GlobalEdgeTalk

Jacopo Losso on EBAN, Innovation and The Future of Startups

November 25, 2020 Alex Romanovich / Jacopo Losso
GlobalEdgeTalk
Jacopo Losso on EBAN, Innovation and The Future of Startups
Chapters
2:02
From Italy to Florida, USA
4:58
Transition to Marketing & Sales
8:56
Starting at EBAN
15:59
Entrepreneurship in Europe
25:30
Industry-Based Innovation
36:44
Creating more relevant solutions
GlobalEdgeTalk
Jacopo Losso on EBAN, Innovation and The Future of Startups
Nov 25, 2020
Alex Romanovich / Jacopo Losso

Please welcome this episode's incredible guest, Jacopo Losso! Jacopo joined EBAN (European Business Angles Network) in 2015 as the association’s Director of Secretariat. He is responsible for managing the organization and its network of members, expanding the association’s reach and influence, tracking issues of strategic importance to the early-stage investing ecosystem, and representing the association externally. 

In this episode, Jacopo and Alex talk about EBAN, innovation, the future of startups, and much more!

Listen now on all major podcasting platforms!

For more information on Jacopo, social media links, biography and exclusive materials, please visit our website.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/globaledgetalk)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Please welcome this episode's incredible guest, Jacopo Losso! Jacopo joined EBAN (European Business Angles Network) in 2015 as the association’s Director of Secretariat. He is responsible for managing the organization and its network of members, expanding the association’s reach and influence, tracking issues of strategic importance to the early-stage investing ecosystem, and representing the association externally. 

In this episode, Jacopo and Alex talk about EBAN, innovation, the future of startups, and much more!

Listen now on all major podcasting platforms!

For more information on Jacopo, social media links, biography and exclusive materials, please visit our website.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/globaledgetalk)

Alex Romanovich (00:00):
Hello, folks. This is Alex Romanovich, and welcome to the GlobalEdgeTalk edition. November 6, 2020. And today we have an outstanding guest, Jacopo Losso. Directly from Brussels, Belgium. Jacopo is EBAN's Director of Secretariat, and he is basically a director of the European Business Angels Network Association. Welcome to our studio, Jacopo.

Jacopo Losso (00:26):
Hey Alex. Thanks for having me and hello to everyone at home. A pleasure to be with you. Yes, live from Brussels. I live here, but I'm not actually a Belgian, and maybe my accent gives away a bit that I'm actually an Italian that moved to Brussels some time ago to start leading via European Business Angel Network. So the association representing the business angels at a European level, so great to be with you.

Alex Romanovich (01:02):
Excellent, welcome. And we have a lot to talk about angels, investors. I've been very close to EBAN for the past five to six years myself. I think it's an outstanding organization. The very latest October, November сonference that just took place, which was virtual due to the fact that we're in the middle of, still, in the middle of the COVID pandemic. And obviously Europe, just as of November 6, just closed again, literally as we speak and the United States is also on the brink of closure only because our cases are going up and things are just not going well. So we'll talk more about this, but let's first turn to your history, your background. You started with a finance degree and a Master's degree in business administration in one of the European universities, but you did your first internship actually in the United States in Tampa. So tell me about what it was like to be from Europe, to be from Italy, going to university, and then all of a sudden landing in the United States and Florida of all the places, and then sort of being a part of an American company and then doing logistics work, finance work, operations work for an American company.

Jacopo Losso (02:35):
I mean, it was really an experience that I'll bring with me forever. You know, I studied in this very fairly well-known and highly regarded the business school called Bocconi, which is a university in Milan. I started economy management, finance, and let's say that when I got out of the university, one of the opportunities that I had was to do an internship in the United States of all places. And I actually jumped on that right away knowing how well you get trained in the United States when you work in a company. So let's say that big part of my decision was actually depending on that, on the quality type of mentoring, I would've received that in a context such as the one I ended up going to in Tampa, I won't name the company.

