Once you are sure that everything makes sense, you have to start up immediately, without waiting to be perfect … otherwise you risk to never be ready !
Gianluca Ciralli is the founder with Marco D'Alia of Commercialista.com of a geographic search engine to find professional tax advice, administrative and tax. Gianluca is 35 years old and has been working in internet based companies since 15 years. Among the most significant experiences, the one as Paid Search Manager at Expedia Inc. (Venere.com) where he managed budgets of high-profile markets for U.S. and Italy, and the one as Marketing Manager for Immobiliare.it. He lives in Rome, between the city and the sea, with his wife and two lovely kids of 2 and 4 years. He loves cycling and photography.
“Let’s start with a minimum viable product, provided we start immediately”. That’s how we began our startup adventure.
But let me take it from the beginning, when Marco D’Alia and I were still working as employees in a web company. I was the marketing manager and he was leading development of several web projects.
We used to commute about 3 hours a day to get to the office and back. Not mentioning that we used to spend 9 or more hours in the cubicles. Long lasting commuting was a good opportunity to think, at least.
So, we were making plans and thinking about the future, until we realized it was time to change and take the uncertain way to start up a business on our own.
It has been a perfect coincidence.
We quit our jobs, and before actually starting something serious, we tested our partnership by creating a facebook app (Facebook Poster) that in few weeks boomed in India and Latin America passing over a million users worldwide. Now it keeps growing on auto-pilot.
Done the experiment, that gave us a good knowledge of social media marketing, we started developing Commercialista.com (“commercialista” is the Italian word for “accountant”), a search engine / directory for accounting professionals and consultants. Albeit specific, Commercialista.com is indeed a pilot-project for what we are going to develop around the business of professionals. Our vision is that all professionals should be online, findable, reachable and useful to fulfill the already existing demand: from accountants to lawyers, from electricians to plumbers. We want to revamp many sectors that haven’t experienced the digital revolution yet, as we believe there’s a great unexpressed potential.
Before starting with development, though, I must admit that we studied a lot the scenario and the opportunities. Therefore the first step was preparing a business plan and an action plan that could be at first acceptable to us, and then useful to collect some money. The latter we did in less than 3 months.
Getting the business plan ready wasn’t that difficult, but a little time consuming. However I advise to think the business plan as it was your own map of the business. Not made just to be presented to some investors, but, first of all and most of all, made to understand if what’s in our head can stick to reality. Even before coding a single line. Business plan shouldn’t be a boring exercise, but a way to figure out if we just got a good idea or a sustainable business.
Now that we have found the financial resources, we are starting marketing operations to launch our product. Our objective is to grow quickly and so we’re already evaluating a new round of investment in order to grow the team and replicate the product for other categories.
Right… because so far, except for a few outsourced activities, our team is still made up of two people (Giuanluca and Marco D'Alia, in the pic on the left).
Product is out in beta version now and development quickly goes on, especially since when we started outsourcing some non-core activities. Our favorite platform for outsourcing is oDesk, which let us strictly control workers’ activity in order to get the things done accordingly to our roadmap. Now we’re looking for more stable partners to support us on future projects.
Today, we don’t have an office. And apart from a room we occasionally use for important meetings, we’re probably not going to have one in the near future. So we have eliminated commuting, that we suffered before, as well as costs of a fixed structure with all related stuff.
Besides that, for a web based business it’s quite limitative to think about the office as the “place” where people meet to get the work done. Our job is made of always open chat sessions, skype, shared documents and remote servers.
Everyone is free to manage his time and space as he likes best.
Result is the only thing that matters. So, it isn’t rare that I get to ride my bike on my lunch time…
As I was mentioning, we use many collaboration and sharing tools. We are literally “addicted” to Google Apps (Gmail, Calendar, etc.), Skype and Dropbox.
We handle planning activities through Trello, sales through PipeDrive and development through Github. We send newsletters through MailChimp. We have a virtual land line and fax line for customers who need support, and we can use them wherever we are.
Commercialista.com is on Amazon Ec2, as so are all our products. This let us invest on resources according to actual needs and scale quickly in order to support from 10 to 100.000 users in a matter of seconds.
An advice I’d like to share with whomever wants to start a new business in Italy is the one of thinking the business as a whole and to verify its applicability with some tests, even before starting creating something: sometimes a call to a prospect or a deep google search will suffice.
Then, right after checked that it all makes sense, I say that you must start immediately, without waiting for things to be perfect… otherwise you would risk not to start at all.
Lastly, I advise not to worry about bureaucracy that could actually be a limit here in Italy when you are up to start a new business. Once everything is set, you will just need a good accountant as partner… And I don’t even have to mention where to look for, since you already know! 😉