My story is a serendipitous one. I am a curious observer, networker and architect. I have always loved to travel and get surprised by people and things. What I am in this moment is a mix of my professional background (architecture degree), my personal attitude (curiosity and openness to people) and love to explore the world. I started to travel around the world when I was 12 years old. I started going to UK for 4 weeks for an english summer course. From that moment I am still on the way. I studied (Australia/Perth and Chile/Santiago), and worked abroad too (China/Shanghai and UK/London). In 2005 when I finished university I won a grant to be part of Unidee / University of Ideas at Cittadellarte / Fondazione Pistoletto in Italy / Biella. Working on ideas and creative projects about responsible change in society. It last 4 months then I got the opportunity to work with the “Maestro” Michelangelo Pistoletto. But I was still on my way to understand what I wanted to do and I gave space to my “architectural” part and for some years I worked at international firms. I found myself too much limited inside these environments. No space to express myself, too many boundaries toward possible ideas. With the big economic crises of 2008 I was made redounded twice in one year and I decided to start to work on my ideas with no limits. While running a project for a private client, I was looking for some information on Worldchanging and came across the idea of The Hub as a different kind of co-working place. They were opening a space in Milan and I wrote them. They invited me to be part of the process of the co-design and that gave me the opportunity to share, learn and experiment new ideas on how design a collaborative environments. Going through different co-design projects, like the Hub Rovereto, The Hub San Francisco and The Hub Oaxaca, I understand that they are long term processes and no one can teach you how to design them, you must learn by doing. That’s really about my attitude! The co-design method requires a mixed and participatory approach involving people from different fields. This approach acknowledges complexity and seeks not to simplify process and outcome but to explore the set of unpredictable and surprising ideas that emerge from combining different ideas and points of view. Furniture and space design plays a critical role in determining how people behave and can have a hugely positive effect on encouraging collaboration and serendipity. Space can be a tool to fuel the creative process by encouraging and discouraging specific behaviors/actions and by creating venues for emotional expression and physical negotiation. The space can be designed to build excitement and inspire creativity in work people. And through this process, businesses can get inspired, connect and evolve. Living in San Francisco I started my own blog where I visited various companies the wrote about their collaborative environments and now I would like to start to visit European companies and social innovation spaces in order to help them to develop their workplaces. Working between entrepreneurs stimulated my creativity towards creating my own projects. I matched my love for outdoor activities and food and I started a catering project that use vegetables grown and harvested by my father in our vegetable garden and prepared by my mum. A sustainable project that works with the nature. And in these days I am working on a new project about co-working surrounded in nature that I want to start in south Italy and spread around the world. I still do not know “where” I am going, but I fully believe in what I am doing, I follow my guts, gotten inspired by people and the world around me. I have no security at all but share has become the base of my life and everyday I learn infinite things. Awesome! My first big question at the moment is “Would you like to go into the nature and work from there? What kind of service do you think you would need and why?”. Second big question…"which company would you suggest me to go visiting because of its collaborative attitude? Or which company do you think they would need to become more collaborative in order to implement their success (that doesn’t mean only from the economic point of view!). Waiting for your suggestions!
Welcome to Edgeryders. I really enjoyed your story about co-design, getting closer to nature, being inspired by people and most importantly following your guts.
It takes courage to listen to intuition and follow its path.
Following my intuition has always taken me to the right place at the right moment. However, sometimes the mind does not understand why it takes stranges paths… «Caminante, no hay camino,/se hace camino al andar.»
Encouraging collaboration and serendipity through space and furniture is really interesting! I’m curious to find out how it works. In design systems we use and in our attitude towards these systems, I often see that our use is either perhaps less cosmopolitan and more isolated than we'd like. “I am less interested in how we limit our territory in the city by the way we constrain our actions” (Ethan Zuckerman).
SPACE + PEOPLE
Ciao Lyne, thanks for your welcoming message!
There is a very good book by Werner Herzog “Vom Gehen im Eis” (“Sentieri nel ghiaccio” in italian) that is really inspiring about the issue «Caminante, no hay camino,/se hace camino al andar.»
I wrote a text about collaborative workspace on Shareable that you can read here!
Then I also want to add that without the partecipation of the people nothing is COLLABORATIVE! We need people to make it real!
Andrea, thank you for your insight and passion, as always.
