Cristina Pozzi Impactscool

Cristina Pozzi, CEO and co-founder of Impactscool, believes in young people and together with them she wants to imagine and create a future where the energy, the curiosity they have, the desire to get involved, most likely, will be able to keep the human being at the center and to build and use technologies to help us improve the whole of society.

The entrepreneurial adventure begins

I’m Cristina Pozzi and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Impactscool.

My entrepreneurial story actually started many years ago after two years of the first consulting job. It was 2006 and a colleague, who since then became my partner in all the start-ups I have launched, one day invited me for a coffee. Before this coffee, I had always claimed to be the most adverse person at risk, to already have a very clear vision of what I wanted to do, to continue to be a consultant, to continue the work I had undertaken. But this coffee actually changed my life and within a few months I found a businesswoman in me.

Andrea Dusi, my partner, introduced me to his business idea, asked me if I would give him a hand to start it and within six months, in fact, I found myself in another city, from Milan to Verona and in a real start-up, in a year that was 2006 when there was still little talk about start-ups. So, with a bit of madness, but with a great desire to see our projects realized. This first venture lasted about ten years and was the key that lead to the founding of Impactscool in 2016, our new entrepreneurial initiative, where again Andrea is my partner, because you don’t change a winning team, which is an initiative dedicated to having a social impact on our territory, throughout Italy.

Impactscool brings in schools, universities and companies, training and education on the future and new technologies. What does it mean? That we imagine the future through workshops, role-playing games, exercises, done together using scientific methodologies. The future is a subject that has been studied since the beginning of the last century as a real science and that in Finland is studied since elementary school. So following this method, using a scientific approach, we create games made specifically to develop the ability to be creative, curious and to imagine the future as something that we can influence. Together we build images of future. What this means, for example, with children we build what will be their city in 2050, facing those that they think are problems of their city that should be solved, transformed into opportunities for improvement. Together we imagine what is the final goal, which then becomes the starting point, to build a project and go in that direction. Therefore, exercises and games that become tools to make decisions, to guide them and allow them to better understand their own present.

The money to start

In the case of Impactscool it was, I have to admit, easier to start the business and find the funds, because my partner and I were coming from a successful business, the previous one we had sold to our competitor, and at the moment we started to tell what we wanted to do, on the one hand the message and the mission of Impactscool arouse great interest in everyone, on the other there was also a great trust in us. So, thanks to the previous entrepreneurial experience, we immediately managed to start with 200 000 euros collected from “Angels”, friends and colleagues who decided to come along with us also in our new business activity. Some of these were among those who, with a pinch more of madness, had believed in us even in 2006 for the very first activity that we launched. Also in that case we started with funds collected from individuals who believed in us, in our initiative and wanted to invest, in that case, especially on people. We were already working together, we had often done consulting projects together and this, in our case, helped a lot to create trust and above all the desire to risk putting money in an entrepreneurial initiative.

A negative and a positive event

I’ll start from a negative event, which happened to me at the beginning of my entrepreneurial career. I was twenty-six – twenty-seven years old and the business had already started, we already had a good turnover, a lot of customers, including multinational companies and I went to a customer to explain what we do, to try to create projects together, for the rewarding of the employees in this case. I introduced myself and spoke for an hour, I brought a thousand documents, presentations, projects designed specifically for the company and at the end of the meeting I look at my interlocutor, I ask her: do you have any questions, any requests for further information? And the only question that this person was able to ask me, at the end of the meeting, was: how old are you? And this for me was a negative event, but that is indicative of a whole series of things that happened when I started with my first activity and that I think is the expression of the fact that here in Italy we are often a bit racist towards young people. After an hour of presentation, with all the credentials of the case, with the results in hand, the only thing that the person in front of me had noticed was my young age. And unfortunately, this often happens in Italy and that it is often a limit to entrepreneurship, because many times there are smart people, who could do a lot of things, but we tend to be a bit, as I said before, racists, with a term that maybe is a bit strong, but that actually explains what happens. In fact, I’m often asked as a woman if I have ever, in some way, put aside in fields that are more masculine and I must say that in reality in my case it always went well from that point of view, but I instead often felt put aside for being young. So, this I think is the most negative thing that has ever happened to me doing business.

