It had it all. Exciting startups, inspiring speakers, a unique venue, and a charismatic Marco Montemagno at his best. TechCrunch Italy 2013 was a success.
The event was attended by entrepreneurs, investors and media mostly from Italy, though there were participants from over ten countries including the USA, UK, Germany and Spain. Among the speakers featured Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, Renaud Visage, co-founder of Eventbrite, and Micheal Widenius, founder of MySQL. So, pretty big stuff.
The conference took place over two jam-packed days and I couldn’t stop taking notes throughout. These are 10 startup lessons learned from TechCrunch Italy 2013!
1. “Persistance breaks resistance”. I loved this quote by Zaryn Dentzel of Tuenti. The importance of combining utter hard work with strong self-belief in your startup cannot be overstated in the world of ambitious startups. Efe Cakarel, founder of MUBI, similarly reminded us of Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”.
2. Massimo Ciociola, founder of MusixMatch, emphasised the importance of design. In itself design is a form of social proof and particularly at the early stages of a startup it is a great way to build trust in your brand new brand (pun intended). Also contemplating on design was John Underkoffler from Oblong, who pointed out that “design is what takes us from the past into the future”. Wise words from the man who worked on the futuristic interfaces in Minority Report.
3. “Too much money in the beginning is toxic. You create a burning plate”, so said Yossi Vardi, established entrepreneur and investor. The same sentiment was shared by Mike Butcher, Editor at large at TechCrunch, who pointed out that startups should raise money once they achieve traction. In his own words, “raise money as late as you can”. The reasoning behind this is that you might spend too much money early on, putting you in serious debt once you actually get going.
4. Have a vision and believe in that. Matthew Prince’s (Cloudflare) vision was “to build a better web”. Matthew had to repeat that vision in front of the mirror for several months before he could say it convincingly. It was ambitious, yet today over 350,000 websites use Cloudflare.
5. Following trends is great. Anticipating them is even better. Perhaps the best way to do this is to focus on what will not change. Also, keep in mind that trends are exponential. So if your startup is banking its success on a number of trends, make sure you consider their exponential development.
6. Be bold. So said Mauro del Rio co-founder of Buongiorno. Today, the entrepreneurs are the rockstars, not the media or the investors. If you are changing the world, don’t ask for very little funding. Half a million will only get you so far. Think big and don’t shy away from what you need to achieve your goals.
7. Focus. Again, this is another of those points that cannot be repeated too many times. Its importance was mentioned by a host of speakers, but perhaps most noticeably by the VC panel when commenting on the most important characteristics they look for in entrepreneurs.
8. When it comes to A/B Testing, conventional wisdom is often wrong. Amelia Showalter, former director of digital analytics for the Obama re-election campaign, emphasized the importance of being humble. Coming from an expert who helped raise over $500 million online for Obama’s campaign, that is quite something. Amelia outlined that when testing, it was very hard to correctly guess which version would perform best and this is why it was important to be humble and admit when you’re wrong. Most of the time, despite being an expert, she would not be able to guess what would perform best and that is why they tested everything.
9. Business Plans are bullshit. Four investors said this. One of them even said he hasn’t looked at a business plan in years. Apparently what is important is the 20 slide presentation you give them and the qualities of the founder/s.
10. Martin Varsavsky from Fon, pointed out that Apple, Google, and Facebook all have a particular and different character. Yet they are all very successful. It follows then, that there’s more than one good way to build and run, a great company.
I could keep on going as so much was shared. However, to really get the best out of a TechCrunch conference is to attend it. If you have an opportunity to attend the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin or any of their future events, I would highly recommend it.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the above? Which point struck you the most and why?