November 25, 2021

Anna De Stefano, creating "value with values"

Inclusion and diversity are essential for success. Female role models and exchange of experiences a wealth to be valued.

Graduated in Economics and Business, with an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management- STOA', Anna is a Legal Design Expert, Angel investor, startup advisor and mentor on business, strategy, team and communication issues, as well as a curious traveler and a passionate ambassador on the themes of female inclusion and intergenerational exchange.

She joined a fledgling legal publishing company in 1994 and has been passionate about it, leading it to become a leader in its market segment and a brand of reference for more than twenty years.  Let's get to know her better in this interview.

What is your background?

I have a transversal background between management disciplines and those more exquisitely legal and fiscal. In a certain sense it seemed to be written like that, in fact on the same day that I gave the oral exam for accountant in the afternoon I gave the presentation of the final work of the MBA.

All with a common background, which is the quest to do "beautiful" things, in the broad sense of the definition, that create value.

I have tried to do this in all my experiences both as a young certified public accountant in the firm and in the firm, and in my more than twenty-year adventure at Memento, a publishing house in the legal sector that I have directed from the beginning until 2018. Growing from 4 people and a desk to 40 people with a structured and prestigious company has been quite an adventure, in which I have always tried to have as reference points the creation of "value with values", attention to team spirit and corporate culture, the culture of the client at the center of every activity and innovation to prepare for the future. I continue to do this by investing in a few startups and, above all, supporting them as a mentor and advisor, and trying to support innovation in the legal sector, first of all simplifying legal language to make it clearer, more engaging and practical (using the legal design method). 

The last common point of my experiences is the international character, which perhaps a bit reflects my curiosity as a traveler.

European Women of Legal Tech 2020, Business Angel, Startup Mentor. Innovation for you, even tech, is always "human centric". In the transformation of services and products and in a world with rapidly changing value patterns, inclusiveness is increasingly important. What do you think are the priorities of the world to come and what will be the role and the task of companies?

Yes, I am a convinced "human centric". Therefore, in a world where technological progress is taking giant steps that were probably unthinkable until recently, I think it's always important to ask what is the "human value" that new technologies bring. Therefore, not only that something is "technologically feasible", but above all "what does this technology add to humans"?

This is the underlying paradigm.

On how to make this big technological and social change, I think diversity and therefore inclusiveness of experiences, skills, points of view are really a central aspect. Both to be able to "include" as many people as possible in the technological society, and to ensure that essential cultural and human characteristics are respected even by very powerful technologies. Such as, for example, the respect of fundamental human rights by the artificial intelligence solutions that will be developed in Europe that the EU Commission has included in its proposed guidelines for the development of artificial intelligence. Or even the recognition of the importance of "humanities" subjects seen in a continuous dialogue with technology, which is set to perform increasingly sophisticated and autonomous processes. 

In summary, I would say that the role that companies can play in designing the future is to create economic value from the opportunities that technology makes available, but with attention to "human" value.

Actively involved in the Italian innovation ecosystem, what do you appreciate most about IAG's membership services?

Angel investing and IAG have been a wonderful discovery, and I still thank Roberto Magnifico and Luigi Capello for having ferried me there.

I find it to be a community of people with great and varied experience who want to share it and try to build, or participate in building, the future. Together with many young founders who fill us with energy and vision. In this IAG I think helps us a lot by facilitating many moments of meeting and being always listening to the needs and ideas of members.

So, a dynamic association that plays with participation its role as a bridge between beautiful emerging companies and a set of varied and proactive skills.

The sympathy and kindness of Leonardo and his team complete the picture.

At IAG you play the role of Champion of Yobs, a U.S. startup that innovates HR through Artificial Intelligence, whose goal is to help companies enhance their talents throughout their lifetime within the organization. Can you tell us about this experience and the challenges involved?

Yes, I play the role of Champion with Roberto Montandon with whom we complement each other very well.

Yobs is a beautiful American startup with an Italian founder, here too "human centric" because artificial intelligence has always been "human in the loop" since its conception, and it is this aspect that convinced me to invest and to be one of the champions.

The fact that it's in California is certainly interesting and gives us a better understanding of the reality of that part of the world and of Silicon Valley; on the other hand, however, it makes us lose some of the proximity to the startup that a business angel usually looks for. In this case we rely even more on the founders (whom we hear from regularly) and their ability to know how to adapt their solution to the needs of their clients. By the way, as with everyone, the covid period has created a bit of a settling in in their businesses as well and has been a good workout.

Women continue to struggle to acquire positions of power. Why do we need female empowerment to counteract their underrepresentation in the workforce? And what advice would you give to young women who want to create a startup?

True, unfortunately, and it's very regrettable. This is a topic that should concern everyone, men and women, precisely from the perspective of the importance that inclusion and diversity have in building successful businesses.

Therefore, we need to tell more female role models, to show that it is possible to make career and life paths that are different from the traditional ones. To empower young women to ask themselves what their true career path is and then help them build it. To affirm a female or otherwise personal leadership style, not necessarily aligned with the prevailing style.

Very important is the exchange of experiences and the support that women who have achieved important goals can give to young women, also in creating the awareness that "it can be done". Awareness also that there is a strong support that can be counted on.

I would say to young founders that if they are willing to take risks, work hard and have an idea that they think is a winner, they should try it, knowing that they may have to work a little harder than their male colleagues, especially in making them understand a different approach, but quality generally pays off.

Then there are more and more women among business angels and VCs, so we can help build the bridge between the new founders and the established system, especially the financial one, by facilitating the common language. Then remember the associations such as SheTech or RoleModels Rebel, which really do awareness-raising and training on the subject and are of great help.

Being able to choose who you want to become and having the tools to try to achieve it is a way of looking at life that I'm very passionate about and, as far as I can, I try to give my contribution so that it is not a privilege, for women and in general.

I am fortunate to have met other people who share this approach and I hope that together we will be of effective support and inspiration to young people to really write and realize
"their" future.