Former director of CheBanca! let go of everything and invent the Yoox of Italian design:
"We must deserve to be born in this wonderful country"
by Eleonora Chioda

Starting over at 54 in a completely new industry and transforming from a banker to a startup founder. Betting everything on design, even if he has always moved in the world of finance. This is the story of Roberto Ferrari, 14 years in Mediobanca, four of which spent directing CheBanca! and one as Chief digital and innovation officer of the parent company. A great fintech expert ("but in this world, everything has already been done and working with banks is not that simple"), he decided to start from scratch by focusing on his passion: the excellence of Italian design. In April 2019 he launched DesignItaly, a platform that connects buyers with luxury design producers.

A few days ago, at the very beginning of phase 2 of this health emergency, Ferrari opened an equity crowdfunding campaign on the portal. In just one week it reached its goal of 300 000 euros, winning 37 members and has now decided to aim for 500 000. "I want to take Italian design beyond national borders and create a community of small and medium-sized enterprises ready to restart to make the most of the demand for Made in Italy that is being generated at the moment".

"We are fortunate to be born in this wonderful country, but we must deserve it. We have to roll up our sleeves and work to improve things».


Digital man, passionate about behavioural economics ("We are much less rational than we think"), Ferrari has always had a love for material things and a desire to do. How can you stay in even a prestigious job if you feel like a minister without a wallet? «"The most consistent discovery you make at a certain age - says Toni Servillo in the film The Great Beauty - is that you can no longer waste time doing things you don't feel like doing ". Here. The time spent in Mediobanca was over, and the awareness that there was an opportunity out there made its way into me ". He leaves Mediobanca, starts studying for six months and prepares for the new adventure. «I made a bet on Made in Italy, putting together a mix of things. I saw the extraordinary idea of ​​Eataly: a platform to raise awareness of Italian food excellence in the world. Why not create one on design too? I looked at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, which in recent years has become the most important event in the sector in the world. I studied the market data: the desire for good and well made is growing. And I saw that our luxury design was underrepresented, often sold by foreign platforms. I observed Yoox and LuisaViaRoma and that ability of fashion to digitize a sector, and I started this journey».

Ferrari, who before Mediobanca, worked in marketing at Procter & Gamble, starts with the name of the site. He enters "Design Italy" and finds it, it's available, he buys it for $ 2,500. He runs a "family and friends" round and creates the marketplace. He selects the first high-quality designer products. The business model is a percentage of sales. 80 companies are already on the portal, 1000 products for sale: only those who produce in Italy can join...

"E-commerce is the sector that will drive the future. We all noticed its power. And we will never go back."

Just as he would not return to his previous life. "I'm learning everything on my skin. I'm taking a risk. I deal with the F24 model, things to pay, budgets, public relations, the choice of designers, bureaucracy. I struggle with rules, procedures, with things that are often incomprehensible. But I am enthusiastic, and it is a very informative experience.

"The first lesson I learned? Before I ran a bank with 1300 people, today its 8 of us: but companies, whether small or large, are made up of people. People represent the transition between what you think and what you want to accomplish. You have to take care of them. You have to choose them well, organize the work and understand how much effort they make. If they do too much, it means that they are using their time badly and will soon no longer be motivated. The digital transformation, which we talk about a lot, serves to take away fatigue. And understanding it means taking a step forward. And then, this epidemic has given us another great lesson: the world is globalized, we are globally interdependent, but in this interdependence, we must find a way to make Italy stand out. At this stage, our country inspires positive feelings in all of us, which we must keep. We have nothing to envy to the rest of the world: I'm starting from here ».


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