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Marco Maras is an entrepreneur, investor and advisor in the field of mobile communications, digital media and consumer internet.
He enthusiastically sets up fast-growing companies and builds them with innovative technology products and visionary teams. His path as a technology entrepreneur started with his first company, Onebip, a provider of mobile payment solutions.
He is currently the CEO and founder of Fido. Fido analyzes the content of the digital footprint for client assessment and prediction of credit risk. The growth of the Internet leaves a trail of simple and easily accessible information about each user – a trail we call the digital footprint.
Even without writing about yourself, downloading financial information or providing information about friendships or social networks, simply accessing or registering on a website leaves valuable information behind.
Fido is used to promote the financial inclusion of segments of the population that do not have access to formal services in the financial sector, especially young people. The use of fingerprints overcomes information asymmetries between lenders and borrowers when the credit bureau’s standard information is not available.
In an exclusive interview with the AsiaTechDaily, Marco says…
I’m a big believer in Steve Gob’s philosophy of failing fast. As an entrepreneur, I would advise anyone interested in this kind of thing to just do it!
People are often stuck in their daily lives, their current work, their family or whatever. There is always something stopping them from realizing their big ideas. Do it and get out of here fast.
I was lucky to learn that hard work pays off. That’s what motivates me to work harder to achieve life’s great goals.
Sell it, sell it, sell it! A good salesman has great qualities that can be very important in life: Listening skills, empathy, hunger, competitiveness, communication skills, self-confidence, enthusiasm, ability to work under pressure.
Read on to learn more about Marco Maras and his career.
Tell me about your personal experiences and what motivated you to work for your company.
Marco Maras: My path as a technology entrepreneur started with my first company, Onebip, a provider of mobile payment solutions. When I founded the company in 2005, we only worked with a payment gateway in Italy. In 2011 we had processed mobile payments in more than 60 countries with more than 2 million customers. In 2011, we were subsequently acquired by Neomobile, which expanded our activities into new areas and industries.
After this experience I created Audiens, the most important customer data platform. We’ve developed a cloud-based platform that helps small and large companies obtain customer data from a variety of sources to improve their digital marketing campaigns. NHN Group acquired the company in April 2020. Audiens currently has offices in Italy, Great Britain, the United States, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Fido, my new start-up, suits me because of my previous experience with online payments and high data volumes.
What is your current main product and can you give a product sales history?
Marco Maras: Fido analyses the content of the digital footprint – the information people leave behind on the Internet by simply accessing or registering on a website – to predict consumer credit defaults.
The growth of the Internet leaves a trail of simple and easily accessible information on almost every user – a trail we call the digital footprint. Even without writing about yourself, downloading financial information or providing information about friendships or social networks, simply accessing or registering on a website leaves valuable information behind.
The alternative credit scoring model developed by Fido is used to improve the financial inclusion of populations that do not have access to the formal services of the financial sector, in particular young people. The use of fingerprints overcomes information asymmetries between lenders and borrowers when the credit bureau’s standard information is not available.
How much money have you raised so far? When was the last financing cycle?
Marco Maras: In July 2020, we raised $1.3 million in seed capital.
What are the internal decision-making processes that determined the start of fundraising and what logistics are involved? And how many investors did you meet, how did you get to know these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Marco Maras: We decided to sell Fido’s shares to a very limited number of professional investors and local business angels. We were looking for smart money and carefully selected shareholders, but the sowing cycle was overloaded and we had to turn down a number of investors.
It’s always very difficult to say no to money. However, Fido is still in its infancy and we want to focus on creating a traction MVP and larger A Series cycle plans to expand the company internationally next year.
Of course, fundraising in the midst of a pandemic has its problems.
On the other hand, we also succeeded in optimizing logistics through virtual meetings. In some cases, our investors have turned off the cameras so that we can’t even see their faces. It is interesting to note that those who have turned off their cameras have invested in it.
