Paolo Meola, a startupper who was able to receive financing using crowdfundingHE GRADUATED FROM THE MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SCIENCES AND NOW STUDIES AT BERKELEY, WHERE HE HAS BEEN AWARDED A FULLBRIGHT BEST. HE ALSO SUPPORTS HIMSELF THROUGH CROWDFUNDING AND HAS CREATED A STARTUP TO MAKE LIFE EASIER WITH BUSINESS CARDS
"When I have an idea, I don't simply think about how it can be achieved, I think about how it can be transformed into a startup, an innovative company." This sentence sums up Paolo Meola's entire entrepreneurial spirit and worldview, in which reality is not just a sequence of facts, but rather a set of potential opportunities. Paolo is a young startupper, a co-founder of the vubi.co platform, which creates business cards, but is still under development. He graduated from a Bocconi Master of Science in Economic and Social Sciences in 2012 and has been studying Management and Business in Berkeley, California, near Silicon Valley, since January. He is studying there thanks to a scholarship and supports himself in part using crowdfunding.
Before he went to Berkeley, Paolo was born in Genoa in 1987 and completed a Bachelor degree there, then came to Bocconi for his Master of Science. At Bocconi he earned a Merit Award scholarship for outstanding students and lived at the Collegio di Milano. He graduated in March 2012 with a thesis on macroeconomics, won the Fullbright Best scholarship dedicated to entrepreneurial education at US universities, and then left for the US. The academic curriculum is well-renowned but his true aspirations are pursued during his private life. He's still a student, but he has started working in the Startupbusiness network. "It's one of the most important links between startups and investors, and it's a network that helps startuppers through evaluating business ideas and mentoring, defining plans and how to introduce yourself to those who decide to invest," says Paolo.
When he graduated, Paolo Meola already had a year of experience working with startups, "which certainly gave me a big advantage." This experience, in addition to another job as a web developer, led him to find out about the Fullbright Best scholarship and he would decide to give himself a challenge by adding a postgraduate, entrepreneurial-focused education to his on-the-job experience. He first wants to launch his idea with a Bocconi classmate and other friends from the Collegio di Milano. The idea is simple, but effective. Paolo explains it like this: "Right after graduation, I thought about making business cards for myself. That's how I got the idea: why not make them digital and exchange cards through your smartphone?" No business cards to carry around, and no need to worry about forgetting them (as long as you don't forget your phone). Everything works through a platform, vubi.co, and using QR codes. You can create your own business card on vubi.co and that's it: an electronic version of your card is always in your pocket and, by using your QR code that it's linked with, it can be shared immediately and saved on other people's phones (as long as they have an app to read the QR code).
"At the moment, we're still building the system, the platform is still in beta version, but we have 1,000 users and several companies are interested, who could save money on business cards by printing the QR code directly on their company ID cards."
Over recent months, because he was getting ready to leave, Paolo had another idea. Because his Fullbright Best scholarship would cover mostly the study program, but not accommodation at Berkeley, he found a solution: crowdfunding, or asking people on the internet to support him economically through micro-donations. To do so, he created another platform, Startmylifeup, where Paolo explains what he would like to do. "So far I've raised 6,000 euros, which allows me to pay for housing here at Berkeley. I think I'm one of the first people who had the idea to use crowdfunding on myself." The young Bocconi grad also has plans to develop this platform for others. "I would like it to become a startup to provide financial support to outstanding students who would like to study in the US. Because the system is very different in the States. Here, a student knows he or she has to take out loans to attend university. In Europe we're not used to thinking about it like that."
For now he has been attending classes for three days and he has noticed differences in teaching too: "One Company Organization professor is a former marine. We spent entire hours blowing up balloons and hitting them at each other trying to make sure they didn't touch the ground." Was it a joke? "No, it was a teambuilding activity to teach collaboration." It may be an unusual method, but it was certainly interesting for people like Paolo who thinks outside the box of his life.
by Andrea Celauro
Translated by Jenna Walker