When, during the first italian TechCrunch, I heard american venture capitalist telling that in Silicon Valley relations come before business, I didn't really understand what they meant. Now, after six days spent between San Francisco and Mountain View, I understand exactly what those words mean and, being a social networker since the very begininng of social networking, I'd like to share with you this wonderful and unforgettable experience, drawing some conclusions from my californian adventure.

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When I saw on Facebook that Riccardo Luna was asking startups of the Making sector to apply for Italian Innovation Day, after a selection by Marco Marinucci of Mind The Bridge, I decided immediately to candidate MakeTank, our innovative florentine startup, to represent the 80 vendors who decided to promote themselves and sell through our marketplace, the world's first focused exclusively on Digital Makers. After a few days we got our selection confirmed, Asset Camera funded our flight as Maker Faire Europe testimonials, I found a flat via AirBnb with other two startuppers representing Makoo and Off Grid Box. Our adventure could start.

I leave Florence on Wednesday, february 26th. At the Paris airport I meet Giulio from Makoo, which turns vocal messages into patterns for 3D-printed jewels (as they say, "creating jewels born from the heart"). Arrived at our flat in Tenderloin, we force ourselves not to go to sleep immediately. Instead, we go and meet a florentine who emigrated in San Francisco one year ago: he tells us about his wearable technology startup and the differences between the italian and the american approach. In the States your initiative and effort are soon rewarded by investments, but Made in Italy is still important to create products whose quality is outstanding, especially in fashion.

Thusday morning we go to Mind The Bridge offices in the JP Morgan Chase Building, at the heart of the Financial District, and start working after a quick lunch with Francesca and Gianmarco from Hands Company and Emiliano from Off Grid Box (our third house mate, coming right from New York). In the afternoon we attend a 'compressed' version of the Startup School created by Mind The Bridge, after an introduction by Marco Marinucci, founder and CEO, and our (pathetic) pitches. Our mentors, Charles and Anne Marie, make us work hard to find an unambiguous message to express in just two minutes in front of the 250-people audience expected for Italian Innovation Day. There's a lot to do for the pitch and the value proposition and we have also to write down an Executive Summary. We work all the afternoon learning some storytelling tricks to make an effective elevator pitch, with a lot of ideas and examples.

On Friday, we get into Mind The Bridge at 8.30 in the morning to come out at 19.30 in the evening, after having delivered our speeches with certainly better results. For the first time we also hear the pitch by Simone from OSVeichle, who is just arrived from New York. With Charles we check our final version of the Executive Summary and then finally, at home: ready for an intense networking dinner with italian expatriates. Networking also on Saturday: we meet Roberto, Zanoby's founder, and our favourite lobbyist, Francesca from CNA Toscana. In the afternoon another meeting at Mind The Bridge, where other two startups - DQuid and WLamp - join us. We test our pitches to find our strong and weak points one another, with some constructive criticism.

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Sunday is all for tourism, but Monday is "the" day: Italian Innovation Day. We test our pitches at home for the last time, then we print our Executive Summary and go to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, where we set up our stand with postcards and visit cards in plain view. The first surprise: after nine years I met again Davide, who hired me when he was executive director in Microsoft and now he's a fellow startupper with his renowned Sensoria.

Marco Marinucci and consul of Italy Mauro Battocchi start a day full of speakers: among them, Riccardo Luna, who gave us the TechGarage award during the first Maker Faire Rome and who now decribes a next edition longer and full of surprises. And of course a lot of networking: I meet, among others, Berardi, who created the Italian Startup Scene Facebook group, and Francesca and Elena from Timbuktu, a digital magazine for kids. Then we, eight startupper selected to represent the new Italy of Making, go on stage and, after our intense workdays, get off pretty well.

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Tuesday, the last day. We share our impressions with Mind The Bridge mentors, receive their last feedback on the pitch and it's time to go. We leave for Paris together - me, Giulio and Francesca - but then we go different ways to our destinations. We come back full of visit cards and energy, to work and grow thanks to the 'network' around us.

For me, it's been essential to live a few days face-to-face with MakeTank core business. In my everyday life I'm absorbed by many tasks which were taking me away from 'fundamentals'. This is San Francisco: startupper schools matter, but what matters more is going out with friends and friends' friends to generate new ideas and sinergies which are a startup's fuel and engine. And in San Francisco, if you have has good ideas and work hard, you'll make it.

 

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