Business Angel, Innovation Manager and Mentor for startups

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A focus on Impact investing and startup mentorship with an expert

An interview on the business angel and startup world with Alessandro Annovi, focused on impact investing, innovation and startup mentorship.

We meet Alessandro Annovi, business angel and startup mentor!

Alessandro Annovi is an Innovation and Strategy Manager. He has a degree in architecture but also some certifications in entrepreneurship, innovation and startups, achieved at MIP and Polihub. 

Alessandro helps startup founders in Startup Geeks, but also supports startups financially, being a business angel of Angels for Impact and partner and board member at Nextup.

Hi Alessandro, tell us your professional story in the field of innovation and strategy, and how this passion was born. 

I think it all started many years ago, unconsciously, during my architecture studies. I believe that architecture is the art of imagining the future and of being able to see the present while keeping your eyes focused on what’s to come. For me, this is also the definition of innovation. 

Today, I deal with innovation and strategy at CIRFOOD, a leading company in the catering industry, I’m a mentor for Polihub and a business angel, I have a background in startups and spent a brief time working in the world of professional sports.

Looking back, I think that everything today is taking shape and there’s a sense of accomplishment, but I’m sure that my future still holds many exciting surprises.

We know that you are mentor for Startup Geeks, community and startup incubator, so we would like to know how your passion for this world was born and why you decided to give your contribution to startup founders.

Having done startups in the past was definitely the spark that ignited my love for this world. 

I like to support startups in their path of growth, trying to give them value and connecting them to my network. This background makes me see things with different eyes. The hardships I faced in my past and the many mistakes I made are the most formative things that have happened to me, and I try to convey these mistakes to the new entrepreneurs so that they can make their own choices with greater awareness. I would have done anything to have a mentor by my side, but the time wasn’t ripe for a figure like this, though mentors are now increasingly common alongside startups (especially successful ones).

Since you are an Innovation and Strategy Manager, how do you help startups during your mentorship? Do you have a series of tools that you use to guide them on their path?

I use the classic tools that help you validate the solution, monitor the market, and highlight the value proposition.

But above all, I try to talk with the founders and share my experience and my point of view. Having a mentor is very important, because a mentor is someone who sees things objectively and is able to highlight problems that the “enamoured” eyes of the founders often fail to grasp. Being an executive in a large company and having had entrepreneurial experience certainly helps me to transfer knowledgeable suggestions to the founders and encourage them to have a broad vision of the business.

You are also a business Angel, member of Angels4Impact and why did you come to this world of impact investing?

I strongly believe that new business models are needed. What was considered to be gospel truth until a few years ago is now challenged by a world that has changed significantly and rapidly, revealing its fragility.

However, it is possible to have businesses that create positive social impacts and, at the same time, economic returns.

Impact investing helps to create value by investing private capital in these types of businesses, with the aim to achieve not only a financial return but also a positive social and environmental impact on the community.

It is therefore possible to achieve profit with greater attention to the aspects that are decisive for our sustainability; we need to ask ourselves about our future, but above all take concrete action in this direction.

You are both a mentor and a business angel, how do you look at startups? Has anything changed with the transition from mentoring to investing?

I look at startups with the eyes of someone who wants to help and support them no matter what, whether it’s through my constant presence by their side or through the injection of capital. 

I like motivated teams and high-potential businesses. I choose who to work with primarily based on these factors. Where there is an investment-only activity, the focus is “skewed” toward the profitability of the business and its ability to generate a significant return in the medium to long term.

As a Business Angel, how do you decide whether to invest in a startup? What are your investment criteria?

I invest in people, which I believe are the most valuable element in any organisation. An idea, as we all know, doesn’t really matter by itself: what matters is how this idea is implemented. So, the ability of the team to execute is important. Good founders are determined and hungry, with very clear ideas about the goal to be achieved. Often the founder’s background helps them to have a results-oriented mindset – I’m referring to studies conducted at important universities, experiences abroad, jobs for big companies…, even though there’s no magic formula. There is only hard work, a willingness to listen, and the ability to always challenge and question yourself.

Other decisive factors are the size of the target market and the scalability of the idea that the startup has in mind. The market can’t just be the Italian one, which is very small, and you will have to be the number one in doing what you want to do.

If you are interested in Business Angel Networks, please read more on: Business Angel Networks: the main ones in Italy

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