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Tobia: After a Master, an Offline Startup

FREE FUTOOL IS THE FIRST BRANDED NOTEBOOK FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS IN ITALY: STUDENTS USE IT AND COMPANIES PAY FOR IT

A free notebook for university students: this is the idea that the four young founders of FreeFuTool had, a notebook which will be distributed all week to Bocconi students at the lion entrance of Via Sarfatti 25. "Our idea," explains Tobia Lorenzani, a former student of the Master in Marketing and Communication at Bocconi (MIMEC), "is a mix between an unconventional marketing campaign and a traditional communication campaign. We could define it as a third option," he continues, "in which the exchange between the producer and the consumer is financed by a third party, the advertiser." It is indeed the brands who are paying for the notebook: for around 8,000 euros per ad, they can buy the opportunity to create ad hoc communication campaigns for a very defined target.

Founders of Free FuTool with product
Pictured starting from top left, clockwise:
Paolo Trombetta, Jacopo Sterlocchi, Tobia Lorenzani and Federico Bini

According to its founders, the project has already received a respectable reception: "During the first 3 days," says Tobia, "we distributed more than 11,000 notebooks and our Facebook page already has 700 fans." Student feedback seems encouraging: "Even students who didn't want one the first time they walked past came back and asked for one because all the other students in class had one." Can Free FuTool become a trend that fast? "Sure, this is the real challenge," says the former MIMEC student. "We're focusing on design to transform our product into an aspirational product." Jacopo Sterlocchi is the expert designer from the Nuova Accademia di Bella Arti (NABA) in Milan, while Paolo Trombetta has a Master in Management from ESCP Europe and Federico Bini took a break from his engineering program to start working in trading. The idea the four friends had began for fun: they worked together in a daily brainstorming session to test their creativity and imagined life as entrepreneurs. "One day we got an idea that seemed like a good one, because it was the perfect combination of creative inspiration and practicability." So, with an initial investment of 50,000 euros, the four friends created the first edition of Free FuTool, with a press run of 50,000 copies. After launching it in Genoa, starting today and through Friday 12 October, it will be distributed in Milan and then in Turin form 10 to 16 October.

Four pages of the notebook are dedicated to recurring columns: in the first edition, there is a section on the Green Economy written by Stefano Pogutz, exiting Director of the Master in Green Management, Energy and Corporate Social Responsibility at Bocconi. The last twenty pages, however, have full-page inserts reserved to local brands and initiatives, including some promotional coupons. "For Milan," says Tobia, "we have a partnership with Club Haus, the famous group that organizes '80s nights."

"Being a part of the Master I attended at Bocconi was essential for the launch of Free FuTool," says Tobia: "Luca Visconti, a manager of MIMEC, has been following the project since its beginnings, giving me advice that was crucial. Even Laura Torresani and Professors Stefano Pace and Francesca Golfetto, Program Directors of MIMEC, supported me during each step of the startup."

In the notebook's colophon, it says, "Why not?" This is Tobia's and his partners' way of encouraging others to start new endeavors, and to test out new ideas, especially during a critical time like now. This is partly why it's called Free FuTool: in Italian it sounds a bit like "free future," because it represents a possible alternative, a future in which we are our own masters. The next two issues are scheduled for December, during the exam periods, and March, when the spring semester begins.



by Laura Fumagalli
Translated by Jenna Walker


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