Interview with Salvatore Vacante, co-founder of Shoppi and happy Penta client
Marketing Manager Italy
Salvatore and I recently met at the Rooftop Barbecue organized by Penta in Berlin.
After a year since the founding of Penta, it was time to organize something special: the whole Penta team meeting with the customers who helped us the most, spending time chatting and grilling. All in perfect Penta style.
Salvatore Vacante is the co-founder of Shoppi, a marketplace which helps travellers to shop like locals. He is also one of the very first members of the Penta community: always on point and ready to give us his feedback.
While sipping a cup of German beer and enjoying the aroma of the barbecue, Salvatore starts telling me more about him. He loves the idea of having an informal BBQ with his banking team. He is able to chat and hang out with our CMO Matteo, our CFO Igor… and even with Marko, the CEO of Penta!
As Salvatore states: “the atmosphere of the event is incredible, being able to meet a client in such an informal manner makes all the difference in the world!” then he continues on to discuss his experience with Penta, saying that:
“Banks have always been difficult to deal with. They are difficult to approach and they do not listen to your feedback on their services. With Penta, it’s a completely different story.”
As Salvatore is Italian, I inform him that Penta is preparing to launch in his native country, Italy. Since we’re having this quality time together, I ask him if I can report our chat as an interview to post on our blog. For me is important to listen to his story and share his experience as a successful entrepreneur.
Salvatore is very enthusiastic!
Why did you start Shoppi?
Shoppi was born from the result of a personal need. In the modern world, travelling is now pretty simple, almost natural. When you travel, you want to learn more about the city. You want to find nice local places and products.
When we encountered this need, my business partners Massimo Rossi, Maria Denise Vacante and I all worked together to create Shoppi: a resource of helpful information on various cities around the world, all from a local’s perspective.
This way, a traveller who wants to understand a new city can easily find what he’s looking for without wasting his time.
We have restaurants, events, shops, and we host content from other businesses: mainly videos and news which help our users connect with the city as a local would.
Usually, launching a startup is often the equivalent to being successful. Nothing could be more wrong: creating a startup is difficult. And scaling is even more difficult!
What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far, and what are your goals for the future of Shoppi?
Shoppi was born from the ashes of failure. I launched at least a couple of e-commerce stores before we came up with Shoppi. Sadly, they did not end well. I learned a lot from these experiences, though, and they helped me to better understand the market. I realized that people were hungry for “local content.” With the massive spread of mobile apps, it was that much easier to create and grow Shoppi.
Shoppi is already in all the main world capitals: cities such as Berlin, New York, London, Milan, Miami, and so on. To create local offers, we travel every month to update and improve our content. My dream is not only to offer Shoppi in these cities but also to have physical offices.
Doing this would be a great achievement for us. The biggest challenge is to create a global product and framework, all from a local’s perspective.
Salvatore is a true startupper! At this point, I ask him to tell us more about his experience with Penta.
Why did you choose Penta?
When I arrived here in Berlin, I needed an accountant to help me with my startup. He recommended various names of traditional German banks.
Since we were a startup, we could only pay a symbolic sum as social capital. Unfortunately, this created great reluctance among the traditional banks… We were not an attractive client. Instead of receiving the help we needed, we were slammed with a ton of bureaucracy.
At this point, I started doing some online research. While looking through various startup groups, I saw that Penta was consistently mentioned. In short, we noticed a trend.
When I realized how simple it was to open an account with Penta, and that there were no requirements or limits for social capital, the decision was clear. I said to myself “this sounds interesting. Let’s give it a shot.”
After an easy account opening process, we deposited the initial capital. We then requested company cards for the entire team. There was very little bureaucracy and the process was transparent and smooth. As a whole, it was a very simple and straightforward process.
Now that you have been with Penta for a year, what is your favourite feature?
Since we travel a lot, the flexible card management service is really valuable to us. Everything is done in real-time. We can monitor the cards, set limits, and so on, instantly. Additionally, we enjoy using Penta’s attractive and intuitive interface.
What things would you like to see Penta offer in the future?
We happen to spend a large portion of our total travel budget. In the future, I would like to have insurance to cover potential problems with things such as car rentals and baggage loss. I wouldn’t want to pay more than my current plan, but maybe when I buy something like a plane ticket or book an Airbnb there could be an option to pay a little more to receive this: like add €30 – €35 and ensure a safe journey.
This would be very useful. If proposed at the right time, the chances of us actually paying the extra charge would be really high.
Salvatore is a great model of the entrepreneur who built himself up from the ashes of failure. From these experiences, he learned, adapted himself, and came back swinging.
Can you discuss three entrepreneurs who inspired you, and any qualities that all entrepreneurs should have?
Obviously, this is a very personal question. However, there are three entrepreneurs in particular that I consider very inspiring:
- Elon Musk: I think he’s one of those entrepreneurs that make pure innovation on challenging markets that seem impossible to others. I really admire his “madness.”
- Dan Lok: He is a real businessman. I especially like his idea of monetizing in a simple manner.
- Gary Vaynerchuk: I really like his business approach to personal growth.
The first quality an entrepreneur should have is learning how to be insistent without being rude. Knowing how to insist on what you want to do without having a negative impact on people around you is crucial.
Next, if you want to have a successful business, you need the ability to get out of your comfort zone and take risks.
Finally, you must have a detailed roadmap and strategy. Both for the short-term and long-term. Although we must also be flexible, clear plans really help.
With so many new entrepreneurs entering the market each year, what advice would you give them?
It’s important to find a connection on a personal level with your mindset, your passion and the market needs. You don’t create a business just to do it.
It’s important to create a business that reflects who you are.
At this point, we wrap up our interview. It is time to go back to the BBQ. I thank him, agree to review the interview together and snap a photo of his team.
Salvatore gave us many ideas, but above all, he shared the essence of Penta.
Customers at the centre. No fear of making mistakes, but rather, willingness to listen and help. All while offering the services and solutions necessary for growing a startup.
Did you enjoy hearing Salvatore’s story? To learn more about Penta’s arrival in Italy, be sure to visit our website and follow us on social media!