Lately, I’ve been studying the crypto world quite a bit. One of the most fascinating bits is how far we still are from a real, consumer, user experience of anything crypto.

Yet, touchpoints to the general public already exist. One is the monetisation of webtraffic.

For example, I’ve been experimenting with coinhive as a way to monetise website traffic. Coinhive offers a javascript miner for Monero, that can be integrated in any website to use a bit of the user CPU to mine monero on the site owner’s account.

Setting aside the mining efficiency considerations (CPU mining? really?), I was curious to check how a different “tax on content consumption”, other than advertising, could work out in the UX flow.

To this end, I converted my startup links to coinhive shortlinks, so that every time a user wanted to visit a link, she would go through a few seconds of mining before accessing the link.

The result? Unsatisfying. Having to wait to load a link is an unbearable pain (go figure).

I might try different things going forward (e.g. permissioned mining while staying on the page?). In the meanwhile, I reverted back to straight links.

No more mining tax :-)

As I am on the flight back from Finland, where I just spent three days attending Slush 2015, sounds about the right time for putting down a few notes about my experience during the event, and taking the opportunity to thank all the people who made this possible.

Missione Italia (Mission from Italy)

First of all, let me say that I am extremely happy about Missione Italia, a further proof that bottom-up, execution- and passion- driven organisation of something great is possible.

The idea of bringing together a group of great people to attend a major european event was born out of a random conversation with Thalita Malagò, secretary general of AESVI, wondering how to support independent gaming studios from Italy in getting in touch with investors, partners and other relevant operators. We decided to attend a major European event, and Slush was the perfect target for AESVI’s associates.

A couple of additional conversations brought together a great coordinator based in Finland (who eventually created and put together the Missione Italia brand), an extended group of Italian investors and startups, and finally the Italian Ambassador in Finland, who supported (and sponsored!!) this group comprised of 16 startups and a bunch of investors and other operators, all together under the same roof.

We planted the seed of something here, more things to come!

The venue, the organisation, the feeling

I have not been around in the last 18 months (and by “around” I mean outside of Italy), but several friends, colleagues and contacts have, bringing back mixed feedbacks from the ecosystem events that have sprung up all over Europe. Slush was a pleasant surprise, and I was hit by these numbers in particular:

  1. 15.000 attendees (in an almost perfect location for a crowd this size). Not as many as other events, but a very numerous attendance nonetheless.
  2. 1.700 startups
  3. 800 investors
  4. 1.500 volunteers from 50 countries (1 volunteer for every 10 attendees!), most of them from university (or even high school).

A few things I loved: wide halls, plenty of space, interesting speakers (but I can’t say I was amazed by every single presentation). Moreover, great networking opportunities - if you plan to attend next time, be aware that you need the stomach to continuously talk to people in 15’ streaks.

For sure, it was great getting to listen to investors such as Niklas Zennström, founders such as Maximo Cavezzani, and so on.

A few quotes

David Tang, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners, described his (very quotable) framework for explaining what a venture capital investor looks for in an investment candidate. He called it the “4Ps of Venture Capital” (from a guy coming from marketing, this is kind of an obvious pun):

  1. People (i.e. are you a great team?)
  2. Pain Point (what’s the problem you are tackling - hard pain, moderate pain, superficial pain…)
  3. Proof Point (What did you achieve so far in your effort to solve the pain point? etc..)
  4. Potential (How big is the opportunity)

There was big talk about the usual themes (where are unicorns coming from in the next 5 to 10 years? Answers were ranging from IoT to self-driving cars to digital health). Nothing really new under the sky of innovation (at least from a 30.000 feet point of view).

Another great quotable line, and something we should really think about, was made by Tom Hulme (partner @ Google Ventures): “We are as good or as bad as the questions we ask. If we ask how to be Silicon Valley, we are doomed to be a second rate version.”

