From the nights spent coding in a basement to entering one of the major Italian ICT players: this is the surprising story of Fabrizio Scuppa
A basement in a suburban house and a geek with a vision. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the analogies with the beginning of an American successful startup’s story are noteworthy. However, this is the beginning of another story, one taking place in Rome: Fabrizio Scuppa’s, founder of Octorate.
Octorate recently made the headlines as the VC fund P101 exited the startup and Dylog Italia SpA took it over. Dylog is one of the main ICT players nationally, with about 60 thousand customers in Italy and abroad, and it also controls Buffetti. Octorate offers hotels and tourist facilities an all-in-one cloud service to manage reservations, billings and daily activities. To put it more simply, it is a platform that allows hotel managers and owners to manage their rooms in total autonomy, in an efficient and low-cost way. Users enter prices and rooms availability and this information is then transferred to various online booking sites – Booking, Venere, Agoda, Expedia, just to name a few. All through a very simple interface and at the cost of 36 euros per month: it is no coincidence that Octorate is used by facilities from over 50 countries worldwide and that the turnover of the small company from Rome, starting almost from nothing, has reached a million euros in just four years, thanks to a brilliant idea and its excellent development.
This story also shows that the acceleration transmitted by venture capital can be very useful and drive a company to success. Besides, Octorate’s is a story of hope in the wider context of a dying national economy. “I started working in the hospitality sector in 1997, when I founded an online booking site for accommodation facilities In Rome” says Scuppa. “It was called FreeReservation and was soon crashed by the various Booking, Expedia, Airbnb that were seeing the light in those very years.” However, for Scuppa – who had previously worked as artistic director of a music hall – this failure is part of his growth.
“We developed FreeReservation together with a partner and with the help of a developer. But I realized that I did not want to depend on another person to improve the website, so I decided to study programming.” In the following four years, Scuppa avidly studies and works, alone, on the creation of Bbliverate, which was in fact the first version of Octorate: “the new portal was born with the idea of providing prices and rooms availability to all online booking sites that in my first experience had been competitors. I had decided to become their partner.”
At the beginning, the website was dedicated to B&Bs only, but soon the entrepreneur realizes that hotels are the target on which he should focus: “hotels need a simpler management, since they only have two types of rooms (classic and superior) and above all, they have a higher budget. Bbliverate was born in 2012, in 2014 we changed the company’s name into Octorate: I liked the idea of the octopus who does so many things with a single action, the action of the hotel manager – that is, just setting the prices according to the dates.”
Octorate has a very friendly platform, simple and direct, “that was first created, for example, for retired people whose kids went off to university so they found themselves with a spare room. So for the hotel owners and managers it was very easy to learn how to use it. This was enough to get to 120 partner portals, including Expedia, Agoda, Venere, Booking, just to mention the most popular ones.”
Thus, Octorate becomes the hub of Italian hoteliers. It grows fast and enters the radar of P101. “Paolo Barberis of Nana Bianca first intercepted my ambitions in the VC world and it was him who introduced me to P101. When I first met them, Octorate’s numbers were growing fast and steadily: but it was an individual company, still based in my basement, and made €13,000 a month,” says Scuppa. The dialogue with P101 continues for a few months, sometimes even in an informal way: “once their CEO called me because he happened to be in Rome, so I get dressed all formally, go to the appointment and find him jogging. It is not just a matter of numbers and economics: P101 has esteemed my value as a man as well as an entrepreneur,” says Scuppa.
Hence, Octorate srl was born in September 2015, to which P101 participated with 500,000 euro seed investment. All in all a small but decisive number. “There were some legal and administrative things that I could not manage alone, as well as structuring a business plan. After all I was just a nerd: venture capital gave me a structure, widened my horizon, showed me another dimension. We moved, hired ten people – today there are 30 of us – and our turnover reached 80,000 euros a month within two years.”
In 2018, growth is consolidated and it’s time to talk about strategy, again. “In order to move faster, we have been acquired by Dylog: I am still CEO of the company and have shares, and growth is continuing even faster. And I would like to add that the entry of venture capital has not been a limit, on the contrary, I have always been able to take all the decisions that I believed were best and indeed I was enriched with advice, resources and meetings.” A win-win situation that, among other things, allowed P101 to win the prestigious Dematté Prize. “An operation in which really, there is nothing that has not worked“, finally says Scuppa: “sometimes I think about when someone told me not to give in to VC, as they would take the reins. If I had followed those fearful voices, I would not be so serene now. Italian entrepreneurs have always suffered from a serious prejudice against venture capital, as they identify the defensive walls of a business in the closure of its capital, which is completely incorrect as in this way it risks suffocating.”