The Final Sprint

This is that bit of the year where you see everyone sprinting, studying, revising and moving quickly. It’s usually the time where I realise I am in a race which will end in 4 weeks. For a third year student this is the time where we are working on our Report, which describes the work we have achieved during the year with our Third Year Project.

From this year, the school has also introduced the “Screencast”, which is a short video-presentation of the results we have achieved. It’s a bit scary, because everything is colliding and having multiple deadlines, it’s not what you wish to wake up for every morning. Managing your time properly is the key to success at Uni and if you don’t know how to do it, you’ll most likely fail or end up with 5 deadlines on a single day.

This semester I am also going to attend 4 exams in:

  • User Experience
  • Computer Vision
  • Managing Finance in Enterprises for Computer Scientists
  • Documents, Services and Data

My last exam is on the 26th of May, which means I am flying back to Rome on the 27th for a week and then coming back to Manchester for my first ever work experience at CANDDI over the summer.

My First Job Offer!

It’s pretty official now, so I guess this is the right time to come out, even though I still have to sign the contract. I’ll be spending the summer in Manchester, working for CANDDI. Tim Langley, the CEO, was one of the speakers at the GreatPreneurs conference, which I had organised last year. He offered me a job to design and build their first iOS and Android apps.

CANDDI is a small (5 employees) Manchester based startup, which, as they say , is “Your secret weapon for growth – Know your customers. Convert new business. Never miss a hot lead.” The company is almost six years old and it has several hundred costumers.

Although I had other offers over the past month, I decided to choose CANDDI for the following reasons:

  • They are 5 people
  • They are based in Manchester
  • I have known them for the past two years
  • Tim approached me twice
  • He bought me drinks
  • They are paying me (I don’t think I am allowed to say how much ;), but it’s remarkable to see 5 people making a decent amount of money).
  • Their office is kinda startup/messy style
  • I have got my own project
  • I am going to learn what being part of a startup means

I’ll update you over the summer. In the next weeks, I’ll also publish a detailed post about my third year project.

ps: I am working on another startup.


The Day I Got Rejected By Google

As most of you might know, since I am studying on the MEng program so I am required to get a summer software engineering internship between my third and fourth year. I think I was one of the first to try to fit this requirement with an “associate product manager” position at Google, which I wrote about in my previous post. A few days after I had written this blog, the recruiter phoned me (with a funeral voice) to inform me that my application was unsuccessful.

The question that came up at first was “what do I do now?”. The result was “re-writing my CV with a Software Engineering outlook” (you may want to check this link) and then send it to everybody. I got an offer one day later by a startup based in London, which wanted me to build their Android native app, since they are currently using Phonegap. Although London is really appealing from a “startup” point of view and even in terms of the relationships you can build, the offer was weak and the current version of the app is ridiculous.

I didn’t decline it, but certainly I didn’t show interest. That’s why probably they have disappeared, but who knows they might come back in the next weeks with a decent offer. Then I got in touch with another (Manchester based) startup, which wanted frenetically to hire me. They also asked me how much I wanted and the reply was “it’s not the time to talk about money”. They invited me to their office, but I still haven’t replied to them, I guess I should do it after publishing this post.

Some of you might go for big corporations, others might not even have an idea of what starting a company means, but over the past two years of doing completely crazy things, which I think I have reported here in detail, you realise stuff. Aribnb interviewed 1000 people before hiring their first employee. It’s true, we are just talking about an “internship”, but if you rush up, it means you don’t have a clue of what you are talking about.

I also met with two other (Manchester based) startups. I think I am joining the latter, because they are tiny, they have 300+ customers, they are profitable and I need to find a mentor who teaches me how to startup in the proper way. I think I have found one. I’ll visit their office next month, define what I’ll be working on and then sign a contract at the beginning of April.

I’ll definitely disclose more details once everything is clear. 🙂

The Day I Interviewed At Google

Getting a job at Google might not sound as cool as it was ten years ago, straight after their Initial Public Offering; but, although this company has become a corporation, the lifestyle that you gain by working there is pretty amazing. Yes, I interviewed at Google in London for a summer internship as an Associate Product Manager.

I actually had a first phone interview, where they asked me a “behavioural question”, a “product” one and finally an analytical. It was pretty straightforward and also amazing, because you don’t get “normal questions”, but it’s more a race to determine if you are crazier than the interviewer, and if you are, you move to the on site interviews.