Final Thanks

My special thanks for this opportunity go to Thalita Malaga and AESVI, for leaving their comfort zone and believing in trying new things, to the Italian Ambassador in Finland and his staff, for how much they supported us, to Paolo Borella and Vertical Accelerator, the pivot that made all of this possible, to Stefano Alberico, the glue putting all of us together, to the 16 entrepreneurial teams attending the event (best of luck, all of you, you are heading towards great things!). Finally, thank you to all the other friends we met in Finland (the Missione Italia team could have easily been double the size). Looking forward to the next one, folks!

It is always refreshing to watch a portfolio company growing up (actually, structuring itself up), and Cortilia is no exception. Even more, Cortilia is one of the first portfolio companies I’ve been involved with since dPixel’s first investment in 2012 - and this makes the following announcement particularly sweet.

In fact, Cortilia is growing and needs to expand the team. They need to fill a few positions (based in Milan, Italy):

Open positions at Cortilia can be found at the following link:

Follow the links above if interested!

Jul 27, 2015

Since the end of urlist, I’ve been keeping an eye open for a solution to my needs for quick saving, cataloguing and sharing interesting links. Even though the first two requirements can be easily solved with any browser’s bookmarking capabilities, it’s the third one that I care most.

I’m still on the lookout for a solution that fits my needs, in the meanwhile I’ve added a section to my blog (yes, it’s the “startup links” section up on the right), where I’ll be adding interesting links and readings, with a focus on resources useful for seed-stage startups.

In case you find out any interesting link that you feel should absolutely be in the list, tweet me about it or add a comment, I’ll be happy to take a look.

I have written about scouting, searching for investors, and preparing for the pitch. With this post I’d like to briefly discuss how I like the first meeting to happen. The dreaded first meeting with an investor is the apex of all the work that you, the entrepreneur, have done. And the beginning of a new phase in the fundraising process.


Let me get this straight. There is no magic. You are just one of the daily meetings this investor will have today. He will surely give you all of his attention, and if you are good you both will enjoy the meeting. If you are just short of good, you will immediately know (around minute 7 of the meeting, when the investor takes out his iPhone and starts reading emails).

Having said that, this is my set of suggestions for the first meeting:

  1. Have your pitch with you, possibly on your own laptop or ipad, ready for showing. A printed version is not that good, as your audience will feel the urge of skipping ahead as soon as the deck is in their hands.
  2. Be ready to talk for no more than 15 minutes, and be ready to be interrupted. Often. Do not take it personally, questions are actually good.
  3. Show passion, vision, engagement. Remember that body language is extremely important.
  4. If your are attending with your co-founders, then:
    1. Only one drives the talk
    2. Avoid the situation where, after a comment by an investor, one of the other attendees comments in favor of the investor, contradicting something the presenter has said. In other words, discuss emerging different views or new ideas AFTER the meeting. Show cohesion DURING the meeting.
  5. Take notes. This is something in between a job interview and a business meeting. Questions, requests for more data and suggestions will abound… In addition, taking notes will prove you take your audience in high consideration.

  6. Dressing: business casual, if you are in ICT/web. Business in other segments. The later the stage, the more business the attire.

Best of luck!

If you are a first-time entrepreneur and you are fundraising for the first time, you might be tempted to concentrate your efforts on the first investor who seems to be somewhat interested in your idea, and give up on looking for others investors.

In this case, you will NOT be forgiven. Here are a couple of reasons:

  1. Getting-to-a-slow-no risk: some investors tend to be slower than others in processing dealflow, and not getting a “no” during the first meeting can sound like a “deal done”. Keep in mind this: “Not a no” is very different from a “yes”. Repeat the previous sentence in your mind like a mantra.
  2. Not-learning risk: once you stop meeting other potential investors, you stop receiving possibly valuable feedback. Always be fundraising, at least until you have a check in your hands.

Is this inefficient? Yes. Is this time consuming? Yes. Is this the possible difference between winding up or getting to create a great company? Yes.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and restart your fundraising efforts.

