Andrea Giannangelo, founder and CEO of iubenda, chats with Farrelly Caizzone & Associates on how to grow a successful startup and deal with the challenges and difficulties of scaling and expanding abroad.
Data privacy has increasingly become a top priority for many countries and regions.
Robust and enforceable data regulations frameworks, like the recent European General Data Protection Regulation EU 2016/679 (also known as GDPR), have been developed by regulators to ensure businesses of every size protect the privacy of individuals and give them control over how their personal data is collected, stored and used.
It is important to ensure that your business meets its legal obligations, to avoid both major financial consequences (due to sanctions and fines on the regulatory side and liability damages on the customer side), and potentially significant and lasting damage to your public trust and reputation.
Lucky for you, there is an easy solution to ensure data law compliance, if your business interacts with users online.
Its name is iubenda.
This Italian startup, created by former Economics student Andrea Giannangelo, provides a complete solution to websites, apps and Facebook apps to ensure compliance with data privacy and cookie laws, without the help of a lawyer and in just a few clicks.
Before founding iubenda the then 21 year old Andrea had already co-founded Stickermule and one of the most purchased iOS apps in the Italian App Store. While managing a high-traffic website, he started thinking about the implications of the privacy of the users.
After two years of Giannangelo’s hard work on the project, iubenda was founded in 2011.
It immediately attracted investing interest. They indeed announced – a few months after founding – the closing of a $100,000 seed funding led by Digital Investments SCA SICAR (a fund specialising in ICT/Internet whose advisor is dPixel). Boox (incubator of Andrea Di Camillo, founder of Vitaminic and Banzai), Marco Magnocavallo (founder of Blogo), and Stefano Bernardi also participated in the round.
iubenda quickly became a success story, and didn’t need to raise any further rounds of investment.
Adopted since the very beginning by the top Italian websites, interested in being able to generate compliant privacy policies in just a few steps, it is now trusted by over 50,000 clients in 100+ countries.
While iubenda’s business was growing, so were its services.
The company now offers complete privacy compliance solutions modeled after the strictest privacy requirements found in the world like the EU’s GDPR, the US’s CalOPPA and Australia’s APPs (there is a good overview of these data regulations on iubenda’s site).
In today’s feature in our series of interviews with startup founders and entrepreneurs who managed to internationalize their business, we chat with Andrea.
Read how an apparently simple service managed to become so important, how they grew their startup at such an impressive rate, what strategies they put in place to scale their business internationally and how they dealt with the challenges of expanding in other markets.
- iubenda is a great success story, well done Andrea! How did you come up with the idea of iubenda and how did you progress from the idea to the product?
- You were only 21 when you founded iubenda; that’s incredible! How did the business world appear to you when you were so young?
- Could you give us a quick intro to your services and business model, and some overview on your customer base?
- When did you start thinking about expanding internationally?
- How did you plan your expansion in other markets? Did you get any institutional support on this?
- What difficulties did you experience while expanding your business abroad? What were the top issues you had to overcome?
- Did you have to set up offices abroad? If so, how did you pick the location?
- We know you rely on legal partners for offering your services in other countries, how do you pick your legal partners and are there other types of partners you collaborate with for your international operations?
- How do you deal with the differences in the corporate tax regimes in Italy and other countries?
- How do you approach your clients abroad, and is your sales strategy different than in Italy?
- How is the GDPR impacting on your business? We know you launched new GDPR-related services, how are they doing and what kind of problems you experienced in launching these services?
- Would you have any tips for startups looking to expand internationally?
I was at my first year of university – Economics – and I had been creating and designing websites since I was a kid. One of my websites at the time was performing quite well, with hundreds of thousands of visits per month. While preparing for one of my law exams, I started wondering about the legal requirements that apply to websites, beginning with my own. That’s how I learned about privacy policies being mandatory for pretty much all websites, deciding to start iubenda with the goal of making it easy for everyone who has a website to make it compliant with the applicable laws.
Looking back, it’s quite crazy that I could convince a few key and experienced people to believe in me and in iubenda. I was definitely competent and I must have looked promising, but I had little more than a bunch of slides. The fact that at the time (2010-2011) a young Mark Zuckerberg was just rising to business stardom definitely helped break the age barrier.
Day one. Since our very first few lines of code, the service has always been conceived to be available in English, as well as in Italian.
All that we do is English first. Internal communication is in English and we have team members from 10 different nationalities. It’s not a plan, it’s something that is embedded in the company culture and is at the basis of how we do business.
Being available in a specific country through localization is just a small part of expanding internationally. Each region requires dedicated effort in order to grow significantly. On this, we have much to improve and the process is ongoing.
We have several team members that work outside of our office, but haven’t established an office outside of Italy yet. This is also due to the fact that the company is structured to support remote working, which makes establishing new offices an option more than a necessity.
#8. We know you rely on legal partners for offering your services in other countries, how do you pick your legal partners and are there other types of partners you collaborate with for your international operations?
Establishing a partners network was a significant effort, but we’re confident to now have the partners that are needed to properly support our operations. It was a trial and error process, which is difficult to serialize.
Dealing with taxation and invoicing requirements is a major effort when trying to establish an online business that operates internationally. While today there are third party services that specialize in this, there were none when we started and we had to build everything from scratch, creating custom integrations with our platform.
We mostly resort to inbound marketing, so it’s the potential customer that finds us. In this, besides creating ads and content that are localized to target specific countries or regions, our marketing strategy does not differ between countries.
The GDPR has of course been a source of significant growth. The challenge we’ve had to face in building a series of services to help businesses in their journey to GDPR compliance was to design something that was easy to use. This is a process that is ongoing as we continue to release updates to our suite of GDPR-oriented services. Our solutions for the GDPR can be found here: iubenda.com/en/gdpr
Yes! Make your company English-first and start hiring people from all over the world, making working internationally your new “normal”. Also pick one country or region at a time and dedicate 100% of your focus to it before moving forward.
We thank Andrea for the time he dedicated to the interview and for his answers, truly interesting and source of inspiration for young entrepreneurs. Follow our blog for the next interviews with startup founders and entrepreneurs who managed to internationalize their business.