Who knew that M31 USA, the name of the Santa Clara-based incubator plus was derived from the 18th century French astronomer, Charles Messier’s cataloging of galaxies, nebulae and star clusters? M31 is the Messier catalog name of Adromeda galaxy. About 100 years later the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that Andromeda has two nuclei. It was these two nuclei, metaphors for “university and industry” that inspired Ruggero Frezza, a professor at the University of Padua to name his organization M31 Italia in 2006. Aldo Cocchiglia founded M31 USA in 2010 with the goal of bringing Italian technology companies to The Valley.
Italian and U.S. Startups. This was a lot to absorb on one cup of delicious espresso at 11:00 a.m. in the morning (the Italian equivalent of 7:00 a.m.). You don’t have to be Italian or even like espresso, but if you are in the medical equipment, embedded computing, optical systems, software and web or sensor networks and are looking for an investment in the $66k to $2.6M size (the odd numbers are because of the conversion from Euros to dollars) talk to Aldo. In addition to bringing Italian technology companies to the U.S., M31USA, LLC also provides seed capital for U.S. startups.
Incubator Plus? Unlike other incubators (you know who they are) that are playing a numbers game hoping to come up with one or two home runs out of many, sometimes hundreds of startups, Aldo Cocchiglia’s model has a goal of 100% success. His successes may not be as big as the rare home runs in the mega-incubators, but all of his M31 startups are successful.
Italian Technology: US Success Stories? I met Aldo at an event last week (Thursday, April 19th, 2012) at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco that was featuring demonstrations and talks on several Italian technology companies that are making their entree into the Silicon Valley market. I sat down with Aldo at his Santa Clara headquarters, Wednesday, April 25, 2012 to find out more about M31 USA.
Duality? The blog metaphor for today is duality. We have an 18th century French astronomer paired with the 1983 Hubble Space Telescope, the University of Padua (founded in 1222, one of the oldest universities in Europe) paired with the new kid on the block, Stanford (founded in 1885), seed money ($66k to $2.6M) paired with co-managers, local startups given access to global markets and Italian startups given access to the U.S. market.
Successes and Clients: Centervue (medical equipment and telemedicine) which designs automated medical devices for early diagnosis and management of sight-threatening eye diseases. Thanks to M31 USA help, they just made a major deal with WalMart to have their retinal screening machines installed in WalMart. Si14 (embedded hardware and software), Adaptica, Energy Resources (renewable energy market), Kynetics, Blum Sky (product: I m watch, a wearable smart device) and Omnys are other companies that are taking their run at the U.S. market.
M31USA Partners: Stanford University, European Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, BAIA-Business Association Italy America and Mind the Bridge, the Italy-Silicon Valley based business plan competition.
100% Success: So if you want more than money (essentially a lottery ticket), consider M31 where you will be one of the few, more like a family member than a cold investment. All of their few, quality investments to date have been successful. They will help you avoid many of the common startup pitfalls. Aldo told me that startups rarely fail because of the technology, they typically fail because the founder, while technically competent, may not have the business chops necessary to find customers, manage money, hire employees and market his product or service.
Takeaway: A personal pet peeve. Remember coffee is a beverage, preferably paired with a nice donut. I can’t tell you how many startups I’ve visited (all my interviews are in person) and been offered a beverage. When I ask for coffee, the most common reaction is shock since the choices always seem to be 32 different kinds of mineral water and an infinite assortment of herbal teas. Instant coffee is o.k., but the donut needs to be fresh.
If you are looking for seed funding, help with business strategy and planning and someone (like an experienced parent) who will be in with you for the long-haul, talk to M31USA.