A chat with Fabio Troiani, former CEO & Founder of BiP
Endeavor talks about… is a monthly column created to explore relevant topics for the Italian startup and scaleup ecosystem, share data and let you know the amazing people who give life to the Endeavor network as entrepreneurs, board members, and mentors.
This month we had a chat with Fabio Troiani, Endeavor Italy’s board member, digital entrepreneur, former CEO & Founder of BiP.
When did you first hear about Endeavor?
I was first told about it by an Endeavor mentor who had been on a sort of “educational trip” to Silicon Valley, to Stanford, for members of the network. I found out that there were people on the Italian board that I have a lot of respect for, and I asked them for more information. That’s what convinced me that the initiative was something unique and I decided I wanted to be part of it.
What convinced you about Endeavor compared to other organizations?
The idea of entrepreneurial give-back, that is, to support deserving entrepreneurship by donating not only money, but especially time. I say “above all” because donating money, if you have any, is relatively simple. Donating time and passion, on the other hand, is more complicated, but also more important.
What do you value in a company when you first come across it?
Having run a people business for more than 30 years, this is what I value. The team comes first, even before the mission and the massive transformative purpose of the company. In an economy like ours, which is very service-driven, people make the key difference.
The concept of the company has to be well designed, meaning it has to answer a question or be so innovative that it creates one. It takes people with both entrepreneurial and managerial skills.
What is the biggest difference between a successful startup and one that flops? And one that stays somewhere in between?
It’s a combination of factors. First, the economic environment in which the company moves. Being in a country with a healthy economy, growing demographics and a government intent on solving some challenges makes it easier. Next, market validation cannot be overlooked. The concept of the company has to be well designed, meaning it has to answer a question or be so innovative that it creates one. It takes people with both entrepreneurial and managerial skills.
Describe your journey
From the moment I finished university, I immediately knew I needed to look for work experience, thanks to which I saw the point of studying a Master’s degree abroad. It was also important for me to work for large multinationals, from Olivetti to Deloitte, because it allowed me to understand that to create something that reflects your vision of the world you have to be an entrepreneur, not a manager. It’s been a lifelong learning process, which also includes Endeavor, which allows me not only to help scale-ups, but also to learn from them.
Are there any characteristics that set the entrepreneur and manager apart in a particular way?
The entrepreneur is much more inclined to take risks, while the manager is more conservative. The downside is that the entrepreneur tends to underestimate the complexities of management, whereas the manager knows how to handle them. For this reason, these are two people who must learn from each other.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I created BiP, a company that started with 60 people and when I left, there were 3,600. BiP has grown from making a turnover of 10 million to 360 million, providing work for young people, mainly Italian, but not exclusively, within a profession that is still very interesting, i.e. helping companies to transform technologically and digitally.
And your biggest mistake?
Thinking that the relationship with private equity funds was the way to boost entrepreneurship. Not so much. They do boost entrepreneurship, yes, but a majority deal puts the fund in a position of control, not support, and this risks suppressing entrepreneurship rather than amplifying it.
Where do you find the incentive needed to leave a company you’ve been growing for years and embark on new adventures?
Sociologist William Bygrave described the life of the entrepreneur as a four-stage process: nurture, growth, development, consolidation. The latter is the moment when one’s own creation can stand on its own two feet, helped by the right people who can take it into a new phase. It is this confidence that gives me the freedom to start other businesses that I hope will be just as lucky.
What has the Covid-19 crisis taught you?
That you should never think of history as a straight line, believing that things will always follow the same course. Uncertainty and risk are just around the corner, and so are opportunities.
I have always been concerned about people who spend too many hours at work, as if they have no other attachments or interests. This to me is a serious limitation of human “roundness”, and when you are in a context where you have to manage people that gap is noticeable.
How important is it for you to have a work-life balance?
It is absolutely vital. One of the benefits of Covid has been that we have been able to work from home and thus in some ways “reunite” with our families. Affective bonds are critical to people’s well-being, and I say that by including all types of family, and even friendship circles. A good emotional environment keeps people more balanced, and when someone is balanced, they are also balanced at work. I have always been concerned about people who spend too many hours at work, as if they have no other attachments or interests. This to me is a serious limitation of human “roundness”, and when you are in a context where you have to manage people that gap is noticeable. By now the economy is focused on the tertiary sector, being able to read people is fundamental, and this ability can only come from a healthy social life, which must be given the right amount of time to flourish.
Why do you think a company like Endeavor is important in our country?
Because it allows entrepreneurs to engage with the global business world, and there is a desperate need for this in Italy.