March 18, 2024

Changing to Grow: Valentina Ferretti's Journey through Investments, Diversity & Inclusion, and New Opportunities

"If you don't do different things, nothing different happens." Valentina Ferretti, business angel at Italian Angels for Growth (IAG), has decided to change everything, her 25-year career, and embark on a new journey, completely open, completely free.

Today, she deals with investment opportunities, financial planning, venture capital, and business development for companies. She co-manages a Family Office and is committed to supporting diversity and female inclusion in both social and professional life, having led the PWA Professional Women Association for several years. Let's get to know her better.

Your career has spanned different sectors, from Area Manager for Expert.AI to Global Account Manager - Manufacturing & Defense at Vodafone, and now at IAG as a Business Angel. What was the main motivation behind these transitions and how have they contributed to your professional growth?

My transitions across different sectors have been motivated by a combination of professional and personal growth opportunities, as well as my aversion to boredom and habituation. I'm not someone who makes competition their mantra, so beyond seeking new challenges, it has always been necessary for me to learn something with each assignment, new client, new industry I ventured into. Each transition represented a unique opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge in different sectors.

My next move to IAG as a Business Angel was motivated by the desire to refocus our Family Office on the real economy, supporting entrepreneurship, and generating new businesses. Coming from Emilia Romagna, one of the regions with a strong entrepreneurial vocation, it was natural that sooner or later, being born into a family of entrepreneurs, I would want to at least support those who do business today.

You have managed Diversity & Inclusion projects and led PWA (Professional Women Association). What is the importance of diversity and inclusion in your business vision, and what initiatives have you promoted to support female participation in the workforce?

For me, diversity and inclusion are not just corporate values but ways of living interpersonal relationships. In my work experiences, I have always tried to lend and extend a hand for greater inclusion, especially for women.

In leading the professional association PWA, of which I was Vice President and then President for 4 years, I worked to spread knowledge of female role models in various spheres: politics, economics, business, arts and culture, and the nonprofit sector. The message my team and I wanted to convey was that "it can be done," you can imagine and achieve any path, regardless of gender, geographic origin, or social status.

Among other initiatives, in 2019 we inaugurated a training conference titled #SUCCESSFULSHE, a series of conversations with extremely prominent women in their fields, such as Major General Lt.Gen. Chris Whitecross, one of Canada's hundred most powerful women in 2011 and 2016 and at the time Commander of the NATO Defense College in Rome, and Alessandra Priante, the first Italian to head the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) Regional Commission for Europe, and today President of the new board of directors of Enit s.p.a.

I also want to mention that from the early days, I led PWA Rome to join Inclusione Donna, of which many IAG members are part of or have been founders themselves, an alliance of associations representing over 50,000 women employed in various sectors of the workforce, founded in December 2018 to promote gender equality in the workplace and representation, inspired by the fundamental democratic principles of our Constitution.

As a Business Angel, what are the typical challenges you encounter in the investment decision-making process, and how do you stay updated on the latest trends in the investment landscape?

I'm just starting to occasionally wear the hat of a Business Angel. For me, one of the main challenges is to limit the emotional/empathetic aspect with the founders and the love at first sight with the business idea. Occasionally, I have to get back on track to try to carefully evaluate the growth potential and associated risk of each investment opportunity I may have fallen in love with. This is where other IAG partners come into play, whom I have begun to know over time and with whom I calmly confront.

I also try to nurture and maintain a network of close contacts with other Family Offices, with whom I share the mission of managing, protecting, and making a consolidated heritage thrive, derived from multiple stakeholders and different family and generational dynamics.

Additionally, I have an active network of international relationships, especially with brains now "escaped" living and working in Northern Europe or the United States.

Throughout your work experience, as Business Development Pro Bono of the Rooftop Garden Project for Corporate Social Responsibility Units, you focused on territory redevelopment and social inclusion projects. How did you measure the impact of such initiatives?

OrtiAlti was born in 2015, and since 2017, the actions of the Association promote urban regeneration, urban horticulture, and their effects on the city, on the relationships between inhabitants, on environmental redevelopment, social inclusion, critical consumption, and the production of sustainable and locally sourced food. Through social innovation projects around urban agriculture, the rooftop garden becomes a device for urban regeneration and the shared care of common goods. For example, ORTOALTO OZANAM was the pilot project: a garden on the roof of the cooperative restaurant le fonderie ozanam, aimed at producing fresh vegetables to be used in food preparation and creating a new social space for the entire Turin neighborhood. It is remarkable to consider that in 150 SQM of ROOFTOP GARDEN, 29 TYPES of VEGETABLES are cultivated and with a 15 CM cultivation layer, there are 300 square meters of recovered roof, thanks to the green roof technology, the construction of a staircase, a parapet, and walkways that run around the 150 sqm garden. An apiary was also installed, and the honey produced, as well as the garden vegetables, all at zero km, are used in the preparation of dishes in the restaurant below. The rooftop garden reduces the restaurant's energy consumption and improves the environmental quality of the surroundings.

What is the project or initiative you are particularly proud of in your career, and why?

Returning to my experience in women's associations, I am extremely proud of the collaboration of the Professional Women’s Association (PWA) with the Italian presidency of the G20 starting from December 1, 2020. Together with a working group composed of members and leaders of PWA, we studied and developed an official document of Considerations to feed into the agenda of the Italian G20 Presidency in 2021 for gender issues.

We placed a strong emphasis on promoting female participation in the workforce and the fair distribution of family burdens between genders. We proposed to the Italian Presidency to highlight the issue of childcare services to support motherhood and parenthood, to encourage women to enter the workforce and maintain a balance between work and family life.

We outlined a series of concrete actions to pursue, including the fair integration of public childcare services throughout the national territory, the encouragement of shared childcare services for companies through ad hoc legislative and fiscal measures, and the revision of the school calendar to facilitate families with children in managing leisure time during summer periods.

What is the most significant advice you have received in your career that you would like to share?

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to meet charismatic individuals who have become informal mentors to me. The most significant advice I would like to share is to be generous in human relationships. Generosity leads to special encounters with people who genuinely care about your success and growth, not just professionally. Such connections have often played a fundamental role in my journey, in all aspects of life.