Before becoming an entrepreneur, Marco worked in strategic consulting at Strategy& (PwC) and as Project Finance Specialist at Astaldi S.p.A. Previously, he spent 2 years in Deloitte, working on corporate finance and M&A projects.
Marco graduated in International Finance at LUISS University and received an MBA from SDA Bocconi School of Management.
You started your career in strategy and finance, and then, in 2019, together with Redi Vyshka and Francesco Laffi, you founded Switcho, a digital company dedicated to expenses management. What led you to this decision and how did the idea of Switcho come about?
Marco: There are several experiences from my past that I believe contributed to my decision to become an entrepreneur.
The first is fencing within the Carabinieri Corps. At the age of 14, I joined the National Fencing Team and began to learn about and manage competitive and performance pressures, and how to accept defeat. I also learned how to multi-task while playing sports and pursuing my studies.
As time went on, however, I became aware that doing two things at the top inevitably means risking doing two things badly. Therefore, when I was 25 years old, I decided to dedicate myself to my professional career.
I first worked in corporate finance, valuation and M&A at Deloitte, and then at Astaldi, in the project finance team. Afterwards, I got an MBA at SDA Bocconi and then worked in strategic consulting. But I’ve always had the desire to do something of my own, and at 33 years old I felt there were the right conditions to do it.
Important was meeting Redi in Strategy&. We both have a passion for fintech and digital innovations. We used to talk a lot about the new fintech trends, in particular open banking that promised to disrupt financial services, starting from banking. Meeting Francesco, with his technical deep knowledge, eventually set up the “magic team” and convinced us to start this new adventure.
The idea of Switcho came also thanks to some studies we made on price comparison operators. We noticed that Italian players had interesting margins despite a modest service in terms of technological innovation and value for end users. Hence, the idea was to connect these two worlds and develop a personal finance tool that would overcome these limits and help families managing their expenses.
So, Switcho is a digital platform helping to get a better understanding of your expenses and managing saving actions on them. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company?
Marco: Our services currently focus on offering digital switches in the electricity, gas, internet and mobile sectors. These are free services for the end-user. We receive a fee for each contract that we activate from the suppliers with whom we have a partnership (at the moment are more than 8).
In addition to this, we offer a free service that, through our mobile app, allows users to connect their bank accounts and have an aggregated view of their expenses, as well as receive personalised saving suggestions.
We have recently added the cancellation service, which is the possibility for the users who link accounts on the Switcho app to have access to an exclusive service – at the moment free of charge – to cancel contractual relationships that are particularly “thorny”, such as telephone contracts. In addition, for other “easier to cancel” subscription services, we provide instructions on how to proceed with the cancellations.
What results have you achieved until now? What are the development plans of Switcho?
Marco: To date, we have about 60,000 registered users and have managed savings proposals for a value of over € 6 million. In terms of turnover, we closed FY2020 with about € 160,000 and as of June 2021, we have over € 200,000 in revenues.
We have just closed a capital increase of € 2 million through the crowdfunding platform Mamacrowd, with the participation of ALIcrowd, the first venture capital Eltif established by Azimut Investments SA.
Switcho’s development plan includes the offer of additional services, such as car insurance and services on other major expenses, including mortgages, subscription services, and services that help people move house (mainly paperwork management).
We also want to enhance the product and in particular the expense tracking with more accurate and useful savings suggestions and insights. We are working on enriching our app with other sections to improve engagement.
We will also invest in marketing and digital communication campaigns to increase our brand awareness, and our offer, also on B2B channels.
What are the main challenges that you experienced in creating Switcho and that you are facing now in the growth phase? What would you suggest to founders approaching the scaling-up phase?
Marco: There are so many challenges that an entrepreneur faces, and they depend a lot on the stage of development of her/his company.
Surely fundraising in Italy is something not trivial. It takes a long time to raise money, you get many doors slammed in your face, but you need to have resilience and patience in finding the right investors. It’s also a time when the entrepreneur must maintain flexibility in managing finances.
Another challenge involves the human resources area. As the company grows, as a founder I found myself changing my modus operandi from being very operational to being a manager. Moreover, hiring resources is not easy when you have trade-offs such as limited funds, limited time to devote to recruiting, and a desire to be attractive in the eyes of candidates.
Another challenge that should not be underestimated for a digital start-up is everything related to marketing and digital campaigns. There are so many digital-related dynamics that aren’t as explicit, it takes time to identify the elements that make you stand out in the digital world.
What do you think of the Italian fintech market? What are the trends that you find more interesting?
Marco: There are many interesting trends, including embedded finance and self-driven finance, which is the ability of web 4.0 to be proactive and recommend expense management actions. I think we are still at a very early stage of this trend in Italy, and I see a boundless possibility of development.
In my opinion, Italy is lagging behind other countries for two main reasons. The first is linked to the technological gap; the quality of data on financial expenses produced by player in the sector is still far behind.
The second is the difficulty of Italian banks in developing products with startups. Or rather, what we are experiencing at the moment is a great openness of Italian banks to make partnerships with startups, but there is just as much difficulty within the banks’ organisations in developing a product or service that is even partially integrated. And this slows down the development of high potential technologies such as personal finance.
But the potential is there, you just need to know how to seize it.
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For more info on Switcho, visit: https://www.switcho.it/