Jacopo Losso (03:42):
But it was really a great experience. I was working within the financial planning and analysis department of that company and primarily involved in measuring a bit the logistics operations that company was at the time a little bit struggling with and from there really learning a lot the American way, so to say of doing things. So the very structured processes that are typically in place and such companies, and also I would say the excellent analytical way of approaching problems, data powered, data oriented way of finding solutions. And the definitely take that with me for the rest of my life, and the experience in general to be in a nice sunny place such as Florida was also quite fun as a first opportunity of getting into the job market right after university. So just overall, just a great time and lots of learning and also friendships as well that still today, I keep from that experience

Alex Romanovich (05:02):
Interesting, but you're starting your career as a financial planner and somebody who's in finance. And then you make it back to Europe as a marketing assistant. Tell me a little bit more about that sort of transition and why that transition, why exposure to marketing and sales is such an important aspect of anyone who's entrepreneurial or anybody who's starting in a different discipline, maybe operations, maybe finance, maybe business development or something like that.

Jacopo Losso (05:35):
Yeah, that's an excellent question. So basically I've always been very interested in general in finance. At the time just getting out of school, I was more keen on the corporate finance simply because of the exposure I had had to it in university. But deep down, I think one of the things I was always really passionate about was entrepreneurship and with regards to entrepreneurship I also wanted to get a bit more closer to the world of finance that invests in the entrepreneurial ideas. And so business angel investing started to become a path towards getting closer to that, and when my internship ended in the U.S. I came back home to Italy, again through my university found the EBAN, the organization I am now the managing director of, and basically started off with them in a marketing trainee position.

Jacopo Losso (06:50):
That was really the opening that the company had at the time. In general, my interest was towards the marketing role was anyways quite strong because as it was also, you were correctly saying earlier, big part of being an entrepreneur is also being a great communicator and also a great sales person. There's a lot of other important things that are also quite fundamental for having success as an entrepreneur. But let's say that it was quite a good way to get introduced to the world that I was keen on getting closer to. And so I started with EBAN basically as a trainee, and early 2015 and very quickly from there I ended up staying until today.

Jacopo Losso (07:52):
So now into the sixth year with the European Business Angels Network has been a really incredible journey and ride over these past five-six years I've been here. And it's been quite exciting when I start, then it's getting increasingly exciting. I would say nowadays with all of the challenges that we're having with the pandemic and the difficulties and really operating as we normally would, but as all crisis kind of show, there's incredible opportunities to make new things and to start new approaches. So that's why I'm saying it's exciting times also to be within EBAN because of our, let's say the position we have in the ecosystem and just the opportunity we see of also renewing the way we work and the way we work and engage with our community members.

Alex Romanovich (08:59):
Absolutely. And we'll talk more about this. And you then starting as a marketing assistant at EBAN, which is by now one of the most prominent organizations in European Union, and it's also a European Trade Association, it's a seed fund, it's early stage marketplace and there's just so many different things. And you made it all the way to managing director. You're seeing on the daily basis, you're talking to one of the top entrepreneurs and startups in Europe. You're also talking on the other side with some of the top investors and the institutional angels who are trying to lift the spirit, not only the spirit of the investor community and the startup community, but also voting with their dollars and voting with their euros. I should say, not dollars, although some of the transactions are in dollars because of the American involvement. But so tell me what sort of, tell me about your path within the organization. How did you rise to the occasion? How did you sort of grow into becoming a manager director, one of the most important angel's associations in the entire European Union?

Jacopo Losso (10:26):
Yeah. It's, what I mean, timing. I guess I was in the right place at the right time in the sense that what I got involved in the EBAN, at that time we had some change also in the team with previous person that was involved that was being the director of secretary at basically moving on to a new adventure. I guess I rose to the occasion when we ended up having in early 2015, a series of important events, and actually the first one that I ended up doing together with our former EBAN president and the another board members was around table, discussion that we ended up setting up between the American private equity business angel and entrepreneurship community and the European one.

Jacopo Losso (11:35):
And that was an event hosted at the U.S. Embassy to the EU, to the European Union and hosted together with at the time Ambassador Anthony Gardner, great individual who was coming from a background of venture capital and who ended up working together with our former president and with myself in particular in setting up this high level round table event that we ended up having at the at the Embassy in Brussels and with something like 40 people sitting all around the table, about 20 of them coming from the United States. And we had all of the major investors coming from the U.S. to join us and on the other side of the table all the major investors in Europe with basically the goal of starting more cooperation between those worlds of investors, between across the Atlantic.

