Interview: Luciano Guasco, Co-Founder of FanFuel

July 16th, 2015

Interview // Grossum Possum

Startup Interview with Luciano Guasco

Continuing the interviews from successful startuppers, today we have asked Luciano Guasco, the co-founder of FanFuel, to share his adventure with us.

FanFuel is an online ecosystem where sponsors and athletes meet. It connects brands with influential athletes, offering one of the most effective ways to promote one's brand on social media and measure return on investment. 

FanFuel started with two people: one man, Daniel Paronetto, started with an idea for a crowdfunding platform for athletes and found a developer, Luciano Guasco, for the implementation of some features. The initial idea turned out not to be an easy one to go with it, so after brainstorming for various options, FanFuel, as it is nowadays, was born.

What was the easiest part about launching your startup?

Nothing. 

We got selected for a startup program in Australia, called Muru-D, and it was a very interesting and easy way of getting access to networking and connections, facilities and mentoring. If we weren't selected then, it would've been much harder to go on.

Who do you have on your team?

We are rather small. I am the CTO and used to be the only developer. My CEO, Daniel, is primarily occupied with questions of design and business development. Besides us, we also rely on the help of our interns - young people, willing to learn how the startup works from the inside and to get job experience while they are still studying. So, at the moment, we receive collaboration from six people who do our PR for the blog as well as writing articles about social media, athletes, and sponsorship. Others are contacting athletes and generating as much as possible information regarding the features we might want and should implement in the future on our platform.

Also, we have a professional athlete on our team, who was interested in getting the experience of working on this project. He liked the ideas that we had and he was trying to use his experience as an athlete to apply our advice for personal social media strategy - how to grow one's profile, how to produce quality content. His feedback was incredibly useful for us because he was a part of our target audience.

Why did you decide to invest time teaching your interns?

Everyone has different skills in various areas and we thought that for students this is a great opportunity to see what it is like to work for a starting company. So we invited people, shared our facilities (office, gym, free drinks) with them and offered master classes and various education classes they can take. But although we teach them, we do not tell them strictly what to do. Instead, we brainstorm together and everyone can offer ideas and feedback. Interns set their own goals and this empowerment makes them feel motivated to work and happy.

What methodologies and techniques do you implement in developing of your startup?

We use the Agile methodology and continuous deployment. 

In the six months since we began, we pivoted the idea four times. Every pivot meant we had to drop a lot of features, validate the new ideas, and put them in production. We also had to do this very fast. 

We also wanted to make sure that our product was what people wanted, so to achieve that we had to listen to customers' feedback and act upon it. If for example, some features were not in-demand, we dropped them.

It wasn't Agile in its purest form, but we tried to be practical as much as we could. 

How did you get your first customers?

The first customers were acquired as a result of validating the idea. During the first pivots, we offered them part of the product that they were not interested in, but they gave us some feedback on what they found valuable in the idea. 

Sales require dedication and time. You have to unlock some parts of the market that are unexplored. Sometimes you need to understand how your customers operate, what drives them to buy something and how you can provide them a solution. 
 
Some transactions took us months to close the deals, especially with big customers. So it's important to target both small and big prospects in order to understand the spectrum better.

What's your advice to budding startup owners?

Validate your ideas as soon as possible. 

It can be done in different ways even before the product is ready. That is what lean startup methodology does. You create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) without building the product - sketches on paper, for example, - and put it in front of a hundred people, collecting feedback and counting metrics. Of course, coding and presenting people with the actual product to the audience would accelerate the process, but there are pros and cons to both approaches, so choose according to your budget and strategy.

Yes, validation of ideas is the most crucial part because it helps you understand right away whether people really need what you think they need. 

Visit FanFuel website to find out more about the project. 

Author: Grossum Possum

Grossum Possum. He loves using Symfony2 for his projects and learning to implement Symfony3. He also likes developing web and mobile applications using other programming languages and frameworks, such as PHP and Java. In his free time, Grossum Possum likes to write about his experiences in the blog.

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