2020 Summer Catalyst Startup Profile: Avanti
Alex Fantappiè ‘21 is the CEO of Avanti, a platform that connects high school students with job opportunities. Inspired by his parents who both started their own businesses, Alex developed a passion for entrepreneurship when he was about 13 years old. Throughout high school and then at Babson, he started a few businesses in the retail, education, consulting, and food industries. In 2019, after realizing that there are many high school students who are eager to find employment but struggling to do so, Alex wanted to make a difference: “I am very passionate about the problems that Avanti aims to solve. Many high school students just don’t have enough opportunities to earn money. They are capable of working, and community members in their neighborhoods often need help.” Avanti strives to bridge that gap by connecting high school students with neighbors who need help. Some job opportunities could include tutoring, car washing, grocery delivery, or athletic training. Avanti allows students to save money, gain work experience, contribute to their communities, and create their own work schedules.
The team has built a platform and launched in a few areas and is working with users to gain more feedback. Alex looks forward to expanding his venture to other areas in the U.S. In Summer Catalyst, Alex is excited to be a part of a vibrant community of mentors, peers, and advisors. During Hot Seat, he received valuable feedback and was able to strengthen his initial pitch: “Receiving continuous feedback and criticism, without pausing to respond to it, was particularly helpful. The rebuild session also gives us an opportunity to dig deeper into problems and brainstorm ways to solve them.” In addition to Summer Catalyst, Alex is an active member of Babson’s entrepreneurial community at eTower.
Throughout his entrepreneurial journey, what are some of the most valuable lessons Alex has learned? “First of all, starting a business isn’t about the product, it’s about the people – the founders, the employees, the users, the customers – and it’s important to remember that. In addition, the entrepreneurial journey is a long one and you need to be committed to the process; things don’t come as easily or as quickly as you may think. Also, engaging with your customers on a regular basis and asking for feedback are essential. Don’t spend a lot of time or money building a product or software application without knowing if your customers will actually like it.”
Alex’s favorite part about being an entrepreneur is the freedom to set his own path and work toward something he’s passionate about everyday. Nevertheless, sometimes it can be difficult to define a direction and figure out what to do next. In those cases, Alex finds it helpful to reach out to his peers, mentors, advisors, and the eTower community for guidance. And, as an entrepreneur, not every task is glamorous: “You and your team have to do a lot of work. Some of it is exciting, and some of it is really tedious. Regardless, the work has to get done, so it’s important to stay focused, persevere, and keep motivating yourself.”
Alex has four main pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. One: failure is great; don’t shy away from it but rather learn from your mistakes. Two: get out there and start something even if it’s small; don’t wait: “If you start your own business, you learn so many lessons: how to handle money, how to handle customers, how to empathize with others, how to manage a team, and more. Don’t forget that some of the biggest companies today started as a small project.” Three: great execution is more important than a great idea. Also, working on one startup can inspire ideas for other projects. Four: making time for self-care and finding the right balance isn’t easy, but it’s definitely important. Take breaks and continue to spend time on other hobbies – you never know when new inspiration may spark.