September 19, 2022

Mapendo, performance marketing empowered by artificial intelligence

Mapendo, is an Italian company, based in Bologna, working with artificial intelligence in the online advertising industry, specializing in user acquisition for mobile apps. It offers an A.I.-enhanced performance marketing service to clients based in Silicon Valley.

Mapendo manages and optimizes ad performance for its clients, reaching 300 million people worldwide every day. Almost all its revenue comes from companies located in the United States and in particular Silicon Valley, with the remainder coming from Europe and Southeast Asia.

In this interview we find out more about the startup with Lorenzo Viscanti, CEO of Mapendo, Giovanni Strocchi and Nicolò Manaresi, IAG Champion in this investment.


What is Mapendo and how was it born?

Marco (Marchini, Mapendo's other founder, the one who can write code) and I studied together and from our university days we had the desire to work together. At some point came the opportunity to start doing some consulting in the advertising industry and from there to opening a company together was a short step. Mapendo is a set of software based on artificial intelligence that optimizes the purchase of advertising space within apps on behalf of our clients. The AI algorithms we develop are used to make the purchase of advertising space more efficient, so much so that we no longer charge for the space itself, but for the sales we generate to our clients, which are apps (eCommerce, games ...). A mechanism called "performance-based," because precisely we take the risk. Not really us, the algorithms we wrote! Besides the people who write the algorithms also work with us a nice team in charge of overseeing the results of the software and interfacing with customers.

You have always tried to do something that would sustain itself, and from the first month the first customers allowed you to 'bill' something. Month after month the business grew, until you turned to Italian Angels for Growth. How important is it to have good investors on your side?

Before we went to investors, we validated our business model with our first clients. It's important because if a customer doesn't pay for what you offer, it's hard to be sure of the goodness of your product or service. There have been so many good, indeed great, products that have not met with market favor, and the customer is always the most important test case. In our case, the meeting with IAG was positive because we found competent people who helped us. For example, the algorithms we developed at the beginning were suggested to us by Nicolò Manaresi, the contamination between his experience in the biomedical sector and ours in software was excellent. Giovanni Strocchi, on the other hand, is the person who helped us enter the world of online advertising, our experience was exclusively technological, and Giovanni explained us a little bit the vision from the point of view of customers and suppliers, other companies that work in our sector and maybe are less technological than us. My advice is to look to an investor for someone who can support the company, not just financially.

Artificial Intelligence is being applied in every field, from finance to healthcare to tourism. Why be present in this field and what are your future goals?

Algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence are tools to deal with a reality that is increasingly based on big data, which are used to make more efficient business decisions. Artificial intelligence is an essential tool because without algorithms we would not have tools to interpret so much data. In software, AI is now very prevalent, but there are so many areas where there will be great benefits in the next few years. I can think of energy, which is now in crisis and so important, or agriculture, which has been far removed from software so far, but perhaps will become more "algorithmic" in the next few years. Our experience could find application in so many other areas. And maybe we will come up with some ideas to apply the algorithms we have developed in some other field, far from online advertising.


Senior manager with international experience in digital innovation, marketing and AdTech industry, telecom, and big data services. Business Angel (2 Exits, 35 investments and board member in four companies). How did the passion for this industry come about and what is and what does an IAG Champion do?

The Digital Marketing and AdTech sector has fascinated me because in it there are: both Brands with their communication and engagement strategies with their customers (and with their big marketing budgets), and Media Publishers in an extended sense who want to monetize the attention of their "readers/visitors/viewers/listeners" that they have engaged with great creativity, and the now complex set of all the automatic technologies of choosing, buying and delivering Advertisement.

So many actors, so much complexity, so much technology and continuous much fun to be had.

As an IAG Champion I live my role as supporting Lorenzo and Marco in critical decisions... more to try to avoid mistakes that would slow down or waste resources on the beautiful machine they have built.

What value do you recognize in Lorenzo and his team and why the choice to support them in their growth?

Concreteness, speed, commitment, adaptability, and diversity are the characteristics of the team that Lorenzo and Marco have created. Perfect prerequisites to be able to add some capital and some expertise to support growth.

After support in the early stages, how does the role of Champion evolve in the story of a startup?

It immediately moves from investment assessment and scenarios to support for critical decisions and organization for growth, and then on to assessments of strategy and options for the future once the initial scale is reached (the stage at which Mapendo is now).


Eclectic technologist, inventor, entrepreneur and Business Angel, co-founder of Silicon Biosystems in 1999 (now Menarini Silicon Biosystems). IAG member since 2014. Together with John you hold the role of IAG Champion in Mapendo. How important is the feeling with the entrepreneurial team and experience in the field of the startup you choose to partner with?

The feeling with the team is important because an atmosphere of mutual trust and esteem allows the Champion to better help the target company. Before I was a business angel, I was also a start upper. I personally experienced and have firsthand knowledge of the "Founder's" point of view. This I believe has helped me in relationship building. Both in the initial phase of deal negotiation and in the difficult phases that inevitably arise along the way, such as in the current phase where Mapendo is growing strongly and projected toward exit. A knowledge of the target sector is undoubtedly an added value of Champions, because it allows them to open doors for the Founders' team to give good advice and access relational capital even in very specific sectors. In Mapendo's case, this experience was brought by Giovanni.

What has been your role and what responsibilities are you sharing in this experience alongside Mapendo?

Bringing an outside point of view less related to day by day activities, we have a perspective that I would say is useful for constructive discussion. Help has come on several fronts, from fostering contacts, to signaling opportunities, in identifying KPIs for Business analysis and agreeing on growth objectives, in confronting each other regarding team management dynamics. We supported Lorenzo in participating in the TechShare program organized by EuroNext to evaluate the possibilities related to the IPO, and especially with the exit phase approaching, we confront each other in a productive way to prepare Mapendo in the best possible way for a liquidity event.

What are the lessons learned?

I would say a confirmation of the importance of the team. Very concrete, capable, and determined, it has made a difference in facing adversity and has been able to achieve important growth and profitability goals.