In my previous posts in this series I outlined a few personal insights on searching for startups; now I feel ready to jump to the other side of the table, and discuss about prepping up for pitching to an investor.

Feeling ready?

Before starting your hunt for capital, you should answer a fundamental question: “Does my business really require VC investment?”. This seems trivial, and if you are reading this the answer is probably yes, but do not take it for granted. If you do not feel ready to:

  • Build something that will grow beyond yourself
  • Ride the emotional rollercoaster of having to interact with external people and investors

then I strongly advise against looking for VC.

In all other cases, before trying to reach an investor, you should get ready.

Ready for what?

You must be ready to shoot your best shot. And the best shot includes you and your team (aim for the best), your project and the material you prepare to present it to investors. I am not going to discuss the “you” and “your project” part of this (I might write a separate post for this), but be aware that the typical investor wants to invest in a great team and in a great product/opportunity.

Let me jump for now to the materials part. I personally have three items I love to see and discuss. If you don’t have them, I’ll ask for them, so have them always at hand.

  • Pitch
    • There are countless resources about preparing a pitch. Use them. You should take a look at Guy Kawasaki, Dave McClure and the other excellent investors out there who have produced tons of great advice.
    • Prepare the speech. Try it a few times until you are not embarrassed of yourself. Try it with your team members, your parents, your friends. Always be pitching, remember?
    • Do not discount the pitch as a pointless exercise. On the contrary, it is the most important piece of documentation and the starting point of all your reasoning. (I stand by Kawasaki’s approach of preparing the pitch first and, if needed, the business plan starting from it).
    • Let me stress a point: you will never think enough about your customer, your market and about your marketing strategy. Do not focus all your attention on the product.
    • Show & be ready to discuss your relevant metrics.
  • Roadmap
    • Show that you know what you’ll be doing in the short term, in particular regarding customer & product development efforts.
    • Set deadlines for yourself and for your team.
    • If you can, put together roadmap & funding needed for the major milestones, in order to pave your way to a tranche-based investment. This can be a good or a bad idea, it depends: YMMV.
    • Agile / Lean methods can help setting the right priorities here.
  • P&L
    • Inevitably, the investor will ask you for a P&L and/or a cash-flow statement. Do not tell the investor it is completely bogus (he’ll know it is) and do not, EVER, say anything about it being “conservative”.
    • Make it monthly with a 12 to 18 months forecast. Anything beyond that can be grouped by quarters or years. Get to the classic 3 to 5 years forecast in this way.
    • It is needed for showing your expectations of the future of the company and the market.
    • Metrics, metrics, metrics!! Clearly show & know your key drivers! (e.g. CaC, conversions, LTV, retention, etc..).
    • As a matter of fact, this is mostly about educated hypotheses, not just about raw numbers. I sometimes see plans where the HPs for conversion rates or CaCs are completely out of this world. The Internet is full of references: even if you have never spent a cent on advertising, take the time to check keyword prices on AdWords and scout for articles about key metrics for established companies and markets.
    • Take a look at the financials of listed companies (mostly in the USA, but there are exceptions). Understand that an 85% EBITDA in year three of a “conservative” plan just means you probably have no idea what you are talking about.
    • Do not pay a consultant for writing your financial forecast. If you have to, pay one to check that your plan contains no serious mistakes. If you feel you have no competence for doing this exercise, you probably lack a skill in your team.

Take your time and learn your numbers.

Good luck with that investor meeting!

NicoMy name's Niccolò Sanarico.

I am an Oxford MBA and an engineer with a passion for innovation and startups. I currently work with dPixel, a venture capital advisory firm based in Italy, and advise a few great startups such as Wanderio. Everything you can find here is my opinion alone. You can follow me on Twitter. Find more about me on Linkedin.

P.S.: I'm experimenting with in-browser crypto-mining as a replacement for advertising in terms of user experience, see the box below.