How a Move From Italy to San Francisco Will Help Startup Map2App Succeed

Originally based in Florence, Italy, Pietro Ferraris decided to move his startup to San Francisco to ensure its growth and success.  Thanks to his experience at his first startup, Noody, his new startup, map2app, is poised to break through – especially since it is targeting such an important niche.  As a browser-based platform, it makes creating and distributing mobile travel guides quick and easy.

The idea is pretty simple – and pretty awesome: It’s like WordPress for mobile travel guides. You can create points of interests through their web platform or mobile app, “PlaceGrabber.”  Group these various places into categories, customize the look and feel of the app, and create a professional travel guide that you can sell.

Ferraris shared background on map2app, the startup scene in Italy, and what mistakes he made at his first startup that he won’t repeat this time around:

Tech Cocktail: Where’d the idea for map2app come from?

Pietro Ferraris: Like many people, when I travel I like to have an app on my smartphone that helps me to discover new places and know more about the area I am visiting. Unfortunately we soon realized that many great locations, people and companies who own great local content do not have a mobile presence.

Nevertheless, on the web there is plenty of content about (almost) any location in the world: the are millions of travel bloggers posting every day about amazing places, there are travel portals, there are the official web sites of public administrations…. Moreover, mobile travel guides need to be mostly offline since when people are traveling out of their country, they do not have mobile service.

Tech Cocktail: There is a huge sea of travel bloggers out there – how are you reaching them?

Ferraris: Travel bloggers are a great target since once they create a travel guide they promote it through their blog … this process is pretty viral. Moreover there are thousands of groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks about travel writing and specific events dedicated to travel bloggers … contacting them is pretty easy and scalable.

Tech Cocktail: What is the startup scene like in Florence – or Italy in general? 

Ferraris: I created my first startup in Italy in 2006, and at that time there was no startup ecosystem at all and very few startups around, probably less than 100 in the whole country. At that time, very often I met people that did not even know what the word “startup” meant. Seriously.

Since then things have changed a little, thanks to initiatives like mindthebridge. In 2008, a few incubators were born, and people started to understand that startups could really create value and they were not just a bunch of guys who liked to play with computers. The problem was (and still is) that there were not private investors and there was not a risk-oriented culture like you have here. Failing in Italy means being out of business for good.

Today things are improving and a bunch of really cool startup are taking off. Balsamiq, Beintoo, Spreaker and Glancee (recently acquired by Facebook)…. Needless to say that all of these guys came to Silicon Valley to look for investments, develop their business and network or just meet with other startups and “learn the job.”

Tech Cocktail: What do you hope to accomplish in San Francisco that you can’t in Italy?

Ferraris: Despite the tough competition, this is the place to be to raise money and have access to a huge market.

Tech Cocktail: What did you learn from your first startup that you are applying to map2app? 

Ferraris: My first startup, Noody, is an Internet Service Provider that provides wifi connectivity to thousands of public places in Italy, such as restaurants, hotels, libraries, harbors etc. We also had a mobile division that delivered mobile services over our wifi network.

As CEO of the company, the biggest lesson I learned from this experience is about scalability: We built Noody using not very scalable technologies and this eventually became a major problem. Map2app was designed from day one to be a highly scalable and reliable platform.

Moreover, the Noody network was built by a group of passionate engineers, technically skilled but with no experience in marketing and sales, and we took a pretty long time to understand how important it was to properly market our product. Customers do not come just because the product is cool. Lesson learned!

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Written by:
Monika Jansen is a writer and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, newsletters, website content, and other materials. Follow her at: @monikacjansen
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