Jacopo Losso (12:39):
So that was the first big occasion I had. And I remember working extremely hard and then in the months that led up to that event to just put together the best possible agenda we could have and invite all of the important people that we knew in Europe and also invite some of the people that are relevant in the European Union, in the European Commission and Parliament to the event. And I think that was a really great first gig. So to say that we did together at the time with our chair, and then shortly after that the first Congress, the EBAN Congress, I ended up doing also shortly after that the U.S. Embassy event which was another huge test challenge that I believe we did quite well. And then from then on just the board, the EBAN ended up liking me quite a lot, trusting me quite a lot, and just offering me the opportunity to be the successor of that person that had left us during those months.

Jacopo Losso (13:52):
And I took about a night to think about it and to sleep on it. And then it seemed something like perfect opportunity for me to draw and to continue growing as a professional and as a person. I was primarily convinced by the fact that at EBAN we have a very nice group of board members who are all successful entrepreneurs and angel investors active in their own country, but also internationally. And I was convinced that within a setting like this it would have been easy to learn from these individuals, all of the scales that are needed to be just a great entrepreneur and the ultimate EO. So it goes to a good professional. So it's been really a mix of luck of being in the right place at the right time, but also to some extent a lot of hard work and dedication to make those first couple of shows that we did good and as good as we could.

Alex Romanovich (15:12):
You're being very, you're being very modest that you cope. I've seen you in action. I've been following you in the organization for the past five to six years even going back to our initial sponsorship in Malaga, Spain. I think you've done an incredible work with your team to really connect in a very strategic and very powerful way the entrepreneurs, the startups, the investors under the roof of EBAN and I think it's going to, I'm very pleased and honored to be part of the organization and continue to support it. And we'll talk obviously more about that, but let's talk about entrepreneurship in Europe in general, right? I mean, you there've been a number of interesting sentiments, even one of the very many prominent voices at EBAN, Marco Londy, who was a former president at Apple in Europe. He made a very interesting statement last time I saw him at I believe it was in Brussels.

Alex Romanovich (16:31):
He he was at the podium and he was basically appealing to EBAN and other organizations and the European government to be more, to take a stronger stand on innovation, to do more, to basically appeal to a lot of the organizations, large corporations, supporting bodies, government bodies, local government bodies, and so forth because the edge is being lost, because the edge is being lost to China, the edge is being lost to United States and so forth. This is Europe we're talking about. This is the cradle of so many different things. So what is your opinion as to first of all, where things stand now and go to bad, and where things could be standing, let's say a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now? Let's talk about that.

Jacopo Losso (17:28):
Yeah. That's a really great topic to be spending some time on, the long story is short. Europe is a great place to do research because we have so much public funding that supports that research. You know, I cannot say for every single member state in the European Union, we have excellent programs, but in many member states we do. And at an European Union level we also have a lot of support to do really cutting edge research, scientific research. Europe is notoriously weak in taking that innovation research from the lab and putting it into a commercial setting. So going from ideas and inventions and to some extent then building businesses or having those innovations be adopted by corporations or European companies. We're quite bad at that. It's still a bit of an issue that I think we're trying to overcome.

Jacopo Losso (18:53):
I do want to say that I am quite optimistic of the approach that we are taking now in in Europe, which is basically to use the public organizations, such as the European Investment Bank or Fund and other institutional, public institutional investors to support startup businesses and act as a catalyst and leverage also the private market. So we're starting to see quite a lot of money being put on the table by public investors in Europe, both at a national level, but also more importantly at a European wide level to support the growth of the startup community, the adoption of innovations at a corporate level, or the adoption of innovations into start a business, the transfer, the tech transfer that we so much need. We're starting to see this create also more leverage with the private investors.

Jacopo Losso (20:14):
So we're seeing nice examples of co-investment between the public and the private in projects that would otherwise probably go find their funding somewhere outside of Europe. And this kind of really hits the nail on the head. Europe is unfortunately quite weak as a scale-up market. That's why we're losing our edge. That's why my uncle was a bit upset maybe a year ago, and maybe even more recently when you had a chance to speak him. And he's upset for the reason why a lot of also other Europeans are upset and that's because we have the opportunity to be a true single market meaning that similar to the United States, also Europe can to some extent be considered the federation between States. But we're not that kind of single market as the U.S. market, for example, is meaning that we're quite fragmented, although borders no longer exist, you don't need to do go through customs anymore, like in the old days, or now we've found many interesting ways of bringing down a lot of our borders.

