Sellf is the virtual coach that helps businesses reach and surpass their goals. This year Sellf has been selected by Confcommercio as the best app for service innovation. Here are the five lessons learned by the startup that works as a “personal trainer for sales teams”, in the words of its CEO and founder Diego Pizzocaro.
A team with a heart for technology, legs for business and a taste for Italian design
Sellf was born in 2013, when three old friends, engineers and PhD laureates in computer science with research experience in the United States – Filippo Zanella, Fabio Maran and I – met Franco Roman, former Sales & Marketing Director at Sun Microsystem Italy. We realized that many companies from the countryside around Treviso really needed to coordinate their commercial network in a simple and at the same time motivating way. We all have our smartphones always at hand, so we wondered if they could naturally and easily become the tools with which to coordinate sales and help businesses achieve their goals. The reason why this hadn’t happened yet was very simple: there were many sales management softwares, but they were developed just for management and not to help each single sales person to be more productive and achieve her goals. So, we created Sellf, from the intersection among our experience in mobile development, Franco’s experience in sales & marketing – his deep knowledge of sales management systems – and our shared passion for Italian design.
Never underestimate fund raising activities
For us at Sellf the hardest part was definitely fundraising. None of us had previously interacted with investment funds, so we had to find out for ourselves how difficult it is to persuade a venture capitalist that your product is worth investing. In particular, the quantity of information you need to attract substantial funding is really high – from business plan to commercial message to metrics and market assessments. This is why I always suggest that, if you are starting your own start-up and especially if you do not have other entrepreneurial experiences, you should find the so-called product-market fit as soon as possible. That is, start selling an early version of your product before looking for funding, so you will be able to approach investors with validation from the market.
Stop being a perfectionist
Oddly enough, to demand perfection from your product is not a good strategy, at least not at the beginning. It is often the case with start-uppers that when they are building a product or service from scratch they tend to be too scrupulous, and wait too long before the official launch. This approach is not successful since it does not attract funds. In fact, you should test the market before looking for funding, so at the beginning you should develop a product or service that solves a problem to a particular niche of users, and only later expand it and enhance it.
Create a community before creating your product
Always in order to get funded, you should demonstrate that you have al least 10 users who are willing to pay for your product, even more so if these are not part of your network / circle of friends but are stranger people or companies that simply think your product is worth paying for. In this way you can also draw useful information from users’ feedback and you will already have an enthusiastic user base when officially launching your product!
Believe in talents and in networking
It may sound trite, but our experience has shown us that we really have access to extremely talented people in Italy. The Italian theoretical preparation and knowledge is very high, we should try to align ourselves with other countries also in terms of practice. Moreover, if Italian talents and start-ups created a network and cooperated among themselves and with local companies, this boost would create an unprecedented innovation ecosystem in Italy. Our country has already begun to move in this direction, although there is still much to do.