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Challenges Faced by Startups and How gener8tor Provides Support – Interview with Davide Dantonio

In part two of the series with Davide Dantonio, from gener8tor, Anna Bliss discusses the challenges startups face and how gener8tor provides support and resources to help them overcome these hurdles. They also explore the importance of mentors in the success of startups and touch on the significance of mental health in the entrepreneurial journey.

Anna Bliss: What challenges do you most of them face or what do you observe and how does gener8tor help them?

Davide Dantonio: So probably, first of all, I’ll start with the, and then we can dive deep on it. Like how gener8tor helps, I think this ecosystem that, that the company managed to build and that we are like every day trying to, to make even better and bigger in Indiana. It’s like the power of like all the perspectives mixed together and, and also like these ongoing support from, from our team at gener8tor, but also from the mentors that are really like being kind, showing up and sharing the questions or insights they have. And also like this final touch point with investors and the final pitch night is a, is a way to overcome these challenges that founders have and they’re very diverse. So it’s, it’s very cool that that could provide a pool of resources and then every founder will make the best use of them given their, given their specific needs.

About the common challenges, probably I would say one could be that you forgot about your story, so you have a product solution, something you offer, but sometimes because you are so much along path, you forget the starting point. So you forget me, you forget to tell why you build it. So what’s the knife that was twisting in your heart that made you not sleep the night that made you keep your brain active and brainstorm bodies idea. And so I can make like one example because make it like very broad because it’s kind of, we are work in progress, but there was a startup focusing on a marketplace that is connecting, let’s say an electrical product with a demand. New interview stage this seems a cool marketplace was well done. And so we said, okay, the founders for sure, they were a lot expert in that space. So we said, okay, we see the hidden potential, let’s, let’s, let’s have them with us. In one of the first meetings I asked them, okay, you have this marketplace, but what is the problem that you’re solving? Like what’s, what is the pain point that makes this marketplace key to exist and realize that these electric products that from a supply that we’re going to demand, the issue was that these electric products were were disposed of with 80% of their, at 80% of their life because they’re very sensitive product. The, some companies need to get rid of them at 80% of their, their life, but there was a demand that could reduce them in a more effective way. And so it’s of course the pillar of cratic economy. So someone get rid of something not useful anymore and someone else says, okay, but it’s, I mean for me it’s still usable and I can pay it at a lower price and I could also make the first company not dispose it and pay it, but get a profit from the product that they’re disposing.

And, and that’s a key case for, was a key case for me. Of course, now I’m saying it with very blurred terms. So it’s, it’s difficult to make understand exactly, which was the, the pain point, sorry, not which was main point, but in which space it applies, but it’s in that case, the knife was not twisted at all in the pitch deck. And then when we realized that that was the pain point, I said, wow, that’s the first thing to scream where you are in a, in a pitch session. Or for example there were like, there was a founder that was targeting a specific, was targeting let’s say young athletes, we can probably say it, he’s targeting young athletes and he was connecting them with the, with branded sponsors. And it was, it was not just a connection between these two parties, but the, the pain point was that these young athletes, especially in overlooked communities, they don’t have enough economic resources to get in front of sponsors. So he’s not just creating any way to make two parties connect, but it’s really supporting and holding the back of people of consumers that needs it. Like this young athlete needs this platform and around that then we will shape the whole revenue model reli basically all the costs from the athlete and putting on the other part of the marketplace. And I think once you also, you have cleared a pain point, then everything will create, will be easier to frame it from a revenue perspective, from a competition perspective also because you can understand your competi advantage compared to other players. Last thing, and I’m sorry if I’m talking.

Anna Bliss: No, keep going. 

Davide Dantonio: The the last thing I would like to say is that, and that’s something that we realize. For example, we have a a a monthly update. We ask our founders to share and also sometimes we help them with social media communication, the communic, that’s also my main side from this whole experience, the communication should completely change given the stakeholder that you’re talking to. So if it’s a customer, if it’s a mentor, if it’s an investor, for example, imagine you are a super tech company selling IOT sensors for data tracking into cars. So of course if you’re selling to a customer, probably you’re selling to the engineer of a company. So your selling pitch to them should be very complex. Maybe also try to understand the pain point of their technical issues. So you should make them, you should make the customer understand that you really know the space, that you are even more expert about this whole engineering space than they are. So you’re not just providing them a product, but also whole consult consulting expertise. But then reversely, when you talk with investors and we try to build an executive summary, two pages, very straightforward targeting the investors’ language. This complexity of the product should be extremely simplified because at the end investors, what is the investors looking for? Is it is looking for an effective communication from a quality perspective. Then it’s looking for clear KPIs that are showing from a quantity perspective where the company’s at and also the path and milestones for the future that is highlighted by your own goals, but also it’s highlighted by the market. And so the time summit some the, the competition and the comparables, so other companies who had an exit before in your space. So that’s why it’s important to understand what is exactly each party is looking.

