i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 21

Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018 |
i-Italy Magazine
| 21
Next came business. As Piol tells it, “I attended
college in New York. My father would often meet
entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at theCarlyle
Hotel (it’s not there anymore), and I would listen
to what they said. I was developing a passion for it
and beginning to understand that that was what
I wanted to do. The idea of working with young
people on new technology projects excited me. I
wanted to facilitate themand follow the evolution.”
Piol would go on to earn an MBA from Harvard
Business. The youngmanwas nowready to launch.
Or rather, he was ready because deep down
he had absorbed his father’s real lesson: work
hard and with passion. “My father was always
traveling and working on weekends. He set an
important example of work ethic combined with
great passion for what he was doing. You have to
be passionate and take an interest in what you
do. Nothing good will come if you don’t immerse
yourself in the field in which you operate.”
But, I hazard, ultimately his work consists of
making and making others make investments.
You have to know how to manage capital. Does
passion really count in that kind of work?
“Of course!” he says, smiling. “Because in or-
der to understand what’s happening in the tech
world and where you should invest, you have to
get inside that world. You have to understand the
trends. You have to intuit what will happen in the
future. If you don’t love it, it becomes trying and
difficult. In a certain sense, you have to have fun.”
Indeed, his passion for work and deep knowl-
edge of that world shine through in a book that he
co-wrote a few years agowith the journalistMaria
Teresa Cometto,
Tech and the City: The Making
of New York’s Startup Community
, a small bible
of New York’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with a
preface by Olivetti’s patron, Carlo De Benedetti.
The book is full of useful advice for young busi-
nessmen culled from the stories of 50 key figures
in the field of technology.
What is it about a project that piques your in-
terest in financing it?
That depends on how developed the company
is. If we’re talking about startups, the numbers
don’t count; often they show you the wrong num-
bers. What’s more important is figuring out what
kind of person is the entrepreneur showing you
them. If you’re betting on the right person. People
count evenmore than the idea they submit to you.
Meaning, it’s one thing to have a good idea and a
whole other thing to put it into practice, succeed
in growing a company based on that idea, raising
it up fromnothing and successfully driving it for-
ward. You have to be confident you’re dealingwith
people who knowwhat they’re doing, who under-
stand what they’re trying to do. In fact, when a
financed project fails, 80%of the time the reasons
have to do with the people. With management.
Of course the problem may be with the market;
it may not even be ready. Niche markets in early
stages, for example, often aren’t a good idea.
What distinguishes New York as a home for
startups from the wildly popular Silicon
Valley?
Silicon Valley lives off of a system that
grew up around Stanford, thanks to the governor
who focusedon technology investments. Therewas
nothingbut farmlandand fields. It grewfromnoth-
ing. Then therewere the great visionaries; they cer-
tainly helped a lot. And finally technology became
themain industry.However, becauseof that history,
Silicon Valley is a mono-cultural area; all they talk
about is technology. Which is fine. But inmy opin-
ion, in the long run it ends up limiting creativity.
Does thatmean that to create a successful tech
company you need to have amultidisciplinary
ambience?
Yes. And that’s what you find in New York, which
guarantees that nexus of different levels of knowl-
edge: inmanufacturing, finance, media, advertis-
ing, the financial industry, fashion… This city is
international. There’s a lot of movement. It’s the
center of traffic between Europe and America,
open to influences from all over the world. This
allows for the circulation of knowledge needed
to realize projects that hang in that whitespace
between various disciplines.
An ode to creativity that comes from a high
tech businessman…
It’s not enough to just be technological today. You
need to be very creative. Remember what Steve
Alessandro Piol addressing the students ad staff at the
“Startup Weekend,” Politecnico di Torino, April 2015. Below,
his book
Tech and the City
, co-authored with Maria Teresa
Cometto (to his right in the picture).
ww
It’s not enough to just be
technological today. You
need to be very creative.
Remember Steve Jobs. He
aspired to bring technology
and art together. That’s true
innovation. Apple in
America—like Olivetti in
Italy—realized important
changes by focusing on
design.
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