Starting from a good and revolutionary idea, an idea of lifestyle change, absolute innovation, never copy something that already exists.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Iervolino.
Andrea Iervolino is an award-winning movie producer and businessman whose passion for cinema led him to producing films starting at the age of 15! Since then, the now 33 year old Iervolino, has produced and distributed over 65 films, making him one of the most active and accomplished film executives in the world. Alongside Monika Bacardi, Iervolino has co-founded several entertainment ventures, including the highly successful AMBI Media Group. Through AMBI, Andrea has emerged as an industry leader and is dedicated to making and delivering high-end, commercial movies for global audiences. In 2015, he was named one of Variety’s dealmakers to watch. Iervolino is currently one of the youngest and most highly regarded Italian entrepreneurs in the world of filmmaking. At the 71st Venice Film Festival, alongside Al Pacino and Barry Levinson, Iervolino garnered the Best Producer Award.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was born in Cassino, Italy. As a child, I had a stutter and was frequently bullied. Despite my teacher’s recommendations, my mother blocked the transfer to a school for disabled children because she believes my stammer was triggered by the shock of my father’s descent into alcoholism following the family’s financial hardship.
At 13, I decided to create something new and I launched a small tech business selling websites with my friends to local entrepreneurs in Cassino, where it was unusual to use the Internet for advertising. I decided to leave left home at the age of fifteen to work as a producer’s assistant in the resort town of Bibione, Italy. This was an amazing experience for me. It was the first time I felt completely appreciated for my qualities.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My work as a producer’s assistant was my first challenge and from that moment I started thinking about films and productions. I returned to my hometown to produce my first film which was financed (by going door-to-door asking for sponsorship). A year later, I produced my first film The Cavalier of Love (2003). After failing to distribute it in local cinemas, I invented Cineschool Day. This strategy involved adding films into Cassino schools’ curriculums giving students the opportunity to go to watch the films during the daytime at a reduced price. While in Italy, I met Luciano Martino who became my mentor and business partner before he passed away in 2013. Together, we co-produced several films. Following the launch of AMBI Media Group in 2013, Monika Bacardi and I went on to launch AMBI Distribution in Beverly Hills, and AIC Studios in Toronto.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
I wanted to get stronger and I wanted to start a process that allowed me to overcome my limits and realize all my dreams.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
The team and the innovation.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Spread goodwill and inspire people to improve themselves
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
- being honest and humble
- questioning myself and always thinking about the future
- creating an enterprise in which the team knows they can rely on me
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now follow?
Nothing is impossible, we can all achieve what we want by committing ourselves and always grasping the good of things.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I had a negative experience with my first business partner because I believed I could trust him but the reality was completely different.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
It is always necessary to do an analysis of the circumstances and create a new point of view and a new form of thought and execution on what existed and then make it become a new reality.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
In the world of doing, everyone has his own way of seeing things, and unpleasant things can happen. You can make mistakes but you learn from them. Naturally, you surround yourself with people with shared values and vision.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
It depends on the interests of the company, the only way to raise funds is to go to people you know and they can help you with the initial investment. You don’t have to go straight to professional investors because venture capital firms will wait for the company to take off before backing the Company.
You can also go to a bank for investing and financing that believes in you to take you to the Investors.
Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Starting from a good and revolutionary idea, an idea of lifestyle change, absolute innovation, never copy something that already exists.
- A team that believes in the project and supports it, a company is made by teamwork.
- Improve the service on a daily basis based on customer satisfaction.
- Think about daily improvement — never stop doing it.
- You need to be able to raise funds and partners.
To sum it up, starting from a good idea but with the ability to make it come true.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business?
Not being a visionary, not looking beyond what is possible.
What can be done to avoid those errors?
Being super visionary but humble and at the same time taking reality into account. Focus on goal and reach them. Find what is right for your path and change if necessary. Listen to others but protect themselves for external stress.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
There must be balance and everyone has to find their own way. Respect yourself and protect yourself from exceed of stress. Take time to be in contact with yourself, by praying, by meditating, by staying in nature, or by spending time with your family. Everyone has to find their own way of relaxation.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!