February 16, 2022

The IAnG group, interview with Lisa Foltran and Federico Pistono

In recent years, the association has been enriched with the profiles of new generations, the IAnG group, an example for aspiring angels who wish to enter the startup world and who often meet to discuss the issues of innovation, eager to learn from the experience gained in the network. Among them are Lisa Foltran and Federico Pistono. Let's get to know them better.

Lisa Foltran

What is your background?

I have a degree in economics and a master's degree in Insurance and Risk Management. I have more than ten years of experience in financial services in banking and insurance with a particular focus on strategy and finance.

You joined IAG a few months ago. Can you tell us something about your choice to become a business angel?

It has been some time that I wanted to enter in a more concrete way the world of venture capital. The network of business angels at IAG, which boasts a panel of members with high-profile professional and diverse skills, convinced me to learn more about this reality.

In Italy, venture capital, although growing strong, is not a well-developed asset class compared to other markets. Together with IAG, I would like to be part of the engine of growth of start-ups in our country. I haven't had the chance to invest yet, but I hope to do so soon!

What is the added value of being part of a network of business angels with multidisciplinary skills?

In these few months I have been able to appreciate the moments of confrontation and the availability of partners with backgrounds and experiences different from mine.

For example, to invest in very specialized sectors that are less similar to one's own background, in addition to personal curiosity, I believe it is extremely useful to learn the point of view of those who, thanks to their technical skills, know the business model and the relative market dynamics better, to be able to have a "rounder" evaluation of the investment.

You manage two teams. You are Head of Planning & Controlling at Allianz bank and Head of Life Control Unit at Allianz SpA and a mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, whose mission is to empower women to start, grow and sustain successful businesses so that they can redefine the future for themselves and their companies. What are the main difficulties that women in Italy encounter in the workforce and what are the differences with foreign countries?

There are now many studies that confirm how the affirmation of the role of women in the work environment and more generally in society, goes hand in hand with the development of the country.

In Italy, the latest data on women's employment provided by ISTAT shows that one out of two women, unfortunately, does not work. We have embarked on a journey, most recently demonstrated by the 2022 budget law on the subject of policies in favor of gender equality, but there is still a long way to go, and I think it is essential to continue to invest in measures that help women combine private/family life with work and that support them by going beyond gender stereotypes.

My experience as a mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has given me first-hand knowledge of how economic independence and self-realization in the field of work is a fundamental element in the journey of each one of us to build an evolved society that creates value for humans.

Federico Pistono

What is your background?

Computer science, love at first sight. Then startup founder. Now angel investor and fund manager.

Since I was a child, I have been passionate about computers and technology. As a kid I enjoyed installing Linux servers, making PlayStation patches, configuring home and corporate networks. But at the same time I have always had an artistic side and a social one: I played bass in various bands, danced, did amateur theater, worked as a director in a video production company, but also founded voluntary associations and social movements.

After graduating in computer science, I spent a few years living "two lives": a professional as an IT programmer and manager, and one as an activist and artist.

Over time, I realized that I needed to quit my job as an employee and find my own way. I quit a secure, well-paying job to write a book about the future of work and technology. The book was well received, published in six languages, and I have lectured on these topics in 30 countries and various universities around the world. My research caught the attention of Silicon Valley CEOs, including Larry Page and Peter Diamandis, which won me a scholarship to Singularity University at NASA's research center in California.

Now Federico, you have been at IAG for almost five years. What made you decide to become a business angel?

It was my experience in Silicon Valley. That's where I caught the startup virus. Once you get it, you can never get it out. Since 2012, I have founded 4 startups and 3 other traditional companies. In the past I believed that corporations were the cause of many of the world's problems. Now I believe in the power of entrepreneurship as a positive force in the world. I believe in the power of innovators and changemakers to find solutions to the big challenges we are facing.

I understand entrepreneurship cannot solve all the problems we have, but only a small part. At the same time, I firmly believe that if we want to tackle the challenges of the 21st century, we need to rely on scalable solutions that can grow quickly and have a big impact.

Startups are organizations created to solve specific problems that people have and grow quickly. To do this, they leverage two multiplier effects that already exist in the world: the global marketplace and the exponentially growing technologies. They don't have to invest in basic research or try to convince people of something. Their goal is to find a problem that people feel is big enough that they want to pay for it to be solved, and leverage technologies that already exist to speed the development and distribution of a product or service that solves that problem (for rare exceptions, see the startups that are working on nuclear fusion).

Therefore, I firmly believe that funding startups is the best way to multiply the impact of invested capital, way more than investing elsewhere.

That's what led me to become an Angel Investor. That, and the opportunity to work with the best minds on the planet on tough problems. Startup founders are typically very smart, pragmatic, and full of infectious optimism. A breath of fresh air.

In five years as an Angel Investor, I've invested in 15 startups, plus three follow-on rounds. Now I'm opening my own investment fund.

What is the added value of being part of a network of business angels with multidisciplinary skills?

Being part of a network has many advantages, but its real value comes when there are people with experience in the field, with whom you can work on a common problem.

That's not easy, but it's what I like most: dealing with people who have a repertoire of knowledge different from mine, from whom I can learn every day and with whom I can grow.

You've funded over 10 startups, including companies in artificial intelligence, medical devices, nutraceuticals, and financial services. At IAG, you are also Champion of two investments, Comehome and PainQx. What are the main challenges of this role?

The challenges are endless, proportional to how involved you decide to be in the life of the startup. I've had periods where we just did our monthly meeting, and others where I worked alongside the founders, almost every day, for weeks at a time.

Sometimes they need a hand on the product, the creation of a new strategy, in fundraising for the next round. Sometimes the founders simply need to vent to someone or ask for advice.

If I feel the startup needs help, I put my heart and soul into helping them.

I always try to give my best in what I do.