Today the interview of the column "VGen Interview" is with the special guest Andrea Maria Cosentino.
He works in Bloomberg in sales and business development, a teacher and mentor at the General Assembly , and active in three other enterprises specialized in fintech and startups, most notable of which is Licas Ventures, a company Cosentino co-founded in 2010
Mr. Cosentino reveals in the interview many fascinating aspects of his professional career, his aspiration to drive the world forward and look for the next big idea working in startups and fintech, and his thoughts on struggle, success and mentoring.
Many things can be learned from Mr. Cosentino's experience, I would personally point at what he said to me at the end of the interview about the importance of breaking boundaries, having a routine of investing in your goals backed by a strong driver or a passion, and finally leaving no regrets behind.
You are an 'entrepreneurial fintechologist' as your website suggests, can you please explain to us briefly what is meant by this statement?
We are taught to put labels on people, yet this is how we are all remembered by others, and the same applies for business. Especially in 2020, it is important to define yourself and your skills, what you bring to the table. The world today does not look for generalists, it looks for specialists. This is why I chose these two words to define who I am and what I do, it is my pitch and the value I know I can bring to the workplace from day one.
Startups are high risk high reward investments that are very difficult to analyse, from a business perspective, can you please tell us a bit about how you build a strategy for launching or developing such companies, and what are the criterions you look for in startups?
Well. A magician never reveals his tricks, does he?!
Jokes aside, the truth is: it depends on the startup. There is no magic formula nor a predictable model that points at the startup that will win.
However, you can of course come up with your systematic way of analysis which demonstrates to be reliable and successful through the years and the applications.
I have to say that this is a balance of qualitative and quantitative criteria which are equally important: you can have the best idea, and the biggest market size available out there, but if your team is weak you won’t make it. Viceversa, you can have the best team, but if you don’t know your customers and there is not actual demand or a strong business model behind, you won’t make a penny and thus won’t survive.
What I can tell you is that in the case of TripAbrood I have applied my 6+1 good reasons , being: a Stellar Team (I know the CEO and founder directly and worked with her in the past. This weighst a lot in my decision),addressable market, competition, scalability, timing, product and the +1 is the exit options, which case here are actually 3:
IPO vs Being Acquired vs Acquire.
But this is not standard and can change according to the startup.
Where do you see Fintech evolving in the upcoming years? And are there any innovative projects you are currently working on that you would like to share with us?
I think one of the most interesting things I am currently working on is CashCoach
Al momento comunque penso che una delle cose più interessanti che sto attualmente lavorando è CashCoach.
After hearing about your career path briefly and the spectacular projects you are involved in, I would like focus the attention now to what led you to become the successful professional you are today and I would like you to please comment on a very powerful and moving statement mentioned in your website: "A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor".
I love that sentence!
I think that sentence embodies my attitude and the way I face life, the way I live, embodying my values: grit, exploration, journey, risk, challenge and ambition.
Also sometimes as much as a boat, you could find yourself in the middle of the ocean with no wind and no paddle. So you also have to be patient.
This kind of summarises my experience in business and life and that is probably why I got so attached to it.
On what skill did you put the most emphasis while developing your career- networking, personal exploration of the finance world, or your academic studies?
The old say goes:”It’s doesn’t matter what you know, it matters who you know”.
I partially agree. Il Networking ranks first but Instruction and knowledge are key to be taken seriously in your network. I would say the “financial exploration” happened due to the location, London - the home and house of Finance and Fintech.
I think Graduates today need to understand that “the piece of paper” is not enough anymore and they have to differentiate themselves through a strong network and active learning.
Work through people and keep learning new skills and adapting.
Did you face any difficulties in developing your career and if so, how did you manage to overcome them?
September 2009 I was a broke student, in Rome, doing 3 jobs at the same time and studying.
September 2013 I was a broke graduate in London, with a Bachelor, MSc, and other qualifications, working part time as bartender and living in a house shared with 8 people and no living room.
I had no major pedigree or network - I am the first person who graduated in my family.
Torniamo semplicemente alla stessa routine: Try.Grit. Fail. Persist. Do it again. Make It!
Abbiamo tutti bisogno di un driver, ambizione e un obiettivo al quale aggrapparti.
Nessuno dice che ce la farai, ma il mio mantra è di provare a vivere senza rimpianti!
Mr. Cosentino, you are also an active teacher and panelist at the General Assembly, you are involved in education, what draws you to mentoring upcoming talent?
I believe in the power of knowledge and mentoring.
During my career, I met people that have been a northern star and helped me move my career forward but also to grow as a person.
I want to be one of those too and have a real impact on the people that cross my path.
For example, one of my biggest satisfaction came from mentoring an Apprentice at Bloomberg who not only got the job at the end of the program but also moved her career forward and grew in the company at a record pace.
As a conclusion for our interview, would you like to give any last tips and/or suggestions to our student audience that might help them boost their careers and better prepare them for the professional world?
Never give up. Break your boundaries. Travel and Explore.
Make tough choices and put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
Most of the things that happened to me, came as a result of me taking risks.
And the truth is, Risk can’t always be calculated.
One last thing, especially for those with a business background, make sure you learn coding, tech you understand the stack and topics like Data Science, Data engineering and so on… These are not the future, they are the present already.
Interview by Jonathan Magzal of VGen Hub Tor Vergata