August 4, 2022
We had an interesting discussion with Simone Orlandini, Co-Founder of esCube, a Startup Studio based in Rome, Italy. He shared valuable insights into their journey and vision.
"We work with entrepreneurs to maximize their chances of success through the development and design of their solutions. We support companies in their open innovation initiatives, integrate the startup spirit into their corporate culture, and accelerate their internal entrepreneurship projects."
EsCube is a member of our vast community; let’s introduce you to it.
How did you start your studio?
EsCube actually started with the beginning of our startupper activity. When we launched the first startup Patacu in 2012, we were already on our fourth or fifth business idea being developed. And when that one had been placed on standby, there was already another one behind it ready to emerge. So in fact the firm was born out of the need not to get bored, out of the need to pursue x projects in parallel, always trying to improve in the execution of that particular task that each person does within a team. So even before shaping EsCube, Startup Studio-ish activities were already being born, but they did not yet have the name. First and foremost, Simul Tech the software house that allowed us to probe and evaluate so many projects in the startup world and to get a good background on the best practices of this dynamic industry. Our starting point is market fractures. The next step is the idea, intended as the heal of that fracture, the standardization and optimization of the process always, however, conditioned to the functionality of use. From this spontaneously arises a high potential for development and a direct line to the market.
Why a startup studio? What are your thoughts on the studio model?
We like to think of EsCube's activities as a cyclical flow, they repeat starting from the same beginning but each time they are strengthened, thanks to the new human and economic assets which grow at every round. The purpose of EsCube, as with all Startup Studios, is to create value, we accomplish this not as a support to other people's startups (as mostly incubators do) but directly as co-founders, putting in all our being, made of skills, network, funding, and if we have done a good job we see the dawn rise on the startup that has validated the market otherwise, we close the project and learn from the mistakes by starting again on something else. If it goes well we can get to an exit, we can see the little eagle fly down from the nest and become independent. The capital gained will be reinvested in new projects, hence the cyclicality of the firm. A key point that sets the Studio apart is the high scalability of projects, to which it ensures a lower risk of failure due to the constant support of an experienced team and a faster than average go-to-market time.
How does your startup studio find the right team for you studio and your portfolio companies?
Starting from a software house, one might think that the technical component is definitely the most pronounced and developed feature, but one of the most efficient skills matured over the years is precisely the activity of recruiting, of choosing soft skills, of being able to identify resources and combine them in a kind of alchemy that as a result must express a balanced team capable of relaunching itself at every step. Constantly communicating one's needs generates a flow of resources that we check, meet and have a dialogue in order to let unique characteristics emerge, skills hidden to the simple resume and potentialities ready to shine if set ad hoc between them.
What were your biggest challenges in creating your studio and how did you or are you overcoming them?
Let's say that probably the main difficulty is being able to remain objective and cynical with respect to the goodness of the project at hand. Let me explain better, it is as if you have to play the role of both the startupper and the investor every time, on the one hand you have to show the best, the potential, the results even if they are not there and grab some funds to get your dream off the ground and on the other hand you have to find the flaw, dismantle the team, protect and maximize the value of the capital you want to invest. In the end, I think honesty is always a good key to both roles. Trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes is a skill that we at esCube have always found fundamental even before esCube.
What have you learned in developing your startup studio that you wish you knew before you started?
I can say that the activities involved in a startup studio are very similar to those of a common entrepreneurial activity, with the big difference that by serializing entrepreneurship you can standardize the interventions... of course these have to be very well calibrated otherwise you will fail not once, but countless times! That said, I believe strongly in hands-on learning, so I can say that I am and we all are learning a great deal, and that can only be a wonderful thing!
How does your startup studio develop new ideas for potential companies? And how do you select the best ideas to focus on?
In esCube we try to follow a holistic approach, which also means avoiding excluding a project beforehand. We build a detailed swot analysis that puts us in a position to reason objectively about the feasibility of an idea dropped into the context from which the fracture originates. We select the best ideas when the data clearly show success and the possibility of standardizing it. Key to an excellent result is experience, curiosity, a futuristic vision, but also the appetite for risk that is in the DNA of every startupper and innovator!
How does your startup studio find funding and investment?
As mentioned above, communicating is the basis of many things and one of them is communicating what you need! So it depends on the stage, but it is really essential to remember that projects come first: that when esCube approaches Investors to seek capital to invest in the fractures cycle and potential Co-Founders to guide and support the activities, the focus must be on transforming a fracture into a service or product of excellence, ready to go to market and scale it. I know this is not a given, but that's why we tested our workflow by investing first, out of respect for professional investors, that we took risks of our own. We did Co-Founder research, defined the grounding of the firm, and now we have a team, some traction, and a system that is worth the investment! So to answer the question, we will have to start communicating that we are in fundraising.
What startups are in your portfolio now, and what startups do you have in the works?
Projects in our portfolio are:
What is your vision for your startup studio, and how do you see your studio developing in the future?
Our vision is the centrality of the human component from which ideas originate. With esCube we want to unite the founder and the founded and amalgamate the value of the person and the idea. We want to enhance the oneness of each esCube creation by always focusing on its feasibility. We are utopians but we love to communicate with the certainty of solid data. In the future we'd love to be considered those where you aim to when you have a fracture in your business.