I used to (and I still do) try to make something mine discovering unknown areas, absolutely out of any comfort zone.
I published some proof of it in my projects blog section
But, I never wrote about the 2 startups I did, of course with other people because no one can do great things on his/her own, it's impossible.
Well, none of these startups made me a millionaire but in some way they left me a gold teaching in order to be ready for the next challanges.
Because I didn't have money, I decided to compensate with my time as investment to these startups. It was about 2017/2018 and a good part of my time was already booked by working for a tech (financial sector) mid company, so my potential free time was as showed below (weekly):
168h in a week
- 70h working for the tech company
- 42h to sleep (6h per night)
On average I dedicated 20 hours per week to the startups with some peaks of 40 hours.
I did it mainly for 2/3 years, then I decided that were not the potential businesses where I could say, yeah, let's try an all in strategy.
I decided to close as best as possible with all the people involved in these businesses, this is a really important thing to take note of because, you know, life somehow is a wheel.
Than I focused on the mid tech company in which I mainly worked as a software engineer. Starting from that time, I grew a lot, professionally talking, taking more and more responsibilities. In some way the startup experiences boosted my professional career because I started to be able to talk not only about tech stuff but also about developing a business.
But let me return to the startup experiences.
As I said I made 2 startups:
- Pimp It srls
- 16thub srl
Open a startup in Italy
Just a little bit of story on what it means open a startup in Italy, from the fiscal side.
At least in Italy, by laws, there is not an official definition of startup.
From the government they tried to facilitate the opening of new startups using the "simplified" property (the srls stand for "simplified society with limited responsibility").
In this way you basically put down some taxes (not all!) needed to open it from scratch.
Also, if you open a "simplified" company you can also start that business with basically one euro so without the need to put on it for example 10K Euros.
Another thing is the "innovative" startup which is instead well defined by Italian law.
To be called an innovative startup, a company, needs to satisfy some mandatory conditions (like the company opened less than 5 years before, net worth less than 5M € and some others) and satisfy at least one condition in the following checklist:
- research and development: the expenditure on research and development activities must be equal to or greater than 15% of the highest value between turnover and annual costs;
- qualified personnel: at least ³ of the employed or total workforce must have a PhD or a master’s degree;
- patents: you have a patent on an innovative invention.
In this case you have a list od advantages but from my experience the main are really fews:
- reduced taxes;
- advantages on access in some incubation processes where you could be able to speed up your business and maybe find some investors/business angels.
Every year you have to prove that you are still satisfying the constraints of innovative startup, otherwise you lose that status and by consequence the advantages.
Returning to my startup experiences...
Some curiosities, the first startup name comes from the main core business which was a mobile application named Pimp My Chef and because in our heads the long term idea was to build a sort of tech food company we decided to call it in a more generic way, Pimp It srls.
16t hub instead tried to cover many sectors (agriculture, architecture, hospitality, cities, co-working spaces) carrying new ways (more efficient of course) to do things thanks to the technology.
For this reason we chose an ambitious name that also carries with him some curiosity. 16thub comes from the needed magnetic field to make a frog to levitate (https://www.wired.com/1997/05/magnetically-speaking-frogs-float/).
By the way, the names were only the funny thing so let's introduce how they were born, their core businesses over time and why, in my opinion, they didn't take the flight and became a solid business nowadays.
Pimp My Chef
Let's talk about Pimp My Chef mobile application which was the core business of Pimp It srls company.
Well, the idea of Pimp My Chef did not come from my head.
Me and another guy (computer science university colleague, I'll call him XD) were initially hired from two other guys which had (also still right now) a strong passion for cooking. These 2 guys had in their head some ideas/dreams to allow people to make original recipes mainly with the ingredients in their houses, in the easiest way through a mobile application.
Me and XD, starting from their ideas, we did some technical analysis and we concluded that the first idea had to be revisited in order to make it happen.
Basically the very first idea was to automatically recognize food on people fridges/dispensers from mobile cameras. We did some proof of concepts (keep in mind it was 2017) using the state of art of AI but it didn't satisfy us, so we (me and XD) proposed instead the voice control.
This last idea and relative proof of concept worked as expected so, together, we decided to proceed.
All together, with the help of another professional, we wrote down the SWOT analysis (for agreement with the others I will not publish any official documents) and what Pimp My Chef app could do as main functionalities.
After also a deep analysis of the market we started to build our roadmap and activities sprints.