After a few weeks, before new year’s eve, I received an email saying I had passed the phone screen and I was moved to the next stage “on site”. This is something similar an Assessment Centre run by banks. You spend the whole day at Google and you get between 3/4 interviews. In my case, I went through 4 interviews, 3 with Product Managers and 1 Technical.

Two assessed my “product” skills, one was “analytical” and the last one was purely technical. For the first three, the advice is to be crazy, understand Google, lead the conversation and show off as much as you can. As soon as they asked me the first question, I got the marker and told the guy I was going to the whiteboard. We also talked about strategy and the future, so an advice is to read TechCrunch, The Next Web, The Verge, on a daily basis and understand companies’ moves. You are not interested in what happens but why.

I just received an email by the recruiter who told me she would let me know next week, probably on wednesday. If I have passed this stage, I move to the next one, a 3 page essay to be written in 48hrs. I feel like I did good in the first three interviews and underperformed in the technical one, even though I should suppose to be a “Computer Scientist”.

This wasn’t an in-depth post about what really happened. The reason is because Google doesn’t let you tell everything publicly and also because I am not sure I passed this stage, so I’d rather focus on my own things, wait, reflect and let you know what is going to happen in the next few days.

If I go through this stage and the essay one, I’ll probably describe in detail everything and even blog during the summer; but it’s an hard guess and the APM program is probably the hardest program to get in. Keep in mind that for a Software Engineering Internship you just have to pass 2 interviews, I already went through 5. lol.

Stay Tuned!

Pyso – A Location Based Social Network

Several different things have happened since my last entry. I have received a few rejection letters for my summer placement (which I haven’t found yet, but remain hopeful!) and developed a couple of interesting Android applications, including my third year project. As I should have mentioned previously a big chunk of your third year will be spent on working on a project, which you may have chosen from a list of “possible options” or from your creativity.

I am currently developing an Android application, called Pyso, whose aim is to track “the friends” you have on this network 24/7 and show their location on a Google Map. It has been quite challenging, because it was my first Android application, my first backend infrastructure and my first RESTful API. That’s why, from my point of view, this project has been one of the most interesting things I have done in the past three years, since I was able to choose what I wanted to do and learn the things I needed in the way I planned to.

The project uses a simple client-server architecture, where the client is a native Android application and the server, which runs on Amazon EC2, is developed using Django, a Python Web Framework. The first few marks you’ll receive will come from a “Seminar”, which is something close to a “pitch” you give to two markers. It’s a simple 20 minutes presentation, where you have to underline what your project is, why you are doing it, what you have done and what you are planning to do in order to finish it.

My seminar was pretty straightforward, given the extensive oral communication skills I have developed last year thanks to GreatPreneurs :), that’s why I got a nice first. At the moment, I have got a few things done, including a “Friendship” system (in the Facebook way) and a nice way to communicate with the server. My next few challenges will be in determining the frequency of Location Updates I can receive without breaking the phone battery.

As the deadline approaches (mid-March), I will keep you updated, even with a few screenshots which I am not able to provide now.

ps: I am interviewing at Google next month! ehheheheheheh 😉

My Third Year Course Units

The time of the year where I have to choose the course units for the upcoming academic year has come. For a MEng student in Computer Science, the third year is probably the most relevant in the four years period you are going to spend in Manchester. While the first year doesn’t affect your final grade at all, the second is worth 12.5%, which is still a bit irrelevant compared to the other 87.5%.

On the other hand, the third year is worth more than 50% of your final grade. The main focus is on the third year project, which is really close to what a dissertation is, but with a strong technical side, based on what you have built during the year. That’s why this project occupies 40 credits. The compulsory list of course units, apart from the third year project, includes two finance/management based units from the business school.

In this way, there are 60 credits of compulsory course units and 60 of optional units. As in the second year, I have chosen my optional units at the beginning of August with the aim to “try” to follow what I have liked in the past. That’s why I have opted for:

– COMP38120 – Documents, Services and Data on the Web, which is a two semesters course.
– COMP38411 – Cryptography and Network Security, a course without any coursework (Wooooop!)
– COMP37111 – Advanced Computer Graphics
– COMP37212 – Computer Vision
– COMP33512 – User Experience

These courses will enable me to complete the Graphics themes, which contains 3 course units, the distributed systems one and also Interactive Systems Design, which has one course unit, User Experience. My personal advice is not to choose a course units just because the name sounds “cool”. I have done that mistake in the past, it turns out that cool things are really hard! 😀

I Think I am A YouTuber

Well, yes…I needed to find something to take my mind off things.

