February 17, 2023

Francesca Gargaglia: "Passion will save startups and startups will save the world"

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Amity, Francesca leads the company's global expansion and growth. Originally from Perugia, she graduated in Law from Bocconi University and began her career in Dubai, working for the law firm Baker McKenzie. She then joined PwC and moved to South Africa, where she lived for three years, to head PwC's European Desk in the sub-Saharan region.

A lawyer turned entrepreneur, in 2019 she followed her passion for innovation and co-founded the startup Amity together with Thais Korawad Chearavanont and Arthur Krasingkorn, and American David Zhang. Today Amity is a fast-growing technology company with hundreds of clients and more than 250 employees in four global offices.

Last October 21, Francesca took the stage at the first Italian TEDx dedicated to Venture Capital and the Italian innovation ecosystem sponsored by Italian Angels for Growth together with Azimut and Fondazione Golinelli (Here is the link to see her talk). Let's get to know her better.

Italian startupper, under 30, with several international experiences behind her, who decides to create a deep tech company (Amity) in London: what is your background and career path?

I have a somewhat unconventional background in the startup world because I studied law. I've always loved to travel, so since college I took every opportunity, I could to experience studying and working abroad: this took me to Brazil, China, and finally Indonesia, where I wrote my thesis. After graduation I started working in consulting, specializing in supporting Italian and European companies in their expansion process in developing countries. I loved my job, but I admit that the slow and rigid processes typical of large companies were a bit of a squeeze for me. That's why, when at a business event I met Korawad and he proposed me to join him in his startup project, I decided to jump at the chance to try my hand at a fast-growing and very dynamic industry.

Your speech during TEDxBologna focused on why many startups have failed in recent periods. Why is it important to analyze the link between increasingly rapid growth and increased vulnerability of companies?

Because I think the so-called hypergrowth-the ultra-rapid growth coveted by almost all founders and mythologized by all players in the startup ecosystem-is showing us in recent years its fundamental unsustainability. The cult of "growing as fast as possible," in fact, pushes more and more entrepreneurs to invest almost all the funds at their disposal in expansion, making the company dependent on continuous injections of external capital, and thus deeply vulnerable and exposed to market volatility. This, in times of crisis, results in mass layoffs, and hundreds of startups being forced to close. I am of the opinion that this has a negative impact on society, and therefore it is necessary to start talking more often about this phenomenon and, above all, to present to young people who dream of being startuppers alternative and sustainable models of entrepreneurship, in which success is not measured in terms of speed of growth, but rather in terms of value created in the medium to long term. The race to success, in my view, is a marathon, and not a sprint. A startup project driven only by an obsession with hypergrowth loses its most beautiful nature, which is precisely that of having a significant impact on society. All the technology companies that are great examples for me have taken at least ten years to get to the point where they are considered a "unicorn," and they have always acted having a long-term plan. This is what we are trying to do in Amity as well.

On your LinkedIn profile you recommend three rigorous steps to follow whenever you need to make an important decision:

1) Gather and analyze feedback from family, friends, and mentors.

2) Jot down and carefully weigh the pros and cons.

3) Systematically ignore all of the above and go with your gut. I assure you that you will not regret it!

How important is it to take a good amount of risk to become a successful entrepreneur? What market trends, on the other hand, should be analyzed more rationally?

Innovation and risk are two sides of the same coin for every entrepreneurial success story. If we go through the stories of every great entrepreneur/entrepreneur, none of them conquered the market by following what is written in the books. Each of them made one or more unexpected and courageous moves that perhaps initially led to failures or to projects that were born and aborted soon after, but then gave birth to something new and revolutionary. If you do not follow your instincts and explore previously untrodden territories, you cannot talk about innovation.

On the other hand, I believe that everything I have studied, all the feedback and pros/cons noted down, is still part of my compass the moment I decided to follow my instincts and jump in. It is clear that there is a high probability of falling, but a good mindset that comes from the academic path or from those who have been through it before you, still helps not to get too hurt and get back up quickly should there be a need to change direction.

I think in the end the biggest challenge is this: finding the right balance between the two components, a balance that no book can teach and that every successful entrepreneur has managed to tailor.

According to you, the secret, what all successful entrepreneurs have in common, is passion. What is your advice to those who, like you, would like to create a startup?

Passion is the first driver, but a brilliant idea has no future without good execution. If we research the reasons why a startup fails in the first place we find "no market need." It means that an entrepreneur falls so much in love with his idea that he does not even bother to check whether it can have an actual space in the market. So I would recommend as the first thing to worry about validating one's idea, at least among the famous three Fs (family, friends and fools).

The second reason why a startup fails is disharmony in the team. So surround yourself with the right people and do not underestimate the power of networking. The dictionary defines a "company" as an economic organism composed of people. It is not an abstract profit-making machine; it is a group of people working toward a common goal. So make sure you know how to select those who are truly aligned with your mission both technically and in terms of values.

After that you can safely follow my bullet points that you mentioned in the third question.