Venture Capital Watch: Interview with Al.ta Cucina

For our series of interviews we asked Alessandro Tartaglia and Simone Mascagni, founders of Al.ta Cucina, how they started their business and and what they are planning to do in the future.

1. Simone and Alessandro, what inspired you to launch Al.ta Cucina? Can you tell us a bit about Al.ta Cucina’s business and its first fundraising campaign?

Initially, the aim was to relaunch an online supermarket chain: Alta Supermarkets. So, we decided to open a Facebook cooking section where we published quick and easy one-minute video recipes. The idea was to link the recipes to supermarket products to be sold through e-commerce.
In two years, we managed to grow a community of over 2 million users while we were working part-time and carving out time in the evenings: Simone was working as an advertising creative in London and Alessandro was studying mechanical engineering and was a professional rugby player.
At a certain point, a group of angels who believed in the project expressed interest and then decided to invest in Al.ta Cucina, with a vision of growing the largest community of Italian cuisine lovers in the world.
In a little less than a month, we raised the capital, and we hired a financial advisor who could help us with the valuation and term sheet. During that phase, Portolano Cavallo’s support was essential to having a clean term sheet that benefited both parties.
The angels are a group of friends who invest together in different things, so once the first one was convinced, the others came along, too.
Today, Al.ta Cucina has over 5 million users. We want to grow it into the largest community of Italian cuisine lovers in the world by expanding its fan base abroad. The model is advertising. We create branded content and soon we will expand to commerce.

2. How was Al.ta Cucina before the Covid-19 lockdown and how did the lockdown affect its business? Have you taken any measures to protect Al.ta Cucina’s business during this emergency period? Did the emergency rules issued by the Italian government provide any support to Al.ta Cucina? Are there other measures that, in your opinion, should have been taken help startups during this critical period?

During the Covid period, most people got into cooking. That meant a big increase in numbers and work on our part, so we decided not to leave anything on the field, and we continued at full speed.
However, the advertising market came to a standstill, and that led to a halt in all the commercial partnerships we were about to finalize. That forced us to revise our entire budget for 2020 and early 2021.
Many goals have not been met, but the digitization of the entire food sector has opened new avenues and possible revenue streams for us.
Regarding government support, we decided in December to access a guarantee fund loan of EUR 30K to avoid being crushed by financial pressures that would have stunted our growth.

3. What does the future hold for Al.ta Cucina? Are you having any difficulty finding new financing?

The goal is to have a capital increase in 2022.
Right now, we are structuring a new pitch deck with objectives for the next few years that will focus more on our proprietary platform and internationalization. We know it’s a hot time for finding the finances: Q1 2020 has seen very big growth in Italy compared to the same period in recent years, and in general the investment market is super-hot.

We will keep you posted!

4. Do you have any tips and tricks for seed startups approaching their first investment rounds?

Feel comfortable with your investors. From our experience I can tell you that we have a wonderful relationship with our investors, and this makes us feel protected and at the same time gives us agility and the freedom to run the company as we see fit. We make lots of mistakes, of course, but without being pressured and criticized by our investors.
We think that raising money from investors who work in the same sector is fundamental because they understand the business perfectly and know how to give the right kind of support during the first phase, which is the most critical one.

5. How do you expect the Italian venture capital market to react to Covid-19 in the coming months? Could Covid-19 turn out to be an opportunity for venture capital investments?

We are not very experienced in this. There is no doubt that opportunities arise from a great crisis, and we can see from our own experience that investments in digital have accelerated significantly. The Italian landscape is certainly maturing in terms of both interesting realities in which to invest and the number of investors who have decided to dedicate themselves to this type of investment.

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