kathmandu 17 OCT 2014: “Sometimes I forget I’m 22 years old,” says business studies student Matteo Achilli. It is hardly surprising given that Matteo, as well as taking exams in law, technology and finance, he will also be taking his online recruitment company global. He will be tying up partnerships with Google and Microsoft, and servicing blue chip clients such as Vodafone, Bulgari, Generali and Ericsson. Not bad really, considering he came up with the idea for his company, Egomnia, just three years ago in his final year of high school.
Unfortunately in Italy there isn’t an ecosystem with venture capital and incubators, so I started alone,” he says. He approached professional coders to build an algorithm but they wanted 100,000 euros (Â£80,000; $135,000) – money he did not have, and the idea could have died then. Instead he asked some student coders and they agreed to build the algorithm for a tenth of the price, money his father helped him find.
But what company would take a 19-year-old with an algorithm seriously?
The Zuckerberg effect
Bocconi University has one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe and it was in his first year here that Matteo first received support for Egomnia, when another student wrote about it and the idea was picked up by national websites. On its launch day Egomnia had 1,000 students on its site and 20 companies. Matteo points out that the careers service at Bocconi University is connected to about 100 companies. But the big turn in fortunes came when Italy’s influential Panorama magazine put Matteo on the cover, dubbing him “Italian Zuckerberg” – a reference to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The magazine cover came as Facebook was being listed on the New York Stock Exchange in one of the biggest flotations in history. Suddenly companies wanted to know more about the “Italian Zuckerberg” and what he could do for them, including Microsoft which has taken Matteo under its wing. Two years later, Egomnia says it has 250,000 members and 700 companies using its service. “Now we are writing the history of the internet,” he says. “The real experts are the young people, people who don’t have white hair.”
“It’s a very real innovation that a 22-year-old is doing this. At the beginning I thought my young age was not good, now I understand that my young age is my success.” His success is now reaching beyond Italy. In just a few months he will open his first office outside his home country, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A film about his life is in development and the makers have asked him to play himself, but he has refused.