The world of cryptocurrencies at the Italian level is still in a very embryonic phase: there are few companies in our country that work in this sector compared to those operating in the much more developed fintech branch. Some realities like Oval or Satispay they have created an industry that has managed to become a reference for the more traditional part of this business, represented by the banking sector. Italy is a very small market in this sense but it is managing to establish itself as a reference market. Recently there have been major successful cases of startups that have been able to make very advantageous exit operations thanks to the inclusion of American giants and this testifies to the skills of Italians in this high-tech sector and the attractiveness towards players who are at high levels in this market.
From the most recent data released by sector analysts have been reached approximately 13 million total customers for all the services of the fintech segment offered on the Italian territory.
The cryptocurrency revolution in Italy is still in its infancy: we spoke with Andrea Ferrero and Diego D'Aquilio of their startup Young and how this trend can grow in the coming months and years.
Italian fintech startup whose mission is to make the world of cryptocurrencies. The ecosystem currently consists of 3 products: Stepdrop, Young Platform and Young Platform Pro.
Stepdrop is the financial education app launched in early 2019 that allows you to approach the crypto world and boasts over 150,000 downloads.
Young Platform, the flagship product launched at the end of 2019, is the exchange with which you can buy Bitcoin and the other major crypto currencies in a simple and fast way, directly in Euro thanks to the partnership with 2 Italian banks.
Young Platform Pro, is instead the trading platform with advanced features that will be released in October 2020 and for which the Waiting List "Crypto Made Free".
Founded in 2018, in just two years of activity, thanks to a team of young talents, the startup has expanded a lot, with the opening of an office in Tallinn (Estonia) and one in London at Level 39. It is now common for this very young company to attend conferences throughout Europe on the theme of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
CEO - Co-Founder
Young is his FinTech startup whose mission is to make the world of cryptocurrencies accessible to everyone, which has launched Young Platform, the exchange that allows you to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in a simple and fast way. Andrea, together with 5 other peers, founded Young in 2018: in just two years, he actively contributed to building a team of young talents, to the expansion of the startup and to the launch of 3 products on the market (Stepdrop, Young Platform and Young Platform PRO). He often organizes and is involved as a speaker at conferences on blockchain issues, cryptocurrencies and new technologies.
CMO - Head Of International Expansion - Blockchain & Cryptoasset Investment Advisor
He joined the Young team at the beginning of 2019, actively contributing to the success of the equity crowdfunding campaign on the UK Seedrs platform, thanks to which the company has been able to achieve all the goals set in recent months, including the launch of the two exchanges Young Platform and Young Platform PRO, the expansion of the team to 18 full-time people and the opening of a new capital increase.
After working for many years as a management and marketing consultant and after spending a period in London where he founded a fintech startup, from 2014 he approached the crypto and blockchain world and started working as Investment Advisor for some Family Offices and HNWIs.
For several years he has been a mentor for the most prestigious programs dedicated to innovation, business accelerators and incubators of startups including Techstars, European Innovation Academy (EIA), Startupbootcamp and Founder Institute and he is often invited to participate as a speaker at crypto and blockchain conferences.
Traditionally Milan is the Italian capital of finance: why did you choose Turin?
Andrew: At the time of Young's incorporation we were all university students in Turin, staying in our city also gave us the opportunity to keep costs considerably lower than in Milan. In addition to the practical factor, we are witnessing the birth of a real ecosystem: we are inside the I3P, the incubator of the Politecnico di Torino, but there are other realities such as OGR or Talent Garden that support Turin in its transformation into a progressively more and more innovative city.
Diego: From our headquarters we can still easily reach Torino Porta Susa station when we have to go to Milan for meetings or gatherings, for example in the Fintech District.
You often hear that the team is the most important part of a startup, which are the roles where you can identify the greatest value?
