In the last ten years, I have designed, organized, managed or supported many initiatives to promote the birth and development of new innovative companies. From TIM Working Capital to Microsoft BizSpark, from Appcampus (a joint venture between Microsoft and Nokia) to the Founder Institute. Moreover, I was a mentor for many acceleration programs, I judged Startup Weekends, hackathons and so on.
Thinking to “know how to do” in 2013, I co-founded and funded Stamplay – a platform for cloud software integration. Together with Giuliano Iacobelli, we started with the idea to make an international company and we had the opportunity to participate in two of the best acceleration programs in the world: Seedcamp in London and 500 Startups in San Francisco.
My journey as an entrepreneur has not always been easy, but I was lucky enough to meet exceptional entrepreneurs, investors and professionals, who gave me advice and from whom I learned a lot. I made a lot of mistakes and realized that I actually didn’t “know how to do”, but I never stopped asking questions, listening, watching and reading. Gradually, I started to build a puzzle of useful skills to innovate, or to create and market new products and services, and (eventually) found a new company.
Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to teach over 200 students at the School of Management at Roma Tre University and to rediscover my passion for teaching. Despite the effort to design and experiment a different course every year, the more I attended the my classroom and the more I liked to interact with the students interested in my subject.
Finally, a few months ago, I read two books by Sir Ken Robinson, The Element and Finding your Element, which – together with the proverbial midlife crisis – gave me the nudge I needed to embrace a new adventure.
In short, at one point I asked myself: what if I devote myself to teaching full time? What if I put together everything I learned and the people who taught me and found a school? What kind of school would it be? And so, thanks to the collaboration with Alessandro Zonnino, one of the most brilliant and well-prepared guys I know, the Innovation School of Rome (or isRome) project was born.
To develop the idea, we have defined four pillars:
Co-design. At isRome we will teach how to co-design a product engaging those who will use it. In addition, we will explain how to build prototypes, perform tests ad set up a go-to-market strategy. It would be strange if we did not apply these methods to design our school. In this context, even if we have already hypothesized a program that draws on our experiences and international best practices, we will consider an hypothesis to be validated. From January, we will begin to interview potential students and test some of the modules that we have hypothesized.
No classrooms. Innovation can not be learned sitting at a desk and listening to a professor. The teachers of the isRome will all be entrepreneurs, investors and professionals of great value and take their time for a lecture would be, at best, a colossal waste. Rather, we want them to support students and help them develop their projects. We eliminated the idea of having a classroom and went even further: isRome will not even have an official headquarter. Our school will be based in Rome, but it will move continuously and we are designing a modular system that we will use to set up any type of space; we need 200 sqm (or 2.000 sqf), electricity and a wi-fi connection to organize a 30-person course.
International Faculty. We will use English as official language, and I apologize with native English speakers, because I know my English is not elegant but it will be too expensive to use professional translators (please, correct me. I will try to improve). We will engage international teachers and we will connect with the main international technological hubs to encourage the creation of startups that have the legs to be financed and grow everywhere. We have already convinced the partners of two large early stage funds in London and San Francisco, very talented designers and founders with a true international experience in starting and growing high-tech companies.
Impact. We want to have an impact on Rome and we have set an ambitious goal: to train 1,000 innovators in five years. Obviously, we do not think we can do it on our own, so we hope we can engage companies and organizations that in recent years have been more active in promoting innovation in Italy and Europe. Our goal is to fund at least 700 scholarships to be assigned to teams and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to participate in our courses.
Happy New Year from the Innovation School of Rome.