Originally published on Wired.it (last July), this is an interview that Startupbusiness did with Pietro Bezza, founder and managing partner of Connect Ventures, VC fund with English and Italian DNA.
Pietro is a successful digital media entrepreneur turned active venture capitalist. As founder of Neo Network, now Zodiak Active, the digital division of Zodiak Media Group, he has been “in the trenches” and knows what it takes to start, scale, and sell a company.
“My name is Pietro Bezza, I am 40 years old and I live between London and Milan “.
How much of your time do you spend working ?
“Much of my time, even if I try to carve out more time to devote to my family “.
What kind of investor are you? Full time or part time ?
“I work as a venture capitalist specializing in the early stage (start – up), this in not a work you can do part-time. Total dedication and immersion in the tech ecosystem are necessary conditions (alas not enough) to be able to succeed “.
When and why did you start investing?
“After serving for many years as an entrepreneur at the forefront of the digital sector, two years ago I decided to go across the table and help ambitious entrepreneurs to “change the world” with the use of the Network . My previous experience in the digital sector helps me understand the needs, motivations and challenges that encourage entrepreneurs “.
What about your investment philosophy?
“People, people, people. We strongly believe in people and their ambitions, so our main objective is to identify and support talented entrepreneurs who have created innovative products with the potential to become global businesses “.
How many investments have you done so far and where?
“Up to now we have made three investments, all abroad. The first was Secretsales.com, private online club for purchases in Great Britain and recently Ondango.com and Citymapper. Ondango.com is an online shopping service that allows companies to set up shop directly to Facebook, while Citymapper is a mobile app personal trasportation that allows users to move easily in London. This week is the most downloaded app in the UK. In the coming months we aim to conclude our first investments in Italy, we have already identified some opportunities rather than concrete “.
How much did you lose, how much did you earn?
“It 's too early for us to reckon. Sure, we work to best reward our investors in an appropriate manner”.
Is it easy, in Italy, to be an investor of your kind?
“I dare say yes. In Italy, from the point of view of the demand for Venture Capital there are many worthy initiatives to be funded. From the offer side, there are very few funds specializing in Internet and in the startup phase as Connect Ventures.Ten years in the digital industry, allowed me to developed a very strong network that helps me with the deal flow “.
How many startups do you see in a year? How many of them do you like?
“We receive more than 500 projects in a year, we meet about 150 companies and then select about five “.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Italian startups?
Italian startups have all it takes to establish a global presence because they don't lack in talent or entrepreneurial or technological capability, nor the creativity to develop an innovative business model. However, they should believe more in their ability to grow on global a scale and gear up for this. I also believe that in Italy it would be useful to develop an aggregation, the example of Silicon Valley and London Tech City, where the startupper can stimulate each other and collaborate “.
A sector of investment that is underestimated?
The entire world of Big Data related to maps and geolocation. For example. Google maps is a great application, but it is not complete, it lacks in features, personalization and socialization tools “.
The deal you missed?
Www.checkthis.com. I met them the day before they left for a funding journey in the Usa. . They never came back “.
Who is the investor that you admire most in the world?
Bill Earner, a friend and co-founder in Connect Ventures “.
Which are your information channels web, radio, TV, magazine?
I get information mainly through people I meet every day, entrepreneurs, and other investors like me. Moreover, I love blogs and attend industry events “.
What do you like to do when you don't work?
I spend almost all my free time with family. In some spare time running and reading some good books“.
The eurozone crisis hinders investment?
I don't think so. Venture capital does not use any financial leverage. So the credit crunch does not represents an obstacle. And the Internet knows no crisis. On the contrary, it rides the crisis. The web channel and the digitization of physical products are able to catalyze the majority of consumers' propensity to save . Information is free or low costs, music, books, games, movies, everything is cheaper. And then today there is a rich offer of coupons, last minute, buying groups, flash sales. Ways to save in the internet today are endless “.
The first thing that the Italian Governement could and should do to help startups and innovative companies?
Italian Government should create funds to finance startups and assign the management of this fund to professionals who have the necessary skills to understand the needs of entrepreneurs and help them grow
Did you buy Facebook shares?
No. But now they are starting to have an interesting pricing…
If you want to know more about the new investment of Connect Ventures….