Andrew: Initially, most of our value consisted in development, that is our ability to be able to produce digital products very quickly and with a very high quality level. Today we are much more structured than before and one of the key figures is certainly the CFO: managing the financial aspects of a reality like ours requires skills and a good level of awareness of the use of the necessary tools. This is certainly the key to ensure the longevity of a project like ours and the security necessary to try to climb once capital of a certain level arrives, otherwise you risk self-destruct and remain cashless.
Diego: Surely another point is the heterogeneity of the group, which is extremely well divided but still linked by a common alchemy. In our field, the development part is clearly fundamental but at the same time I think it is equally important to create the right combination with the communication and marketing part so that the product is known and not confined within four walls.
You started out as a very young group, but how important was it to be supported by experienced people during your growth?
Andrew: Today 90% of the things we do succeed thanks to the senior figures that we have included in our staff starting, for example, from giving guarantees to banks or communicating with the institutional subjects we work for: if we were only "kids" they would never have given us any credit. The presence of people with a higher level of experience helps to prevent a lot of screwups and to avoid being eaten by sharks.
Diego: For example, I feel like a link between the super-young team and the slightly more senior figures. Anyway, the spirit with which Young was born is not referred to the age, suggested by the name, but to a way of being and wanting to conceive life and to see the way of startup: among us there are many senior figures who are mentally much younger than many people aged 18-20 years because they are able to embrace this philosophy.
Starting your own project takes courage, but it is not enough to do it: when and how did you start it? What would you recommend to people like you who have an idea in their head and dream of realizing it?
Andrew: More than for courage it would be correct to say that we started out of recklessness probably! We were at university and the idea was born from sleepless nights spent watching Bitcoin charts at the beginning of its bubble in 2017: we were trying to approach this world but we had many difficulties and so we decided to do something of our own to help all those people who did not have great technical skills to start a Bitcoin trading process even with minimum amounts. The advice I feel like giving to young people who want to start a business, even if it seems obvious, is to jump in without thinking about all the problems that may arise because otherwise they are likely to end up giving up. Let's say that recklessness is the variable that allows you to dream, to do things big so it must be maintained constantly throughout the growth process, because the more you go forward and the more risky things will be, they will be difficult to achieve: being reckless in some ways makes it easier to try to take advantage of every opportunity, leaving momentarily aside the risks. My advice is to follow your instincts as much as possible.
Diego: From a demographic point of view, between 20 and 25 years old is the best phase of life to try to launch yourself because it is also undeniable that there are more chances to recover in case the initiative does not go well. It is also true, however, that according to statistics most of the startups are made in the age range between 35 and 40 years, then by people who have already gained some experience in the so-called traditional world of work and who decide to take a new path trying to get involved. This path is similar to the one I followed: Young is already the third startup I've come into contact with since I've already co-founded two of them in the past, one in Turin and one in London, always in the fintech field. When I was contacted by Young I immediately saw it as a great opportunity to put into practice my past experiences in consulting, fintech and startups with a world I had approached in my private sphere. I think I was given a wonderful opportunity to live an exciting experience.
It is said that it is never too late, but it is also true that it is never too early. What do you recommend to those who feel too young to launch themselves into this world?
Andrew: That they are right. No, just kidding. As Diego said before, surely between 20 and 30 years is the time of life when you can make more mistakes and take more risks. So surely you're never too young and you're tempted with a little recklessness, anyway banging your head is never a bad thing. Failure is never a bad thing, of course you will take something of value that you have learned thanks to that failure. However, you must also be aware: if you are too young and you want to do it seriously, you must then make decisions that help you avoid certain mistakes. Since you are no longer only playing with your own risk rate but also with that of the people who gave you the money, who work with you and have married your cause, like Diego, maybe leaving a safer job to come and work with you and realize your dream, you have to protect them and then you have to be supported by senior figures as mentioned before.
How important do you think the local ecosystem is for the birth and growth of startups?
