Adriano Farano, at the age of 35 is the owner of a 4 M $ startup business. He started to earn money from an idea that he had had ever since he was a child. In a dynamic market such as the one of startups, he managed to gather all the important news feeds on an app, used for the newest devices on the market.
1. How does Watchup approach gathering the latest news and presenting it to the readers?
As the latest attacks in Paris show, we have access to a plethora of information, but it’s often very difficult to understand what’s really happening and why. At Watchup, we believe it is important to have a variety of viewpointsin order to have a well-rounded perspective. We try to offer access to a wide array of perspectives, without getting bogged down in the immensity of the web.
2. How did the idea for Watchup come about and what is the vision behind the idea?
In 1989, I was nine years old. Yet, I still remember watching my first ever newscast. It was about the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In that moment I realized the power of video journalism. The next day at school I discovered that none of my schoolmates had heard the news. Back home I took some sheets of paper and I started scribbling a newspaper. I produced at least 5 issues with some friends of mine. When the teacher discovered that we were selling it, she banned the publication. In the US I would have gotten a medal!
Fast forward to 2012: after a year as entrepreneur in residence at Stanford University’s StartX accelerator, I decided to go back to my initial passion for video journalism and start Watchup. My vision is that we are entering a post traditional TV era where multi-channel, personalized newscasts will be the new normal.
3. How do you go about marketing your business?
Our mission as a startup is essential to understanding our marketing strategy.We always try to catch people’s attention using current events. We schedule social media campaigns -on Twitter and Facebook for example- using the best news from all over the world, offering new angles. People have to feel that you are satisfying their needs of being informed: this is why we decided to put people into the stories.
4. What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Some of our best results come from Store features in which we are able to achieve great visibility. If you are working on an app, it’s very important to receive feedback and advice from the marketing department of all platforms.
What I’d like to emphasize is that it’s very important to stay in contact with people. We usually have personal interviews with our users in order to establish a personal relationship and to better understand what they are expecting to see in the app.
5. What advice can you give to European entrepreneurs interested in raising funds in the US?
Many people believe that Silicon Valley is a sort of El Dorado for those who want to grow their startups, it is actually the most competitive place in the world. We are talking about an ecosystem where there are no walls between those who do, those who think and those who put up the money. There are times and places where inventors, researchers and investors meet and make the production process very easy. But it ‘s a two-sided coin: on one side it’s the best area in the world in terms of access to capital investment, on the other hand it’s very hard to get in. 290 of 300 entrepreneurs do not make it , but then often reach success with another idea.
One thing leads into another, that’s what I love of Silicon Valley. People here are used to saying “ideas are cheap”: what matters most is execution. Someone has something in mind, shares their project, and asks feedback. Everyone here shares a motto: “get out of the building.” Exit the office and talk to people to see what they think of your product.
You have to dare, sometimes you need luck and a bit of chutzpah. I will never forget when the former editor of the Wall Street Journal Gordon Crovitz, one of our first investors, told me “If you left the Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful places in the world to do a startup here it’s because you really believe in it. I’m in”.
6. What are the main differences and similarities between raising funds in Europe vs. raising in the US”?
If I had not left Italy I honestly do not think I would have ever made it. Bureaucracy, lack of meritocracy could still be the major obstacles. European countries should invest more in young people and young ideas. Of course there are many places better than Italy in the Old continent for that. But I’d like to say that the most important attitude for an entrepreneur is perseverance.Never give up on your ideas.
7. Getting more specific — what is, in your opinion, the added value that a city like Cluj-Napoca can provide to tech startups?
In Cluj-Napoca I found great young people with extraordinary skills. This city is one of the hottest tech hubs in Europe and we decided to be there to work with the best. The tech field is constantly changing and I’m sure this city will be a reference point more and more. We have also found people who are thirsty and constantly looking into new technologies, who understand why we use, for instance, node.js, MongoDB or Docker.
8. As an entrepreneur, what is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A good entrepreneur has no fears. The most important thing is to be surrounded by a reliable and competent team. I’m quite sure that in order to achieve, you have to catch the moment without being afraid. It’s right to be wise but you have to be sure that you won’t have regrets.
9. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
It’s essential to experiment and fail, because this is the only way to get to smart solutions. I made a lot of mistakes but thanks to those mistakes I am where I am now. I sometimes hired the wrong people, chose the wrong strategies and projects but this is the best way to understand what is best for your company as long as you do that as fast as possible.
10. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I graduated in Political Science and I’m a former journalist. My motto is Ad Maiora. We must always rise up to new challenges and try to overcome our limitations. When I won the Knight fellowship at Stanford University, I decided to dive into a new adventure. You must always be yourself, but at the same time you must know when it’s time to put yourself in a new game.
11. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Some individuals really inspire me, but I think it’s correct to say that the world, people inspire me. Best ideas, best projects could be in everyone. This is why I love to listen people, learn from their experience. Watchup wants to be my modest contribution to the growth of new awareness: I’d want to instill a spark of creativity in those who want to open their perspectives and their horizons. “Watch smart”, as we say.