Italian entrepreneur Marco Palladino is currently 22 years old – but he was only 19 when he first started looking for funding for his startup. For roughly 2 years, he and his cofounders met with every last investor on the Italian Peninsula and without any success. But despite their empty pockets, they weren’t ready to throw in the towel on their startup, an API marketplace for cloud-based services named Mashape.
As of April 2009, the team moved into a garage in Milan where they spend 10 months coding night and day. They still didn’t have the money they were looking to raise but managed to scrape by on a few small grants. Then in September 2009, Marco and his team mates headed to San Francisco, where they were able to demo a simple prototype of their product at TechCrunch50. It was after this experience that the team decided they would pack their bags and move across the Atlantic for good.
Still desperately looking for funding, the team arrived in Silicion Valley in January 2010. Augusto Marietti, one of Marco’s two co-founders (along with Michele Zonca) who is currently CEO of the startup, wrote out all the details of their quest for funding on the company blog; the team went to every last event in Silicon Valley, called every person they knew and asked around for help. But never in their wildest dreams did they think they would get funded in just 19 days.
In all fairness, it’s not a huge sum of money – $101,000 to be exact. However, the investors are original Youtubers Kevin Donahue and Dwipal Disai. Donahue, for the record, is also an investor in car-sharing platform RelayRides. And other business angels have also chimed in since the initial funding.
When I first heard Mashape’s story, I was kind of blown away. Sure, we often hear that it’s more difficult to get funded on this side of the Atlantic than over in the States but European entrepreneurs often idealize and over-simplify the situation in Silicon Valley; just because there are more investors does not necessarily mean that it rains money.
If we ask Marco about the situation, he says it’s entirely cultural. In Italy, the investor community is smaller and has less money than in Silicon Valley. Therefore, they don’t want to take a risk by investing in a new and innovative model – they want to invest in something proven and secure. Thus, they fund models that already exist, which ends up slowing down local innovation as a consequence.
Mashape’s “Etsy for cloud services” launched in private alpha back in November and the public launch is expected shortly. The platform makes it so that any developer can easily distribute their API to all of Mashape’s user-base. Along the lines of startups like Mashery, 3Scale, Webservius and Apigee, Mashape has a number of developments lined up for this year; the starup plans to add an additional 5 people to the team, support additional languages (Ruby, Python) and launch its API billing system.
Despite everything, Marco and his cofounders don’t necessarily think that the US is a business Utopia either. But while the States may have some economic and social problems, he says that at least “the American dream is still up and running.”