What is your background and why did you choose to be part of IAG?
To talk about my background, I must start from the German DEO school in Cairo where I learned all the languages I speak today (except for Italian which I learned later when I moved to Italy), and then move on to my last years of university when I was studying engineering with the dream of continuing my studies with a PHD at a prestigious American university. In parallel, however, I also cultivated another dream, that of sports and more specifically Tennis -I played at an almost professional level and was part of the national team representing my country in various tournaments and international events, and obviously dreamed of continuing to play.
However, in the end, destiny wanted me to be presented with an excellent job offer in an American multinational company in Milan, which I ended up accepting. To tell the truth, this choice of destiny was also pushed by sentimental reasons: my wife is Italian, but she has always lived abroad, and with this choice she could finally return to Italy.
My work in the American multinational company has shaped me professionally in every aspect, both from the point of view of business processes as well as teaching me how to relate in an international, multicultural, and connected world.
There I have also met my colleagues with whom later I founded our company Eidosmedia just before the year 2000 - the publishing industry was changing radically with the consolidation of web platforms and the emergence of social media, and we sensed an opportunity to create something new to serve this nascent market.
Our innovative idea proved to be extremely valid and appreciated by the market, and soon the first successes represented in contracts with the most prestigious publishing companies began to arrive, first in Italy, then gradually throughout Europe, and finally in the United States, becoming the de facto world leader in this sector.
For more than twenty years I led the evolution of the company’s products to keep up with the latest technologies and to respond to the requirements of the expanded and constantly evolving publishing world. Moreover, several product extensions and feature enhancements to extend the scope of the solution has allowed our company to approach and confirm its leadership in new markets as well, such as financial services, large corporates, and governmental organizations. Today, an advanced content management and multichannel content distribution system is necessary for the success of many different companies.
So, I am an entrepreneur with international experience, but I am also a software architect passionate about technology and innovative products. My approach to IAG was born to cultivate both passions: on the one hand, it allows me to make investments that one day I hope will lead to higher returns than a classic investment, and on the other hand it allows me to keep up with innovation and technology by staying in touch with many nascent start-ups in different sectors and comparing myself with the other experienced members of IAG. Moreover, IAG allows me also to realize the important desire of mine to 'give back' by putting my entrepreneurial and technical experience at the service of the young teams and contributing to their success.
What do you appreciate most about the services offered by the IAG association life?
I really appreciate everything that IAG offers: the active presence of top-level entrepreneurs and managers from whom I have learned a lot about the world of start-up investing, the organization of training seminars and refresher events, the collaboration with several incubators and accelerators, as well as the quality of the team supporting investor members.
I would like to focus on the start-up selection process that I particularly appreciate: this process follows a very careful path - many start-ups in various innovation sectors are presented to the members, these start-ups are carefully viewed and analysed, and with the support of members with specific expertise, only the most promising ones are chosen to invest in. The reliability of this process has allowed me to invest in sectors outside of my comfort zone, relying on the judgments and domain knowledge of members who are experts in each subject.
You were born and lived in Cairo until 1985, when you moved to Milan to pursue your professional career. In addition to Arabic (your mother tongue), you speak German, English, French and Italian. Multiculturalism represents an opportunity for learning and innovation. What do you think are the main advantages/benefits for start-ups and established organizations offered by the coexistence of different cultures?
The world we live in today is more and more connected and multicultural, and my work has brought me to work in many European countries, in the Middle East, and in the United States. Knowledge of the language of the country and its traditions facilitates, and by a lot, the interaction with all the counterparts of the country in question. I can safely state that in many countries, without this knowledge, it is virtually impossible to promote your product effectively.
I firmly believe that multicultural contexts that embrace diversity in terms of geographic origin, gender, culture, and the education of its employees provide the opportunity to produce richer and more articulate outputs. In these business contexts, liveliness and confrontation allow for the generation of more creative, innovative, cutting-edge ideas, and certainly of great potential for success.
This is fundamental, also considering that most start-ups, today, to achieve significant and lasting success, must necessarily address a global market that goes beyond their country of origin: multiculturalism, therefore, provides the tools and the mentality necessary to operate in a varied and international business context.
What are the most important aspects that as a business angel you evaluate before investing in a start-up?
First, there must be an innovative business idea that can attract and convince me. In parallel, however, I carefully evaluate the team that should realize it and the real feasibility of the desired product/service. The ability to 'execute' an idea is for me almost more important than the idea itself - I confess that I often identify myself in the shoes of the founders and think about how to realize this idea, and only if the solution convinces me, I proceed with the investment.
My focus however remains mainly on the product/service offered by the start-up, convinced that a company with a good product and a capable team can have a great future and therefore always an attractive 'exit' market.
Angel Investing offers deserving young people the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, can you tell us something about the teams you believed in and chose to invest in?
To answer that, I would like to mention some investments I have made recently, all of them stem from a business idea that convinced me, but above all they present a team that is determined and capable of realizing it.
Cubbit- is a start-up who wants to revolutionize the cloud storage world by creating a new distributed cloud which puts the focus on privacy and sustainability. I was intrigued by the idea, and after meeting the founders I have decided to invest in their project. The founders are a young team very close to the academic world of the university of Bologna and thus are technically capable of facing this challenge. They are also a very tight-knit team with excellent skills of communicating their project with passion and determination in a genuine way to potential investors.
Futurely - is a digital career counselling platform that guides kids in choosing a university and building their own future. To tell the truth, more than for the idea itself, in this case the choice to invest was influenced by the team of founders who impressed me by their academic and professional preparation of the highest level, but also for their determination and passion for the project.
Fitprime- is a start-up that operates in the world of fitness, the founder is a former sportsman with a degree in wellness and managerial experience in major sports centres, and therefore perfectly knows the market and the needs of the customers his company addresses. It sufficed me to hear him talk about the services his company offers and his plans to convince me to invest.
Fido - is an innovative digital credit & risk scoring platform. In this case, the start-up addresses a very current need in the fintech world, and the founders have great experience in this field and have very clear ideas on how to give an answer to this need. In addition, the founders have also a very good track record of successful start-ups they have launched previously, always in the industry where this new start-up operates.
To sum up, based on my personal experience, creating a successful start-up, other than the business idea, requires a team with varied skills and experiences that complement each other, a team that is mature, resilient, and above all committed and determined to obtain the desired results.