By Fabio Valenza, Giulio Matteini, and Walid Aoun, Master of Science in Business Administration, Tor Vergata University of Rome
Crowned by Forbes as "the start-up that makes Italians love economics", Starting Finance represents an entrepreneurial entity that, in addition to financial education, has made young people the core of its competitive advantage. The company was born in 2016 from the intuition of Edoardo di Lella and Marco Scioli, who have been both listed among Forbes’ Italy Top 100 Under30s; it has raised more than €1,500,000 over the years.
Through the disclosure of articles based on news derived from the financial world, the startup wants to target, first of all, the Millennials Generation Y and the more "recent" Generation Z. It made this goal achievable through the exploitation of the most important social networks (especially Instagram, where it counts over 354,000 followers), but also through a more direct form of communication: the University Clubs. Currently 34, these clubs are distributed among the Italian universities, enabling Starting finance to create a large community directly reaching the desired demographic targets. In terms of community building, both the organization of event trips, such as the SF Winter Bootcamp in Cortina d'Ampezzo or the Spring Break in New York, and the Starting Finance mobile app, are worthy of mention. The trips allow participants to network while dealing with financial topics and to engage with the likes of Remo Ruffini (chairman and CEO of Moncler). Launched in November 2021, the app is based on a simulator that allows users to invest in major financial markets in real time and without risk; thus, users can aggregate and challenge each other weekly and monthly, with the possibility of winning cash prizes. In this regard, Figure 1 illustrates Starting Finance's Business Model Canvas.
Figure 1: Starting Finance’s Business Model Canvas
Source: Authors' elaboration.
Rounding out the offerings are the Masterclasses, designed as a tool aimed at pairing practical experience with university theory; Masterclasses cover a learning area that ranges from using Excel for finance to blockchain technology, Python programming courses and intraday trading courses. The ability to collaborate with prominent profiles and figures, such as Andrea Rivelli (Senior Executive Partner of BNL-BNP Paribas), in the Italian financial and entrepreneurial scene, was one of the main factors enabling Starting Finance to overcome that initial period of the firm's life cycle referred to, in the management literature, as the liability of newness (Stinchcombe, 1965).
Strengthening the brand image is indeed a relevant aspect of Starting Finance's strategy, as Scioli confirmed; it plays a crucial role in making both the company, and the services which it offers, reliable. Understanding the competitive environment in which Starting Finance operates is key: highly dynamic and susceptible to innovation, this environment cannot be interpreted as the Kim and Mauborgne's Blue Ocean, i.e. devoid of both competition and demand, but as a market to be "revolutionized". In this market, on the one hand the strategies of lending institutions aimed at training and educating their clients have turned out to be inadequate; but, on the other hand, some pre-existing realities coming from similar markets have been able to make their distinctive skills an advantage, becoming relevant players. Among others, the consolidation of Starting Finance's image is pursued through many activities in which it has teamed up with relevant institutions, such as the participation in the "Occhio alle Truffe" information campaign promoted by CONSOB, or the partnership with LUISS University in Rome for the organization of events and Masterclasses. Relatedly, as reported in the company's website, there are also many brands which have "trusted" the start-up, composing a heterogeneous picture that goes beyond the world of finance: from Sky to Morgan Stanley, from Enel X to A.S. Roma.
Today, Starting Finance's main private investor is the holding company Atypical Partners, which, in October 2020, allowed the start-up to make a further significant capital increase of over €1,000,000. One can therefore sense the way in which the start-up has overcome one of the other obstacles associated with the liability of newness, i.e. the creation of trusting relationships with its stakeholders. Led by Mauro Moretti, and represented by Barbara Roversi in the Starting Finance's board, Atypical Partner leaves ample room to the start-up in its strategic decision-making process, while bringing experience and an "outside point of view" to the governance of the two young co-founders.
Starting Finance has created trust relationships with its employees, which have led to invest their resources in the company from its earliest stages, and with more than 700,000 users, who can enjoy content with innovative design and based on reliable sources. Relatedly, and again in terms of how to overcome the liability of newness, each person in the start-up plays a specific role, including editors, front-end and back-end developers; in this way, the operation and enjoyment of the services provided are always guaranteed, according to the logic of rational differentiation of work.