The most positive thing, however, is related to other people and in particular seeing towards the end of the first entrepreneurial initiative, very young people to whom we had given great trust during the whole activity together, who had entered the company at the beginning and thanks to the fact that they were in a situation of great growth, of great dynamism, they could grow, take responsibility and become great professionals. Seeing these people, that when it was time to decide whether to leave the company, given that the founders sold, be on the market with a much higher recognition than that of people of their age, for me it was the greatest satisfaction, that is to say, to have been able to go on a journey with young people that saw their value recognized.

Doing business in Italy

Why doing business in Italy, it is a question that I have often asked myself. In the sense that during all the projects that I have carried out, I have always realized comparing with what I saw abroad, traveling, studying or talking with entrepreneurs, who were doing my own business, maybe in their country, I always realized of the huge difference, especially in the fact that often in Italy there are no opportunities to grow fast, there are no opportunities in terms of funds, there are missing so many things that can help an ecosystem grow and therefore also help an entrepreneur carry out their project. And so many times me and my partner asked ourselves: if we had done this same thing in Silicon Valley, if we had done it in Berlin or in one of those cities, not necessarily in the United States, even in Europe, which are more dynamic, where the laws are quicker to adapt to something new, how would have it been?

Maybe we would have done much more, we would have achieved much bigger results, but on the other side we have always said, we like Italy, it is beautiful, it is a beautiful country and we like living there. So this is the very first thing. So having the means to stay is already the very first reason to do business in Italy and the second one is because I love my country anyway, I’m Italian and I like to know and think that I have a positive impact on my country, especially now that I’m involved in a project with a social impact, moreover, the first place that comes to mind when thinking of where to do that kind of business is absolutely Italy, just to try to have, as I said, a positive impact on society.

The key traits of an entrepreneur

The characteristics of an entrepreneur, many wonder what they are. I certainly believe that curiosity and the ability to observe the world around oneself, to observe the present and perhaps catch before others the changes underway or that are about to arrive, and at that point create a product, a service or something that responds to that vision of the future that maybe the entrepreneur has had before others. So, I think that curiosity is the very first thing.

Then I believe that the entrepreneur is also a person who is very insecure, the term may seem negative, but I see it positively, because a real entrepreneur has the great ability to continually question himself and try to prove, first of all to himself and then to others, that he or she is able achieve results. And I believe that this also starts from, in some way, a sort of insecurity and the desire to succeed in proving something and I say it in a positive sense and not in a negative sense.

And above all, I believe that the most important feature is that of relational skills, because any business, any company, any activity is linked to human relationships, to people, to building something together, it is never just the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur can have charisma, can have the ability to make other people believe in their dream and then to be able to have their help to make it happen, yes, but in the end things are done together.

The future for the new generations

Impactscool’s motto is that “the future is open source” and with this we mean that the future is something that is built together and above all it is something that starts from the image of the future that we have in this moment. So, for this reason I always say that we must be intentionally optimistic, thinking of a better future helps us take steps towards that future today. Nobody can realize a future that he is not able to imagine, so the first thing is to imagine together, collaboratively, a better future and that’s what we do with the kids, together we talk about the future, we talk about future scenarios, all possible future scenarios that could happen and together we try to understand which one we want to build.

For this reason, I, as I said, am necessarily optimistic, I must be and I believe that from what I see, from the energy that springs from young kids, from the curiosity they have, from their desire to get involved, most likely, regardless of the intentions, this future will be in their hands and surely it will be a future in which we will manage to keep the human in the center and to build and use technologies to help us improve the whole society.

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