Last, last example, like a mentor, like if there is a legal mentor and for example you have a, an IP issue and you have 15 minutes to have a conversation with a mentor at the end of your pitch deck, you should already, in my opinion, put down the question that you want the mentor to dive deeper in that 15 minute. And maybe in your pitch maybe you have three product lines, stress the product line where you have the IP issue, like make the conversation very intentional to the point that you want to ask. And probably last point, and that’s also something that discuss with friends and with family, ask people I, in interviews, I am more shocked in a positive way when a person ask me the right things even more than when they tell me the right things. Like the questions are very important. So focus on questions for me it’s key and core.

Anna Bliss: Yeah, no, you said a lot in there, which I think is awesome. But my key takeaway is you’re really like, know your audience for one so you know who you’re speaking to. And then I love asking questions. I think it’s great to be curious about things and be inquisitive, but also asking the right question because like you said, that can mean more than just telling someone the right thing, but asking the right questions that someone can show even more to your audience. So that’s awesome. That’s great that you guys are helping, you know, startups with all those different challenges and to be better. Now you’ve mentioned mentors a couple of times now. What role do the mentors play with gener8tor and how do they contribute to the success of the startup?

Davide Dantonio: So regarding the mentors, I, I think it’s for, for a, for a good acceleration program, the mentors are probably the most important part. Not only in terms of like how they go deeper, but also in terms of like how many different mentors you have. Because the variety of perspectives, it’s, it’s, it’s fundamental and that’s why we try to create this 50 minute touchpoint between, that is mainly an intro between founders and mentors. Because I mean, we are all humans. We are all humans. And so sometimes even if people are not in the same space, have different experiences, maybe they can see between themselves a connection that you would’ve not forecasted. I remember like one clear example that always makes me smile. I had a a actually a friend of mine more than a mentor that say you have a great sales expertise, great brand expertise, I think you should join our mentors worms and say, okay, I mean I never talk with startups but I do sales on a regular basis so I can give my insights for 15 minutes. And then she was talking with this founder who is pretty good at sales and the whole conversation I had was not on the expertise that I thought she could bring, but was about her past as an athlete. And so how this founder could access to the athlete community in Indiana or how could target better young athletes and serve them with the sponsorship issue that they are facing. And so you never know exactly which is the touch point to people. And and so that’s why it’s good to offer multiple connections. So then you can make individual explore each other. Of course we are giving some guidelines, I dunno, we say this, this mentor is expert in these things. And then we say to the mentor, okay, the founder is working on this. But then it’s, I I love the fact that we are very hands off. We, we let them talk 15 minutes and then we never know what can happen in the future,

Anna Bliss: What they’re That’s awesome. I love the connection piece that you guys have with the mentors. I think that that’s so important. I know one of the things that I love, so Steve, the CEO and founder of Intrepid, he has so many connections. Like, you know, we can get someone that calls in, they have this type of company, it’s like, or they have this type of issue and he’s like, oh, I know a guy for that. And so I think that that’s awesome to be able to like build those connections and have those resources for those early stage startups. ’cause they might not even know that there are people like that that exist or even that there are other people that can help them along with their story or offer a different perspective that they might not have heard of. So that’s great. 

Well, any other words of advice for startups or founders or entrepreneurs that you’d like to say Davide?

Davide Dantonio: The only thing that is a topic that it, it never, it’s never kind of touched and probably, I, I heard it in a, I heard it back in a recent event that there was in, in Chicago and it’s something that like, actually there is a focus from gener8tor about this topic a lot. And I, I like to stand by it actually. There is also a book that I have next to me that talks about the intersection between entrepreneurship and mental health. It’s, I think the business side, it’s the layer that everyone is considering, but I think it’s the tip of the iceberg. I think the whole mass of, of the iceberg, the whole mass of ice is that you need to manage your personal emotional self. You need to manage the relationship that are around you with your co-founders, but also with your family, children, partner. I think it’s much more than a business experience. I went, like, I went through it very briefly and because of my an expertise, because of my lack of connections, because of my young hood, I immediately capsized from, and I was a failure from all these perspectives, like relationship with myself, relationship with others personally as a team from being’s perspective. Like I did all these mistakes and, and so not only I am admiring these founders, but I really believe that they should admire themselves because they’re doing something much bigger than just reasoning about how to solve a problem via a solution. They are, they are doing something unforgettable. Like, I spend like six months trying to be a founder. Like it’s like probably six months. I will always remember in my life. And I can imagine like people have a much longer journey and also people that, for example, I mean it’s never, it’s always a good time. But on the other side, it’s never a good time to become a founder in a sense that like you could be a corporate executive. You have your family, you have your career. So why would you start to kind of, to step down from your path, managing 50 people, 60 people, and in a huge corporation with all the perks and benefit and managing something, trying to get from scratch what you’re managing, trying to get from scratch. Something super small that nobody at the beginning stage caress about. 

Anna Bliss: I Love that. I think mental health is so important and especially to talk about with entrepreneurs and founders because, you know, you have to have that support system and also the support of yourself and the belief in yourself, you know, to make sure you are able to go on your journey. 

Thank you so much Davide.

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