Venture builder: from an idea to a rapidly growing business
An introduction on a recently born Venture builder in Italy
How Venture builder can build fast growing startups
Let’s meet Pablo Docimo of 20V!
An interview with Pablo Docimo, Founder and Managing Partner at 20V and Startupgeeks’ mentor.
Pablo Docimo, Rome ’67, experienced executive, former Adviser to the Italian Prime Minister, he served as Managing Director, CEO and COO in large corporate groups’ companies. 30+ years corporate and business experience, strategy, and finance advisor to many companies throughout the last 10 years.
Pablo is now focusing venture building business just because he has got the belief that grant is not enough to grow-up a company; startup founders need skills, competences, and experience to succeed. That is why during the COVID-19 pandemia he founded 20V to help aspiring founders to transform their idea into a fast-growing business.
What is Open Innovation? Where and when was it born?
It was Henry Chesbrough, an economist from California, who introduced first the idea of “Open Innovation”, we’re talking about twenty-five years ago. He said it as an open innovation model needed to companies for their processes and products. It was “open” because, instead of growing-up only by its own resources and internal skills, companies choose and draw in ideas, solutions, tools, and skills that come from outside.
We know that a Startup Accelerator and a Venture Builder fit into this context, how?
Basically, a startup team focuses its efforts on the product but it’s not enough. To live and grow-up they gotta become a real company. It means they need multiple skills to build they up, skills and competences that founders often do not have. We are talking about managerial, strategic, and financial skills but, sometimes, even tech ones. Starting from an idea of product or service, they need and reach the goal to compete by increasing complexity. And we gotta say that complexity cannot be simplified. It must be understood and managed.
Beyond the positive results obtained by Accelerators on corporate culture and ecosystems, why the model of Venture Builder is supplanting them?
Often, an Accelerator is linked to an Investment Fund and their business model is essentially massive. They offer an acceleration support through paths pretty much standard if we balance them on specific needs of any startup. We’re talking more about training programs than business model designs thinking. That is something a little bit more different and complex.
What are the approaches and tools used by a Venture Builder to help startups and what benefits do they produce?
A Venture Builder, or Startup Studio as they like to call it since a while, focus on supporting few and highly selected business ideas to support and assist them throughout startup incorporation and growth process management. That means understanding and applying appropriate business model for each, as well as guarantee an appropriate strategic and financial planning to ensure the achievement of competitiveness and scalability goals they need to grow-up. It is like offering them an entire team of executives ensuring them integrated skills, a very committed team because we want (and we need) to realize our investments through building-up business attractive to the market.
What are the discontinuity points in respect to traditional Accelerators in terms of quantity and phase of projects chosen, risks, business scalability, strategic impact, intellectual property, innovation, human and financial resources?
Above all, an accelerator offers generalized training but can hardly afford to assist every single startup in a dedicated way. Neither right nor wrong, mind you, but these are two substantially different business models with scale economies which are hard to reconcile. What we do is to bring every single startup to the investor’s desk having a solid and credible business model and a real strategic and financial planning. No improvisation, or storytelling, just business stones. We do it by approaches, methods and competencies gained over decades of experience in large companies. But we would be wrong if we tried to oppose the two models, rather they are models that have their own complementarity, especially in relation to the life phase of a startup.
When can a startup go to a Venture Builder and how to do it?
In Italy, Venture Builders can be counted on one hand and each has its own reference model. Compared to the others, we offer more ‘core’ business skills and we are not the ones suited to offer training processes. To us come people with a business idea in a pre-seed phase, and together we build the startup. We let trainers do trainers, and managers do managers.
Is there a standard contract between a Venture Builder and a startup? What is the average duration of the investment and what about returns?
It is precisely in our reference model to have nothing standardized, it all depends on the phase that any startup lives and, above all, on the founders’ profile. It is people who are crucial for the success of a business and, often, we engage in projects new people and skills useful to bring the startup to success.
We should say that, after an in-depth period in which, actually we provide business advisory support, we do select those startups which seem to have high potential and we can invest in or offer our skills over a period that is variable case to case. We acquire stakes in Equity ranging from 3% to 49% depending on the history of each project. That is the cool thing. No one is the same as another, and, for this reason, our approach is tailor made to offer concrete answers to needs that are different for each project.
On returns, we will talk about in a couple of years.
Does 20V specialize in one or more industries? Who are the experts behind 20V, what is the management team? What is its mission?
We have not “verticals”, we like good ideas which are the ones we select. Good ideas and best people to make them succeed.
20V’s team is about former executives with background in top management roles in large corporation, in some cases the contribution of “executives in charge” is also extremely useful.
Basic choice is offering startup ecosystem those managerial skills which, we are convinced, future entrepreneurs need the most.
How much is your portfolio worth? In which sectors do you invest and why?
As I said, we do not like “verticals” but good ideas. We receive dozens of requests any week, but the screening phase is fundamental for us. Today we are working with seven startups, and we have about thirty ‘on desks’ projects that we are evaluating. Consider that we were born a year ago during a pandemic and so far, we have always worked via Zoom, so we can be more than satisfied.
Answering, there are some sectors that we believe have a higher rate of development and performance, such as the energy, IoT, biomedical engineering and automation sectors. But the classic SaaS model is the one on which, today, we have concentrated the largest investments.
Why do you think there is a need for 20V in Italy today? Are there other realities in Italy like yours? How do you differentiate from your Italian competitors and why can your company be more successful than the others?
Our ambition is to delocalize skills needed to make business and we’re gonna open a 20V office in each of twenty Italian regions. It is not clear why, in fact, an aspiring startup founders should be forced to relocate to three or four cities in Italy to increase his chances of success. In a short, I do not trust so much on big “Hubs” model which force thousands of young people to assemble themselves in few places that look more like intensive farms than competence centres as they gotta be. And I say it despite I have managed one of the largest Italian factories when I did serve at Telecom Italia.
You are not only CEO of 20V, but also a mentor of an online incubator, Startup Geeks: why this choice? How do you help startups through mentorship?
Opportunities arise from sharing knowledge, skills, experiences, and relational networks. Startup Geeks offers chances to select these opportunities in a unique community in Italy that makes this sharing as a goal set.
All the support we offer to the Community is always and strictly free and is aimed at supporting aspiring founders in their route, with a particular reference to the processes of validation, design of the business model, strategic and financial planning. My goal is to be able to contribute to creation of successful cases that come to life from Startup Geeks! In 20V we already have a couple that look very promising.
Do you want to indicate a link to our readers to apply for 20V?
If you are interested in incubator and startups, please read more on: Incubator online: the Startup Geeks case and Incubator succeeded with a 170,000 euro fundraising
If you want to meet other Venture Builders, please read more on the interview with Venture Builder for bioscience: from startup to success