he surprised us again: he got the feedback that its customer segment was not narrow enough! Actually he had to narrow the set of supported languages and address a specific business areas to start seriosuly to address the corporate targets, which allow Snip2Code to pay the bills, and to be able to provide a great and free service to the open community. The individual users on their side pay the company back by providing high quality contributions and performing a validation and ranking of the “snippets”, according to the well-known model of the online reputation.
The single skill we realized Cristiano has still to learn is eating while speaking: we realized his pizza was cold and almost untouched while we listened to him dismantling our buffalo mozzarella pizza!
So here came A-Sign turn to tell their story, so similar and so different. It is again about software and passion in working top quality for a very demanding target of customers, but in a totally different environment and culture. Andrea is a software Engineer as Cristiano is, coming from the same university, and after graduation he started to look for a job in a company willing to hire him until retirement. But the fate obliged him at home for a long period, and he had to invent a flexible way of exploiting his skills working from home and wihtin the limited time he had available for programming. So he started writing software as a freelance in a time and a place where this was not usual at all.
Genova is not San Francisco and here the business grows bit after bit. The company was founded by Andrea and Francesca, partners in business and in life, and the investments came from the revenues delivery after a delivery. They focused their company in providing software solutions to the most demaning customers: egineers. No compromise in quality and understanding of customer needs allowed them to enter in many segments as telecommunications, smart-cities, utilities and the aerospace industry. Now the company is 20 people, developing solutions in-house and bringing competencies directly to their customers, and they are preparing for a double jump.
On one side they are willing to start developing their own products, to keep the intellectual property and the value generated by the team inside the organization, on the other side they are starting their international journey, setting an office in Canada, in the Ontario province.
One interesting story of their experience in Canada is the welcome they got: looks like Canada is encouraging very much companies willing to open there, and the local business organizations and municipality involved Francesca and Andrea in a merry-go-round of networking events. I’m proud to report a quote from Francesca: “Those meetings were highly energetic and effective, and they looked very much as the experiences we got in Genova with TalenTour!”.
So good luck to Cristiano, Francesca and Andrea and thank you for sharing with us your Pint of Talent!