Monday, March 30, 2009

Want to make a difference? MtB is looking for you!

We are growing! As we are preparing for our third year of activities, we proudly look back to what we’ve been doing. Modestly speaking, we have become the most active organization able to select, promote and network the most promising Italian startups in the Silicon Valley.

To continue in our long term mission of making a tangible difference in the Italian entrepreneurial eco-system, we are now incorporating new roles in the organization. After a newly formed board of directors, we intend to add the following positions:

Head of Italian Operations:
- Activity:Be the public face of MTB in Italy.Source startups directly and through partners (universities, incubators).Coordinate local events. Potentially, build a team.
- Requirements:A recognized leader in the Italian entrepreneurial scene, with sky-high ethical standards, public standing, and a hyper- developed network of relevant contacts. Willing to spend 1 week/Y in Silicon Valley. Based in Italy.

Head of fund raising:
- Activity:coordinate all the fund raising activities. Define sponsorships plan. Strategy and action plan to attract donors. Evaluate long term options (multi-year sponsorship, creation of an endowment). Potentially, build a team.
- Requirements :you know what you’re doing and you are passionate about it.

If you want to be considered for such roles or you are just willing to help change Italy, contact

Note:MTB is a non-profit foundation supported by volunteers. The new positions will not be remunerated, although they might be in the future depending on the available budget. Some expenses will be covered.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

TOP-IX to sponsor MTB finalists!

Leonardo Camiciotti, from Top-IX, just gave me a great news.

Top-IX will be sponsoring the 2008/9 MTB Finalists. How? Providing a year-long FREE internet access to all the startups whose business is web-based.

Top-IX is also planning to make the same offer for the years to come, becoming an official partner of MTB.


TOP-IX (Torino Piemonte Internet eXchange) is a not for profit consortium born in 2002 with the aim of creating and managing a NAP (Neutral Access Point). In 2006 TOP-IX started a Development Program to support web based startups.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Room for Italian innovation in location aware technology?

With the iPhone and its successful App Store model, Apple has provided developers with both a powerful GPS-enabled platform to work with, but also an instrument to reach easily the customets. This was hugely beneficial for the industry, causing a proliferation of GPS-enabled devices, followed the develoment of a wide range of location-aware application, the first generation of which targeted mostly the social networking space.

Some examples include:
  • : loction aware social network (watch a demo video here)
  • Google Latitude: location aware social network (demo)
  • Other well known giants in teh mobile phone arena have produced some applications of this kind, such as Vodafone with Pocketlife and Nokia with Friend View (location aware microblogging), Vine (live cross-media geotagging service and journal) and Plazes (Geo-tagging-based social networking site).
  • More applications of this kind can be found here.
As the technology continues evolving and the consumers grow more acquainted with it, we are beginning to see a new generation of more mature applications, that use location awareness in more creative ways:
  • Newber is an interesting iPhone app that adds a second business line to your iphone and redirects incoming calls to any phone using GPS location
  • Carticipate, a location aware car sharing application.
  • Some more interesting examples can be found here.

Facts and trends
Given this technological landscape, I recently came across with some interesting information that, in my opinion, provide interesting indicators for the future:

  • "While global handset shipments are expected to drop by 4-5% in 2009, GPS-enabled phones will climb to 240 mln units, an increase of 6.4% over 2008" (source)
  • A new family of higly portable computers is on the rise: netbooks. Some conservative sales figures for these low cost computres figures published by the Wall Street Journal ( quote 2008 sales of 10.8 millions units, and project that number to grow in excess of 20.8 million in 2009 (source).
  • 2008 has seen a 29% increase in sales in Wi-Fi chipsets (source).
  • The company powering the much-praised location technology used on the iPhone is Boston-based Skyhook Wireless. Their technology is based on a combination of GPS, Cell Tower triangulation and WiFi-based calculation, allowing for precise and reliable localization. Skyhook and Opera have recently announced a partnership aimed at bringing Skyhook's Wi-Fi based geolocation to the web, making Skyhook's wi-fi based solution available with just a few lines of Javascript in their code (source).
  • GPS and Wi-Fi localization have significantly different caracterestics. GPS is highly accurate and works worldwide, but is relatively slow and requires a clear view of the sky; Wi-Fi location is less precise (30 metres, can be much higher in areas of high wireless density) and works only in areas with substantial Wi-Fi coverage, but is very fast and works indoors.
  • In 2006, Silicon Valley company Sandisk wreleased the world's first card to include both memory and WLAN (802.11b) communications in a single SD card. In most recent times, other companies such as Spectec and Eye-Fi have entered the arena, and others such as Sagem have plans to do so in the near future (source).
  • The recent developments in Cloud Computing make it possible for machines of limited processing power or storage capacity to access complex application via the Internet.