One more question about your transition story: what role did your family play, especially financially? You see, I had this idea some time ago when I heard that so many creative young entrepreneurs like yourself (and myself!) find it impossible to get financial support and start-up capital from conventional funders - like VCs or banks - and turn to family and friends to fund their ventures. This was certainly my case at the Hub - no one in Milan gave me a penny to start this social enterprise, and only gave us bank accounts when we underwrote them with personal savings. That’s when my mum stepped forth and funded the start-up of the Hub. So I thought: since this seems to be the story of so many entrepreneurs, why isn’t the policy world taking more notice of this and rewarding parents that invest in the future by funding their children’s ventures?
What do you think?
Andrea, Alberto, does it exist, in your country, a government service helping entrepreneurs to create their businesses? We have something here called ‘Innovation and economic development’ - IDÉ (Innovation et développement économique). Well, in theory, this service is supposed to help people carry on with their business projects. http://www.idetr.com/fr/services-aux-entrepreneurs/vous-desirez/demarrer-votre-entreprise/index.aspx
I applied there, and they told me that ‘I am too good, and they had no clue how to manage me’. I protested. I said, 'What kind of criteria is that? Please show me your set of criterias, I want to see where it’s written in your guidelines that you refuse people on the basis of being ‘too good’. So they reformulated their answer, and told me that my projet ‘does not meet entrepreneur criteria’.
This program offers up to $25,000 grant to start-up social businesses, along technical services and help to produce a business plan within a 3-month span.
Support to start-ups
Well Lyne, the answer is yes and no. Yes, there are places where you can go in Italy to seek support as a start-up, from the Chamber of Commerce to specific business incubators, but the truth is that most are really difficult to access and in the end offer little real support. Funding for start-ups is really non-existent, and this is a problem not just in the social entrepreneurship sector, but in the entrepreneurship sector at large. I thought this was a specific Italian problem, but in fact it’s very common in the seed-funding world. What is different in Italy, where so many enterprises are family-run, is that the FFF phase (family, friends, fools that fund your venture) goes beyond seed stage and into full-blown start-up and early stage funding.
In their official discourse, the European Commission seems to be working on a framework for social investment funds… I’m guessing this is not new, but is it bringing hope?
“ “The money is there, but people have to trust that they are putting their money into a good investment,” said Nadia Calviño, deputy director-general for the internal market at the European Commission, stressing the need of clear indicators to evaluate the social output of social enterprises.
Traditionally supported by public money, there is a risk that social enterprises will see their means collapse as public budgets are under strain, said Sergio Arzeni, director of the OECD Centre for Entrepreneuship, SMEs and Local Development. He insisted that easing access to finance would result in more jobs and growth in the social economy.
But access to funding also calls for a simplification of processes, Arzeni added.
Cutting red tape […]
Throwing bridges to young workers. Social businesses could also be a tool to respond to growing youth unemployment "
Finally I am back!
So in regards to what Alberto asked. what role did your family play, especially financially?
Let’s start to say that my parents helped me but I always found my ways to experiment and take my path.
I won different grants during university, then I accepted always some roles that could give me the necessary to live or when I decided to start my freelance life i worked as a waiter during night time or week end. I found a way to continue to do what I really wanted to do. I think there are many opportunities to get some funds but the truth is that you need specific people that works on that, I don’t have the time to fund money. Even, now, i am starting to get a person (she is part of the team) and she will help me on that. A friend of mine last night sent me this link, it looks interesting! http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eco-innovation/getting-funds/index_en.htm
At the moment I am working on different coworking projects (with a co-designer role), and I invest the money I earn into my collaborative space project in natural setting! I am in Matera and I decided to get a bigger flat in order to host different freelancers so i will share my house with others and it will become a collaborative environment where person can meet, share, collaborate and create new projects. For the moment I am still investing on that. In the future we will see. I think it’s important to start…
We should look into this
Andrea, you seem posed to become an extreme sharer! Also, your story is twice as interesting because now you have moved to a rather peripheral part of Europe. Make sure you tell us more about your shared life, we have a Living together campaign where it would be really perfect.
opening soon in MATERA!
I will take the flat from the middle of may and I will keep you informed! Of course I will share the experience and wait for you in this amazing town, Matera.
Brainstorming and funding
“Rewarding parents that invest in the future by funding their children’s ventures?”
It is an interesting suggestion. Like “The Unconditional Investors”! That sounds like something that could be further developed…
I recently was thinking about this topic too since I just came back from a bootcamp in Lisbon about Silicon Valley and how the dynamics work there. Of course it’s an easy task for Venture Capital there when the ecosystem is highly optimal (multicultural, multidisciplinary, 30% between 25 and 44 years old, and above all a big risk-taking mind-set!). That explains why over 40% of VC in all US is from Silicon Valley in 2011.