Diego: I think that surely the ecosystem is a really important part that can help especially young startups, as Young was at the beginning. Young was born within the context of I3P, incubator of the Politecnico di Torino, which gives a big help to young people to turn their idea into something real, through the involvement of mentors and support in raising initial capital. The crypto realities, unfortunately or luckily, are not yet so many in Italy, so we try to help each other and to grow together, to make the ecosystem of the crypto world grow as well. We know very well that adoption will be the fundamental element to really make this world grow so we must try, in part, to work together to push this market more and more.
Young Platform was born in 2017 in Turin, what has changed in these years? Have you seen improvements in the ecosystem and in the local network?
Andrew: The initial phase was a bit of a bubble, the I3P was in some ways of enormous value for Young in the initial phase, it relieved us from much of the effort in finding the right professional, in finding people who knew this world and were used to working with startups. it was almost all too easy. The ecosystem is everything for a startup. When nothing exists yet and the value is still all to be generated, if there is no ecosystem around that value will never be created. In these three years we have seen a change in the way realities communicate with each other: in the initial phase we were a bit lost and we were put aside because we were too young in the world of existing startups. Today we are happy to see that there is a lot of collaboration, even between realities that are not part of the same sector such as the SEI world, the Talent Garden world and the I3P startups, as well as companies that we got to know. This way of getting in touch with different realities is what has changed the most, this need of everyone to become a system, even if you are not directly part of the same world and the same industry. We Italians are very strong in this, we are perhaps the best at helping each other.
Diego adds: Before the lockdown we traveled a lot and through the conferences and events we had the fortune to extend our network also abroad and we realized that the crypto world is full of Italians who participate, collaborate or have founded the main organizations of the sector. This makes us proud and gives us a further boost to try to grow Young as an Italian company.
How important is it for an innovative reality to also check out what happens abroad?
Diego: for those who work in our sector is fundamental, we are talking about a global market open 365 days a year 24 hours a day that never stops. You must always keep an eye on what is happening abroad to understand the new trends, because the crypto sector evolves so fast that you always need to know what is happening in other countries, where there is a more evolved ecosystem. As far as Young is concerned, the choice has been to focus initially on the Italian market, but immediately trying to have a look abroad both to understand the trends and to start to approach the international market. Specifically, the crowdfunding operation, which we did deliberately in London to start giving us a spirit of internationalization, has led us to open a second office in London and then a third in Estonia, in Tallinn.
Andrew: Our logic was to bring a demonstration that a reality as young as Young at the time of crowdfunding could be able to create a successful financial operation even in a foreign market and it was a challenge that we wanted to launch to anyone who came into contact with us, starting from the funds, the investors we had inside and the market itself. If you want to create a startup that has to climb in an ambitious way, you can't only look at your own backyard but you have to have an international positioning right away. Of course, the ecosystem must be ready to support such a choice. Choosing to start with internationalization when you do not yet have the capital to do so obviously makes no sense. The Italian ecosystem, in terms of funds, still has to fill a gap and can not understand certain logic of exponential growth as it happens in other countries like the US. As we operate in the cryptocurrency market, we must necessarily have an international logic, all our contents and all our products are completely translated into English to be ready to be brought to any market and to be present in London, the European capital of the financial market. It was a choice that we would certainly make again because it guaranteed us a positioning that we considered fundamental and certainly brought us many advantages.
What are your prospects for the future and what are your next projects?
Andrew: Our dream is to become the first Italian "Unicorn " (a company, usually a startup, with a currency of more than one billion dollars), as also the Minister Paola Pisano hopes to see before the end of her mandate. Our goal, joking aside, is to attack the Italian market and become by the end of this year one of the first players in our industry at a national level, then attack the British market and then move to an internationalization at a European level. The short-term objectives are instead the launch of the third product, that we are carrying out through a waiting list campaign with 20,000 euros up for grabs in bitcoin and the possibility to get free lifetime fees on cryptocurrency trading. The launch campaign will continue in these months, from September to November, to try to steal as much market share as possible from our competitors. Subsequently, we will continue to develop our offer both in terms of product and investment activity available on our platforms.