Interviewed by Ebraheem Soliman E Alghafees, USF Business major
The following is an interview with a successful technology leader, Paolo Luciano.
Paolo is currently the founder and CEO of IUVO.
We interviewed Paolo to understand his career journey, next generation opportunities for today’s youth and focus areas for high school and college students. We also talked about success and failures and how one should turn failures into opportunities. IUVO is a platform that connects soccer players with fans in order to raise money to help the charity.
Below is a transcript of my interview with Paolo Luciano
Ebraheem: I am here with Paolo Luciano, Founder and CEO at IUVO. Paolo is a technology leader and has had successful rides in the last couple of years. He did his education at New York University. So welcome Paolo, thank you for your time today.
Paolo: Sure, glad I can be of help especially when it will help children
Ebraheem: So, my first question is, how did you come up with IUVO?
Paolo: Hmm, interesting question. Well this idea has been flooding our team for two years now but it was never really focused on. The problem we wanted to solve was how can we help smaller charities who struggle to raise money? When I looked at the Idea and focused on it, I took a lot of the experience of my past company Bhounce which is a local social network for students on campus. I took a lot of what I learned in Bhounce and I used it in IUVO.
Ebraheem: So, how long have you been in technology field?
Paolo: For the last 4+ years, I have been in the hi-tech space riding the technology wave.
Ebraheem: Is this your first startup? Have you had other successes in similar startups?
Paolo: Previous to IUVO, I was at SwipeShop, which it creates a marketplace where people can buy and sell goods around them efficiently by connecting buyers and sellers and enabling users to conveniently bid on items. Then, I founded Bhounce in 2016 which is a platform to connects students on campus together.
Ebraheem: What is your biggest threats?
Paolo: Hmm. We are inexperienced team because none of us launched and sold a startup so that pose a threat in raising money. I am not worried about that but my biggest worry would starts when competitors entering this space.
Ebraheem: Do you have an exit plan for your company?
Paolo: If we ever want to exit the company is when I see the company going in the right direction which it helps charity raising money and making an impact to other people. I do not think of it because I only care how are we going to be better in the next two years. Although, investors care about the exit plan because they have a return and often other investors to think about.
Ebraheem: What would you advise Startup Wonder students who want to be an entrepreneur in the future?
Paolo: Well my advice is to learn coding and if you do not know how to code find someone who know how to code and build a good relationship with them and develop a good friendship with them especially if the technology part is a part of your company. Also, find someone who believe in your project and fight with you when things do not go right because things sometimes do not go right. Find someone who would fill your gap in marketing and financing. Moreover, find a problem to solve especially that when you are in high school you have a house to live in, hopefully you do not worry about being homeless. Take advantage of your family (with respect) because they will help you when they see you working hard at this age.
Ebraheem: How did you fundraise IUVO?
Paolo: I started IUVO fundraise from family at first. Sometimes, I gave a little equity to my family in order to raise money. I advise everyone to ask their family and friends at first because outside investors will demand more equity. That said, established investors can really help with connections and advise, something family may not be able to do.
Ebraheem: Do you have mentors that have helped you shape your experience? What advice would you give for our high school and college students in choosing the right mentor so that they take their advice and experience in shaping their career?
Paolo: Yes, I have several mentors. I advise students to find people who build companies before, who failed million times because they have something to learn from and they have wished they had someone to talk to when they were building their first startup. If you have a mentor email them every week, 2 weeks or three and update them about your project and ask your mentor a specific question. If you do not have one you can find them on the internet or through family.
Ebraheem: What is the most questions that investors care about?
Paolo: The market sizing is always important because they want to know about the market significant. Investors ask about your background by how many companies have you started, how many companies have you sold, and why should I believe in you? Also, who is your competitors in the space? I think if investors know that you are good person and you do not screw people up they might give money and connect you with better people to help your business.
Ebraheem: How do you define success?
Paolo: Good question. For me, I do not think I have reached it yet. I am not sure how it going to look like when I get there. I think for IUVO what success look like is charity raising money for projects and using this money to build bridges, schools, and I see people benefit from it. Most important thing for me is to see how many people you can help. As Martin Luther King said, “What are you doing for others?”. Success for me is making an impact to other people by helping people.
Ebraheem: That’s great. I am glad you could give us some time to describe your success and personality traits needed to turn anything around to make it a success.
Paolo: Thank you Ebraheem for this discussion. I hope this information was helpful to you and it helps others.