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GBA | 19 November 2019

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GBA Ready Set Startup started up! - GBA

GBA Ready Set Startup started up!

Galata Business Angels’ new training & workshop series GBA Ready Set Startup has started with the first training event on February 22. This series aims to inform entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, finance, sales, networking and strategy where they need to know the basics to start up.

Our first guest was Nazareno Mario Ciccarello from IE Business School. He started his career in Italian army and worked for companies in biotechnology, medicine and medical equipment sectors. Besides his corporate career he travelled to more than 50 countries and find peace in entrepreneurship.

Ciccarello shared his life and entrepreneurship experiences with entrepreneurs. Here is a short interview we made with Ciccarello after the lecture.


Your working career started in the military, being a lieutenant of the Italian military police. After having worked for different multinational companies in HR, Marketing and International business development roles in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sector. What was the triggering factor for you to become an entrepreneur?

I must admit that I am surely not one of those “brave entrepreneurs” who would sell his house to start his own venture. One of triggering factors was surely the economic crisis and my low opportunity cost. After I got my MBA degrees I believe I gained the additional skills that allowed me to set up my own venture. The fact that I found a job as a freelance consultant allowed me to be more flexible in managing my working hours and together with the great support of the other founders we were able to make a dream come true.

What is your gain from different corporate experiences? How these affect your startup?

I had the luck of working for different companies from worldwide well know multinational corporations, to smaller ones. You will always have internal and external customers and you will always depend on them. Your business is like a rowing boat and you are one of the rowers; you have to adapt to the pace of the others to let the boat move ahead or motivate the other rowers in order to reach the desired destination at the highest possible speed. It is very much the same in your own start up.

You have been a professional athlete for more than 20 years and you travelled the world over 50 countries. How do you manage your time? What are the keys for work-life balance? How did the activities and travelling affect your business life?

Life is a matter of priorities and it is very much up to you to set your work/personal life balance. I have had much longer working days as an entrepreneur than as a corporate professional but the drive and the motivation are completely different when you have decided that you want to pursue the dream of a life time.

Was Drive Gum your first startup? What was your decision-making process? Does your corporate life have an effect in this process?

No actually Drive Gum was not my first start-up, I have failed with two other Startups, an on-line community for wine lovers and a dairy products import business in Spain. I learned a lot from those failures and I am trying not to repeat the same mistakes. 

From the ideation of Drive gum to the company set-up, it took me almost 2 years between product development, regulatory issues and team set-up. Team set-up was my first priority since I knew I was lacking of specific competences. Once the team set-up was complete, we divided each task and set up a clear path with well identified priorities. I was able to get such mind-set thanks to my experience into the corporate world that was mixed with flexibility and adaptability that you must have due to small financial means while setting up your own start up.

What was your biggest failure? How did you overcome it?

My biggest one and actually, what I call my fantastic failure, was a social media platform that aimed to connect wine lovers, wine producers, distributors, wholesalers, restaurants and supermarkets. As said before I have learned really a lot. It is not about innovation but it is way more about execution and in order to properly do that, you need to find equally committed founders, be committed and get commitment.

Sharing values and transparency are fundamental elements in a start-up. It was a sad day when I decided to give up; you must understand what the difference between being persistent and being stubborn is. It simply didn’t work out.

What was the milestone to make this mind shift from a corporate identity to an entrepreneur? What would be your advice to corporates and new graduates?

My advice is to gradually switch from the corporate identity to the entrepreneurial one. Validate, validate, validate this is the key to understand the viability of your business. Before having gained a solid base of information through an MVP I would be prudent in making from the corporate world and become a full time entrepreneur.

You define corporate path as easy one. Can we say that entrepreneurship is the difficult one? How would you describe these two paths and how would the latter easier than the first one? Can you tell us any further?

What I am trying to say is that the corporate path is likely to give you more certainties. Monthly pay check, company benefits, paid holidays….. It is surely a somehow more comfortable life even if it can be quite stressful.  The main difference between the two paths is who owns your time. When you are an entrepreneur you own your time so it is mostly up to you how to organize your working days and your daily activities. If you are a very demanding person this can be a two hedge sword, so I would recommend being wise on that.

How can people be sure that they really want to be an entrepreneur? Is it an itch, a gut feeling or a mindset? What would you say?

In my personal opinion it is a mind-set but you have to be capable of catching the opportunities; that’s to say that the mind-set is not enough. I have met several experienced corporate professional which had an entrepreneurial mind-set but never had the chance, the luck, the will, the bravery of venture in the entrepreneurial world. It is amazing and there are lots of pros and cons and before doing the move I do recommend to analyse them well.

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