At the bootcamp we also had the opportunity to receive insights from directors of VCs. You know what they said? “We are FULL of (European) money that we want to spend on start ups but the problems is they aren’t ready”. Lack of team motivation? skills? credibility? - In my opinion it’s definitely an cultural issue around the notion of risk.
The problem is definitely what you mentioned above: a huge gap between the idea and the start up aka between unexisting seed money and VCs.
This is interesting: the CEO of Shareable is also on Edgeryders. His story is here.
Almost too effortless…
Andrea, if I understand correctly it works like this: through following your guts - and exposing yourself to a lot of chance meeting by wandering around a lot - you have become an architect specializing in spaces for creative workplaces. You seem to have detected a trend for more and more people to work out of unconventional places rather than the traditional office cubibles (will working in nature by next?) and you are positioning yourself to service these needs.
Great, but it can’t have been that easy. Many young architects slave away as unpaid interns in some senior professional’s studio for years. What did you do to avoid this fate? How did you persuade your obviously enlightened clients to pay for the unusual kind of work that you do? What were the enabling factors of such a story (you mention your family, for example)?
I have to say that it wasn’t easy to move from big firm to something that was still “nothing” or let’s say “on the way”. And It is still difficult now to move things on. It is difficult to find enlightened clients, expecially in a crisis moment, when the avarage answers are “this is not the right moment to invest on that” or “we don’t have money”. Most of the people are scared and they just continue to do the same things, or they get paralyzed. They don’t try to innovate. I am lucky. I have a very positive attitude and I always try to find the way, the solution. I think there are not problems but just different possible solutions. I hate to complain. I try to make things happen. When I finished to work in big firms I worked as waiter for catering services and at the same time I started to explore the adventure inside The Hub with the new collaborative and partecipatory approach. Working as waiter helped to pay my rent and gave the possibility to invest the rest of the time on something that I thought it was the right way for me. Working as waiter it gave me also flexibility because I could work during night time or week ends without interrupt my experience during the rest of the day. Expecially because working with space and people requires full attention, observation and constant listening! Working as waiter gave me the opportunity to notice that they were selling very bad food and a service not sustainable at all. So I suggested to the company to design a new systemic approach of the entire chain. But they answered me that they were a start up and it wasn’t the right economic time. In that moment i decided that I couldn’t work anymore for someone I wasn’t sharing some very important values with. I put together my own family creativities and we enjoyed a lot starting a very small business made in the way we really believe in. And we spread around our passion with small success (not only economic…you have to see people faces when they put in their mouth my mum’s parmigiana!). At the same time I was running a project, creating a eco-hostel on the mountains but I gave up when for economic reasons I heard to say that the client chose me just because I was young, with no experience and so cheap! That was really a pity and it hurted me a lot beacuse of the efforts and passion I put on the project. But it gave me the idea and the strengh to evolve it and it has been becoming the new idea of taking people working in the nature. It is difficult to meet people that want to invest on young architect like me, with many ideas and innovative approach. They are scared. I have worked on many different projects satisfying clients needs investing my own money. Can you believe that I still have some money (very small amount now) that I saved when I was working in London? I was working there from 9am to 5 pm from monday to friday with a lot of free time but no satisfaction at all, without sharing values with the office. When they made me redounded it was one of the luckiest moment of my life even if it gave me a feeling of insecurity ( I was earning a lot of money …for my normal standard). Now I am running my ideas, using all my energy, trying to transform ideas in reality, in order to help people connecting, collaborating and creating something that can be shared for the whole. That’s my life now. And I really hope to find on the way, very soon, people that want to invest and help me develop part of this path. Shared experiences are easier and with more meaning! Let’s make it real!
Ciao Andrea, great story!
I want to ask you a quick question: would you be willling to work for a small business, great environment, medium pay, in which you could work on your projects? in another sense, merge yourself with the company in order (for both) to deliver more services?
Who knows… Andrea, I might require your services in the future on two projects I’m currently working on (but still are long shots):
stimulation of an interior rural region of Portugal through many different iniciatives, and
the creation of a social incubator in Lisbon. Your valuable experience can make the most out of our future given space.
Thanks for your comment!
I have just moved to Matera, a small town in Basilicata(southern Italy).
All my life is about sharing, connecting and create the unexpected!
I would love to merge / share / collaborate with other companies.
Your ideas sound very good!
Please keep me updated and contact me.
All the best