Jacopo Losso (21:46):
Unfortunately, we still have many borders and barriers that make it tough for a startup to look at the European market and say, this is the place where I want to internationalize and grow my business. Why beat for a number of reasons, most important one - the very complicated regulatory landscape that you're often stuck with when you want to enter a new European market. And the fact that quite frankly all of this complexity isn't really being rewarded by a huge market opportunity that you could have in Europe. So with the exception of maybe a few countries, a lot of European markets are quite small. They're quite small countries. They're maybe not worth the effort to expand in and to grow in. And so, as a result of also this, we start to have a problem with big money not being accessible here in Europe, meaning that we're lacking the series B, C and all of the letters of the alphabet, that follow investors that can help our companies scale and grow.

Jacopo Losso (23:10):
And obviously they're not investing so much these kinds of investors in Europe because they don't think that company can legitimately have success and grow in Europe. So we ended up doing quite a good job as a startup community in getting ideas to the market. We're improving a lot in that sense and we're improving a lot for the reasons I explained earlier about the public intervention and so on, but we're not doing as good as producing those success stories, those unicorns, those huge companies that we start to see more and more often in the other parts of the world. And sometimes, actually, these are companies that are born in the EU, but then ended up going somewhere else to grow. And they end up going somewhere else to grow, basically because of the market opportunity being there and the money being also available there.

Jacopo Losso (24:10):
So that's to say that I'm still optimistic because I do see in Europe a huge effort on the part of the European Parliament and Commission to try to bring down as much as possible, those barriers that are still today preventing European companies to have an easy life here on this continent. So I remain optimistic and that in the future we will see more made in the EU unicorns. The data is already telling us that we're moving in the right direction, as opposed to five years ago, when I first came to Brussels. Today we're starting to see many more made in the EU unicorns that are getting funded by European investors that are finding also ways of growing and scaling up even more by listing on European stock exchanges. So all of this keeps me quite positive. I am an outrageously optimistic individual like most people in this ecosystem are being entrepreneurs and risk-takers. They have a little bit of this bias in their character, but I'm also reassured by the data that we're starting to see that points, let's say to a small light at the end of the tunnel that we're starting to now see getting bigger and bigger here in Europe.

Alex Romanovich (25:50):
Right. Well, I'm sure it's not as dramatic as Marco maybe saying sometimes or other pundits or other critics, if you will, but there's something to be said about some of the industries and industry based innovation, the automotive industry, the aerospace industry, the healthcare industry, and sort of what, first of all, I mean, when you think about it, the European Union is such a diverse place in terms of cultures, in terms of regulations, in terms of the way the business is conducted, let's say in Italy versus Greece, versus UK, versus Netherlands, France and so forth, or Baltics or what have you. And then you have obviously some of the Eastern European countries are recent additions through European Union, they're coming from, I mean, they're very quickly adapting and integrating, the Czech Republic, the Poland, the Hungary and so forth.

Alex Romanovich (26:56):
And so it is such a diverse environment with such a diverse skill levels and diverse ideas and so forth. And yet let's talk a little bit about this. I am talking to a lot of European startups who are interested in doing business in Japan and many, many interested in doing business in the United States. So let's talk a little bit about this. The environment that was created or is where we're at right now after four years of U.S. presidency by Donald Trump. Obviously I don't have to tell you that environment is not as friendly as it used to be. What are we hoping for? What are we hoping for? We don't know, literally sitting on November 6, we still do not know who the winner is going to be as a president of the United States. What is the hope there? And what do you think is almost a projection or prediction by you that's going to take place with companies and innovators and entrepreneurs in European Union and the United States?

Jacopo Losso (28:15):
Well, that's the huge question, I'm not sure I can give all the answers to it, but let me maybe just say a few words.

Alex Romanovich (28:25):
Let's talk about it. Let's do what if analysis?