What are the main challenges and obstacles in the fundraising process? If you had to start over, what else would you do?
Marco Maras: The main challenge is to assess the size of the market for the new category. When you’re building something completely new, there’s no research or statistics. You can show people how to convince them of the potential return on their investment.
With Onebip, we were the first company to process payments via operator billing. Nobody else did. Everyone was processing credit card numbers, but we wanted to process mobile phone numbers instead. It was a new category without history and without comparisons.
Unfortunately, this problem cannot be solved. It would be better if you met some visionary investors.
What are the milestones for the next cycle? And what are your goals for the future?
Marco Maras: Next year we want to collect more than 1 million points in your pilot country (Italy) and then use our global points service.
How did you attract users and what strategy did you use to develop your business from the beginning until today?
Fido is a B2B solution, which is why we present it to companies working in sectors with a need for credit evaluation, such as banking, insurance, financial services, e-commerce and online payments.
Which software has been the best marketing tool to help your start-up grow, and why?
Marco Maras: Pipedriv.
With Pipedrive we have our commercial pipeline under control. We are launching our beta version, which will help us gather valuable customer feedback that we will use to create a roadmap for our product.
That most starters are usually wrong about marketing?
Marco Maras: They wait for the perfect product before testing it on the market. In the early days of the company beginners have to kiss a lot of frogs before they can find a prince. You don’t need an advanced marketing game or a fully functional platform for your first meetings. A flexible methodology should apply to all functions of your company, including marketing.
How would you like to develop your activities worldwide?
Marco Maras: We plan to grow our business directly by offering a stand-alone solution that can be activated online and integrated from any country via APIs. We will also use distributors such as system integrators, consulting firms and credit rating agencies to promote our products and services locally.
What are the most common mistakes companies make in their global expansion?
Marco Maras: In my opinion it is a common mistake to hire a country manager before creating the conditions for selling your product/service on a local level. In order to verify the interest in your product, important preparatory work must be carried out from head office.
As a company, building relationships with local partners, distributors and industry associations can help you to understand the interest and appetite for your services before working in your new country.
How do you manage the Kovid 19 flash situation to ensure the survival of your company?
Marco Maras: Frido offers a digital service that solves the problem of consumers who need a new generation of credit for financial services. In fact, VIDOC-19 has accelerated the process for banks and financial institutions looking for new ways to assess customers using alternative data sources unrelated to traditional credit signals and events. Understanding customer credit risk in the event of a pandemic is more complex; the market is looking for alternative solutions.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business?
Marco Maras: Beginners must set their priorities correctly; it is more difficult to sell a product than to develop it. You have to talk to potential clients before you can talk to investors.
What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things with you or go in a similar direction?
Marco Maras: I’m a big believer in Steve Gob’s philosophy of failing fast. As an entrepreneur, I would advise an interested person to just do this kind of thing!
People are often stuck in their daily lives, their current work, their family or something else. There is always something stopping them from realizing their big ideas. Do it and get out of here fast.
What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?
The book: Play More, the last book I read was very interesting. It gives you an excellent overview of how innovators create new categories and dominate markets.
A television series: Stealing money would be my favorite show. I was completely dependent on it. I think you have to be a bit like Sergio Markin, better known as a professor, to run a start-up company.
Movie: The sound of a hedgehog, I looked at it the other day with my 9-year-old son. As I watched, I realised that almost 30 years ago I was playing Sonic on my Sega Game Gear; time flies!
How do you maintain your motivation on a daily basis?
Marco Maras: I was lucky to learn that hard work pays off. That’s what motivates me to work harder to achieve life’s great goals.
What are the three most important life lessons your (future) sons and daughters need to know?
Marco Maras: Sell it, sell it, sell it! A good salesman has great qualities that can be very important in life: Listening skills, empathy, hunger, competitiveness, communication skills, self-confidence, enthusiasm, ability to work under pressure.
Why do you want to be remembered?
Marco Maras: I would like to be remembered for my companies.
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