After many evenings and full weekends of work, we arrived to the GO LIVE and the enthusiasm was so high.
Full app store description
Are you looking for inspiration for a new recipe?
Have you got spare ingredients in your fridge and you have no idea how to use them?
Do you have to do a surprise for a special one and absolutely no idea on what or how to cook?
Pimp My Chef might be exactly what you're looking for!
A simple app that with vocal search allows you to find the best recipes based on what ingredients you have!
- How does that work?
Using Pimp My Chef is fairly easy: just press the button with the chef's hat that you will find in the home screen, say the ingredients you would like to use and the app will find the best recipes that use those ingredients.
The recipes you will get will be ordered based on the number of matching ingredients and therefore the first one will be the best match.
We selected the best recipes from the web and Pimp My Chef will allow you to search them using only your voice!
- When can I use Pimp My Chef?
Pimp My Chef is the help you were looking for in the kitchen! For example, you can use the app when you open the fridge, you only have three ingredients, dinner time is getting closer and you need to find a way of using them to make something that can be actually eaten. The only thing you need to do, is say the ingredients out loud (not too loud, you don't want to wake up your flatmate, won't you?) while pressing the button in the main page and the app will take care of the rest (except cooking, you still need to cook)
Another idea might be to use the app while you're writing the list for grocery shop to know which other ingredient to buy. In this way, you'll reduce the amount of wasted food by using the ingredients you have at their best.
You can use Pimp My Chef when you’re doing grocery show as well. Did you see a product that particularly draws your attention? The only thing you have to do is just press the button, say the ingredient name and the app will find all the best recipes that use that ingredient!
A friend of yours talked you about an ingredient they had in a fancy restaurant? You want to impress them? Look for the ingredient within Pimp My Chef and find the best way to use it!
- Why using this app?
Pimp My Chef is your kitchen ally. Easy and quick to use, it will help you fighting those leftovers.
It will also be fun to use thanks to the vocal search that will definitely make you save time!
Inspiration is served, with Pimp My Chef!
So, what's happened next?
After the enthusiasm skyrockets, we faced with reality and things started to be more real.
From that moment we really started to build the company in a sustainable way, talk about it with enterpreneurs and potential investors.
Tenacity, perserverance and shared vision is the recipe to overcome the "trough of sorrow" status and raise more and more up to the scale status.
For many reasons, we were not able to reach again the horizontal line of "happiness" and the Pimp My Chef project didn't take the flight.
Thoughts from Pimp My Chefk experience
From my point of view, looking to the glass half full, I think it has been an awesome gym for all of Pimp My Chef founders/co-founders.
Talking with many stakeholders like investors, UX designers, marketing professionals helped me to understand what's behind a product prototyping.
In parallel, I decided to found as CEO the 16T HUB company with an other person.
16T HUB aimed to change old paradigms in many sectors mixing together smarter processes with technology.
We started mainly in 2 sectors:
- shared spaces (for both co-living and co-working)
The first one remained a prototype but the second one (agricolture) really came to life.
In the agricolture sector we started taking the management of a centenary local farm which was producing red wine and olive oil for the very local market.
Here we had the pleasure to understand better how this sector was moving and growing in Itay and in all over the world.
After an initial analysis of the market and its potential we decided to start the journey as below:
- Analyze competitors
- Define our strenghts
- Define a medium/long term journey with many included projects to be approved my sponsors
- Team building
- Start the defined activities and monitor them
We started a lot of parallel activities with the effect of turning an old familiar conduction management to a brand new company ready to sell a lot of products in all over the world.
This allowed us to start having some commercial revenues and get closer to the scale phase.
Long story short, for many reasons (Covid-19 was the heavier) we were not able to go on with some partnerships with China.
Without the China partenrships we stepped back in our roadmap and here we decided both to focus on other projects.
Thoughts from 16T HUB experience
In 16T HUB startup I had the occasions to work closely with enterpreneurs.
I got two main lessons:
- First one, I understood my strenghts and my weaknesses
- Second one, always start a business with a plan B
In both startups, for many really different reasons, we were not able to reach the scale phase. Every sector is piloted by many different factors so each one has to be treated in a dedicated manner.
You can start a business with a friend but you have to take risks in your connections.
Initial enthusiasm could hide the reality of things.
I came also to the conclusion that the delay, compared to the roadmap, in getting to the phase of scale is directly proportional with the probability of failure.
I repost again the startup curve from Paul Graham because it totally reflects the reality.