Jacopo Losso (28:29):
Yeah, that's it. But also looking really at the facts I have to think about the long-term alliance that has always been at least for the past a hundred or so years in place between the United States and many countries of Europe, the way before the European Union ever existed. And this is a alliance that has created a world order, a sense of stability. And let's say that as Europeans, unfortunately, these past couple of years with the administration in the United States. That type of alliance and friendship has, let's say a little bit been undermined, that's, let's put it diplomatically that way. The importance of that relationship for commerce for innovation is fundamental. We need to have a strong United States as a partner for bringing you technologies to the market, as a partner for scaling up businesses, small startups entering this market.

Jacopo Losso (30:05):
And of course, vice versa. So receiving from the United States American businesses that operate in Europe, startups with cutting edge technologies that want to do something good in Europe. So we need that stability in the relationship to both be strong and to both continue keeping the world as a nice and safe place to live in. I think that, let's see what the elections bring in the United States, but I do think it is key to go back to that stability that we had. You know, in today's times it's difficult to understand what the new normal will be, and there's a lot of people talking about the new normal, hopefully being a better normal and different from the past. I'm also hoping that that is the case with regards to the U.S.-European Union relationships. I was starting off this conversation, Alex, by talking to you about the nice example that we had in Brussels with the European Union and the American Embassy to the European Union as a place for dialogue.

Jacopo Losso (31:44):
And I think that that's kind of productive EU-U.S. dialogue is something we all miss and want to see happening as soon as we can again. It's really important, then the world really needs a strong U.S. and EU, not just for the benefit of commercial operations and trade, that's just one thing, but what happened to all of the other problems we had before, COVID not to mention fighting COVID itself. We'd love to see more of this renew the lions also working on major challenges that we face as humanity. Some huge problems that we maybe tackle and work together on, fighting climate change, if I need to name it. But there's so many more other challenges that I think we need to start being again more in cooperation with our friends overseas on.

Jacopo Losso (32:59):
And I think that at least in the European Union, we're hoping to see change happening as a result of your recent elections. But I think that, Alex, great businesses that have a market will continue to flow back and forth across the Atlantic. I'm optimistic that hopefully we will not lose a lot of European companies and just have them relocate out of the EU. I'm hoping they can stay here, find a home always in Europe, but also attract money from outside of Europe to invest in these businesses that are here. And I'm pretty optimistic that investors don't let good opportunities go by regardless of maybe unstable political environments or unfavorable political environments, at least in Europe we're not at that level or in the U.S. we're not at the level yet where that is too much of a concern. So I'm still remaining positive that regardless of what happens in the elections, we will continue to see good, good relations between our two worlds and good businesses and money flying back and forth between continents. But let's say that if we can also have a little bit more of a staple political relationship, I think that would be just an extra booster to the work, that we respect and we tried to do.

Alex Romanovich (34:54):
I totally agree. I think this is extremely important for both continents and both ecosystems. Only because only five years ago where we were beginning to see a great growth in the cross-border transactions. We were just discussing. I remember you and I were talking about a first meeting in Brussels. We were talking about how do we encourage American and European investors to co-invest into American and European companies and collaborate. So this is extremely important. I think it's been a very interesting conversation. I would like for us to continue, maybe have a part two of this conversation. And what I'd like to discuss specifically in that part two of this conversation is more practical the type of information, the more practical steps in what can an entrepreneur in European Union do, what can American entrepreneurs do if they want to expand it to Europe and vice versa, what European entrepreneurs can do to expand into the United States and what practical steps they could take.

Alex Romanovich (36:07):
Obviously being involved with EBAN would be great step. But in what ways could they could they act? I am on the, for example, I'm on the latest kick, that basically says, look, we need to be more relevant right now. Now more than ever, we need to have products and services that are more relevant, the more relevant, they should be more relevant to the consumer, they're should be more relevant to the industry that entrepreneurs are servicing. And they need to be more helpful, more useful, and enough with the solutions that copy other solutions, enough of the CRM systems, enough of the platforms, enough of the marketing automation platforms. There's just so many out there. Let's talk about specific industry-based solutions in healthcare and logistics and transportation and automotive and space, something that can really be more relevant immediately and in short term to the folks who are the recipients of those services and products. So I would love to discuss those topics with you and get your perspective on European Union and what you're seeing and what your message and what your advice could be to those types of entrepreneurs.

