Entrepreneurship Brings JCU Alumni Together for Weekend of Startups

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The JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship (IFE) proudly hosted the JCU Weekend of Startups – Art, Beauty & Culture from November 9 through 11, 2018. To officially open the event, JCU President Franco Pavoncello introduced Dr. Greg French, Australian Ambassador to Italy, who gave the opening remarks and joined in the ice-breaking activities. The event, the first of its kind to be held in Italy, was in large part organized by the IFE team of Prof. Silvia Pulino, Prof. Riccardo Maiolini, and Joanne Bergamin. It was created to encourage young aspiring entrepreneurs to build startups in the fields of art, beauty, and culture. For three days (and nights) Roman university students, recent JCU  alumni, and young entrepreneurs pooled their ideas and worked in teams against the clock to present their final pitches to a jury of ten startup and innovation experts from companies such as KPMG, Treccani, Blue Ocean Finance, Dirac Nanotechnology, WDA Studio, Alan Advantage and Qurami.

Australian Ambassador Greg French

Australian Ambassador Greg French

Many of these companies generously sponsored prizes for the outstanding teams. Sponsors, mentors and participants alike praised the weekend as one of the best of its kind, due in no small part to experienced startupper Simone Ridolfi who facilitated the event. As the CEO and co-founder of Moovenda, a food delivery company he created during one of these very weekends, Simone not only brought his passion and startup expertise but he also sponsored and delivered the food throughout the entire weekend.

Marcella Balistreri representing KPMG said, “My best compliments for the JCU Weekend! Everything was perfect and the teams were really motivated and full of energy. It was an honor for me to be part of the jury.” For the IFE team, however, the best part was seeing so many JCU alumni coming back to their alma mater, either as budding entrepreneurs or to coach the younger generation.

1st Prize Team

1st Prize Team

Mary Rose Castillo (International Business, 2018), Michele Massi (Business Administration, 2018), Yekaterina Petrova (Communications, 2018), Fabio Cantoro (Business Administration, 2016) and Giorgia Conte (International Business, 2017) represent a cohort of JCU graduates who have made entrepreneurship an integral part of their lives. All five survived and thrived in entrepreneurship courses and activities with Prof. Silvia Pulino, and most are veterans of these type of weekends, contributing to placing their teams among the winners. Mary Rose and Michele returned this year as participants, helping their team place first, with a startup called Fun Pay, an app that allows companies to provide employees with bonuses that they can utilize for cultural activities. Their team took home €1000 cash offered by KPMG, three months co-working space at TIM WCAP and three Italian Vocabulary products from Treccani. Fabio coached throughout the weekend, going from team to team to offer business insights he has accumulated working for consulting companies Looking for Value and YourCFO since he graduated. Giorgia, who began her career path as a graduate working for uFirst and is now a digital strategist in her own right also joined the team of mentors and coaches.

Yekaterina took it a step further, and together with two of her Startup Weekend 2017 team members founded Digital Advisors Network to help companies in their path towards digital transformation. She and her colleagues participated in the Weekend as startup mentors, assisting in the development of new business ideas.

From left: Anna Maria Gehnyei, Mauro Pallotta (Maupal), Simone Ridolfi

From left: Anna Maria Gehnyei, Mauro Pallotta (Maupal), Simone Ridolfi

The alumni coaching team was further enhanced by the presence of Giosué Prezioso (Art History, 2015), who after an MSc in Art, Law and Business at Christie’s and a specialization in Strategic Management and Innovation at the Copenhagen Business School, is channeling his creativity and experience teaching Art History and working with Crazy4Art, an art startup. His insight, his passion and his attachment to JCU contributed greatly to the atmosphere of the weekend.

Last but not least, Anastasiia Shmatina (Business Administration, 2018), participated as representative of Messagenius, a successful startup led by Luigi Fidelio, co-organizer of the event. Anastasiia had started her entrepreneurial career while still a student, as a volunteer fundraiser for Soleterre, a project for Ukrainian children with cancer, and as President of Universities Fighting World Hunger, a student club with a social mission. Upon graduation, she was hired by Messagenius as marketing manager.

For Sara Terracina (International Affairs, 2006) and Kem Turner (International Affairs, 2006), on the other hand, the JCU Weekend of Startups was an opportunity to reconnect with their university many years after graduation. Sara currently combines her love of art and her entrepreneurial spirit as a specialized tour guide for the Jewish Community of Rome. She contributed to the Our Common Thread team, which placed third overall. Kem’s day job is with FAO, but she has a couple of business ideas that might see the light soon; she comments: “This weekend was incredibly positive, intense and filled with so much information. It will take me a while to digest it all but it is a great head-start to developing my own project.” Kem was a part of the successful Sande team with current JCU student Anna Maria Gehnyei, working together on an African-Italian fusion fashion label. The team took away the team prize offered by DIRAC: to collaborate with a team to integrate nanotechnology into their startup. In pitching the best social innovation idea on opening night, Anna Maria also received the ‘Ordinary Hero’ prize of a miniature image of herself painted by Roman contemporary street artist Mauro Pallotta (Maupal). Mauro delighted participants and organizers throughout the weekend with his live painting performance. On Sunday evening he officially revealed two works in one: a binary code (to stay in theme with the event) with bright colors that, observed through a red filter, transformed into the portrait of none other than John Cabot.

JCU Weekend of Startups

JCU Weekend of Startups

It is a great source of pride for the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship to have the continued support and involvement of such outstanding graduates and it is looking forward to November 2019 for the next edition of JCU Weekend of Startups on FASHION & DESIGN. The IFE is even more pleased to report that KPMG and many of its other sponsors have already signed on again.

Register for the second edition of the JCU Weekend of Startups