Room for innovation?
In sintesys:
  • Location-aware applications are reaching new levels of maturity and complexity, and will most likely benefit greatly from the advancements in cloud computing technology.
  • Sales of GPS enabled devices are on the rise.
  • Technology allowing Wi-Fi based localization will soon become mainstream, and the increasing sales of portable wireless-enabled devices will make it more appealing for developers.
  • With the progress of WI-Fi SD technology, every object with a memory card could become a potential user of localization technology.

It appears that these trends suggest that a quantum leap in location-based services is to be expected in the near future, with applications breaking the boundaries of GPS-enabled devices and reaching the Internet as a whole. The potential is clearly huge not only for consumer application, but also in fields such as e-Government, Public safety and utility.

My question for the Mind The Bridge community is: will Italian innovation be a part in this new technological trend?

The premises are good: Italian company UbiEst was won the grand prize of the 2008 EMEA edition of the LBS Challenge, a global competition rewarding the most innovative location-based services.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How to present to a VC - by Elisabetta Ghisini

When I'm asked to single out the one element that needs to be improved the most to promote Italian startups in an international context, I have no doubts.
It's not the lack of innovative projects, nor the right teams nor the lack of funds invested in startups in Italy. It is the lack of engaging presentation skills!
If there's something that we Italians have to deliberately work on is the ability to sell our projects at their best.
The vast majority of startups that I see presenting, after having studied their business plan, tend to highly under-sell what they have.
What is even more concerning is the general lack of awareness that this is the area where the CEOs have to work the most, way more than the financials or their marketing strategy!
Thus, we are planning to provide as much mentoring as possible on this topic for both our GYM startups and finalists of the business plan competition.
A few days ago we provided the first Communication Skills module. The GYM startups had the chance to interact with a real guru on the subject: Elisabetta Ghisini, ex McKinsey, then Stanford Business School communication instructor and founder of Verba-International.
She provided a 3hr workshop, followed by 1:1 sessions with every startup.
The videos of the workshop follow, and here's the presentation (PDF) (thanks Elisabetta!).


Part 1 [17:39] - Audience Analysis, Goals
Part 2 [34:33] - Realistic Objectives, Presentation Structure (Business Card Model)
Part 3 [17:38] - Presentation Skills, Style, Body Language
Part 4 [12:16] - Energetic Delivery
Part 5 [ 7:38] - Importance of Q&A, Language
Part 7 [14:56] - Meeting Management, Elements of successful meetings, Networking
Part 8 [12:46] - Cross Cultural communication

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The GYM is open!

We initially announced it during the Venture Camp in Venice, and then earlier this year.
Now the Mind the Bridge Gymnasium is finally a reality!

Managed by 3 partners (Fabrizio Capobianco - Funambol, Matteo D'Aste - BAIA and myself), the idea is to offer a physical (and mental!) space in the heart of Silicon Valley to Italian startups with high growth potential.

We decided to host it within the Plug & Play tech center, one of the most established incubators in the valley with over 200 startups from multiple countries. They provide the physical space and visibility with investors, we provide hands-on services such as mentoring, regular business plan reviews and an opening to our personal networks to maximize the startup chances of success.
Today the GYM is a project under the umbrella of the Mind the Bridge foundation.
The first startups hosted in our offices in Redwood City are The Reliables and Eris 4, both finalists of the 08/09 business plan competition.
We are evaluating possible candidates on a regular basis but the bar to be invited is pretty high.

Here's a post and video from Fabrizio's blog (Silicon Valley Italia, in Italian).