Jacopo Losso (37:35):
Yeah, absolutely. I think you were quite hinting to it earlier that stop it enough with the repeat businesses or the businesses that are not really addressing any huge issues. One of the things we're starting to see a lot in Europe is this transition towards more impact, full impactful companies, more impact in general, addressing the so-called 17 social development goals of the United Nations. And this is really because there are so many huge problems out there to be solved that. As entrepreneurs, we can't let that opportunity go by. And obviously also as investors, we cannot let that opportunity go by. So I think the interesting thing is this transition and this shift that we're seeing being accelerated more and more in the past, in these recent years towards more impact. But coming back to your question, Europe is a fairly easy place to set up a business in.

Jacopo Losso (38:57):
Fortunately, many countries have a lot of incentives to get new companies started to be they tax incentives, be they grants to get your business started. We have an abundance of that here in Europe. There are certain geographies and markets where setting up a business takes almost a blink of an eye which are much, much more, let's say easy to get started in, but I would say just broadly speaking, generally speaking, incorporating here in Europe is quite doable even for a company that is not familiar with the local language or with the local laws and so on. I think we do pretty decent job there in making sure that if anyone wants to come to Europe, they have an easy time. And again, just being fairly broad and generic, and of course there are countries that do a much, much better job in countries that are a little bit less successful in welcoming new enterprises from abroad to their home country. the success of these grant programs and these incentive schemes is a good indicator of the ease of doing start a business here in Europe.

Jacopo Losso (40:39):
The challenge that I was mentioning is quite well-known. The fragmentation of our markets at some point ends up becoming an issue and the lack of capital, scale-up capital, can become an issue. But that's said I was mentioning before, we're starting to see a bit the light at the end of the tunnel here, when it comes to more money being available also thanks to the public investor getting involved in the matching private investors and basically doubling up every euro they put on the table. So that's a bit what I know about setting up a business here, the other way for European companies to go to the U.S. that has, I think, never been too much of an issue.

Jacopo Losso (41:42):
I think that the types of schemes that you have to incorporate make it fairly easy for a company that's coming from outside of the United States to have somewhat of a soft landing when they arrive. You are probably one of the most entrepreneurial countries, if not the most entrepreneurial country in the world where doing business is both easy thing to do as well as a very rewarding thing to do. And by rewarding, I mean that it ends up being quite rewarding also in terms of the kind of results one could have obtained by successfully doing a business in the United States. And just the market that you have is always very attractive for companies to service. But then there's a lot of other things that are playing into favor of the United States still being a great place to go to. But let's talk a lot more about that, I guess, in the next podcast.

Alex Romanovich (42:55):
Yeah. I would love to expand on this at the next session and especially include some of the more practical steps and some of them may be use cases and some of the success stories that we can prepare as well. In the meantime, I want to thank you very much for participating with us. I think it's a great idea to introduce people like yourself to the entrepreneurship community worldwide. You know, my goal in general is to open as many resources, as much information as possible to the global community that we can learn together, we can share, we can really be partners and collaborators in growing and helping the community thrive all throughout the world. So I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for participating, for doing what you're doing. I think EBAN is an amazing organization. We will be posting some information about EBAN and yourself on the podcast landing page. And once again, thank you so much. And I'm hoping to see you soon in 2021 when the pandemic is over or somewhat over. And we can finally go to really nice Italian place, the one you took me to at Brussels and enjoy a really great meal,

Jacopo Losso (44:28):
Listen Alex, thanks so much for having me, it's been really a pleasure to chat with you and next time you come to Brussels, we go for a nice Belgium beer and some French fries just to keep it, just to show you something new. But I really hope we can get to see each other again and hang out a bit, be it in the U.S. or in Europe I hope that comes quite soon. Thanks again for having me and this interview.

Alex Romanovich (45:01):
Thank you so much. Until we meet again.


From Italy to Florida, USA
Transition to Marketing & Sales
Entrepreneurship in Europe
Industry-Based Innovation
Creating more relevant solutions