I was supposed to work on or, at least, think about my third year project; but I have decided to take a long summer holiday break to reflect on what I have done in the past 2 years. September will be the month to code and program 24/7 in order to deliver what I think might be an interesting product. Yes, I haven’t chosen my project within the list given from the staff, but I have made my own submission, because I thought I had an interesting idea.

I’ll try to cover its development as much as possible throughout this third year, which is my penultimate year at the University of Manchester. In the meantime, I am studying what YouTube is and can be. It’s interesting to see all the trends that this awesome platform covers and how people react to them. I thought writing was a noble thing and that’s why I have been trying to publish long essays on GreatPreneurs every single day to attract more people; but when you find out that the most watched YouTuber is Pewdiepie with 29M subscribers, you start thinking why he is so popular.

Does he make videos about his hot girlfriend?

Is he a football player who records everything he does in life?

Is he Dan Bilzerian?


He simply uses a webcam to record his face while playing a game, so basically people watch his gameplay and the jokes he makes while playing. People might think he’s a loser and probably he’s a weirdo (as are many of us), but this guy is bringing home something between $1.5M – $15.3M a year, according to socialblade.

In a single month, he makes what we can hope to make in a lifetime, just by uploading four or five videos. He was one of the first and now there are thousands of people trying to achieve what he has achieved. Is this the right time to open a YouTube channel? No, we are already late. 2014 is too LATE! Why didn’t people tell me these things  6 years before?

We are late in the gaming trend, but if it’s a matter of comedy or pranks, no one is late. In the pranking channels, the guys who win are not the first who started, but those who make us laugh more. That’s why I have decided to open a channel (EdTV93), someone already had EdTV -.-‘. The idea is not to turn into a millionaire by making videos, (please make it happen!), but to get more comfortable in front of a camera.

I have noticed I am good at sitting behind a laptop and making my friends laugh when I speak Italian; so trying to be good at sitting in front of a camera while speaking English could be the next big challenge. Why? I am still not sure, but I believe in what Steve Jobs said, at some point, all the dots will be connected.

I am about to record my third and then fourth video and I think I’ll focus on my strongest point, the fact that I live in UK, but I am Italian, so talking about things I know, might be kind of interesting.

With this said, have a look at my channel and don’t forget to subscribe!

I Quit

Yes, I quit.

This is the sentence that I’d love to say in a few years, because the ability of quitting always leads to better and bigger things. However in the past months I have decided to quit something else, Great Preneurs. The online magazine, which has completely ruined part of my second year is about to close. I didn’t quit because I had to focus more on my studies, but because I have realised that doing things is much better than writing about what others are doing.

In a world full of opportunities such as this, there is no sense in sitting on the stands and watching the game. This is a once in a life time opportunity and I think it’s time to play the game and score. That’s why in the next months, I’ll focus on my third year project, which will be a location based social network. I still think there is some hope behind the interesting world of location, which hasn’t been able to form a decent startup in the last fifteen years.

In the same way, I have just launched my new YouTube Channel. I have made a video about Italian Gestures, because they are one of the things which I can relate the most. In the next few weeks, more videos will follow, with the hope to have thousands of subscribers. Yes, sometimes life is about trying to do things you would have never imagined to do.

I haven’t been able to update this blog that much because I was busy with the Great Preneurs Conference and then with the exams. I finished my second year with a poor 2.1, which hopefully will turn in a first next year. If you are reading this, you’ll probably hear more about me in the next few months, since I have got tons of spare time.


Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE!


Introducing Great Preneurs Conference 2014

When you run an online magazine, you end up thinking shall I hide behind a laptop for the next years and keep writing or go out and start connecting with the people who believe in what I believe? We ended up reflecting and thinking. In the end, we chose the second option and that’s why we are organising the First Ever Conference About Manchester Startups. “First Ever” sounds a little bit silly, but it’s true, no one has ever held an event about Manchester Startups; probably because no one has ever considered it a proper hub for entrepreneurs.

Although Manchester can’t be compared to the Valley, this ecosystem is massively growing and there are a lot of people who are building great things. For this reason, we have decided to create a one day event just about them. The aim is to reflect on what Manchester has achieved and where we can bring this city. Instead of inviting random people who will then disappear, we are inviting those who are part of this community and that are going to talk about their experiences in Manchester.

I believe it’s going to be a great event. This city is expanding and great companies such as Uber and Hassle are expanding here, because they know that after the expensive and massive London, there is Manchester. We are going to run five keynotes, three fireside chats and a demo.

The speakers will be:

  • Martin Bryant – Editor in Chief of The Next Web
  • Ben Taylor – Co – Founder of Fatsoma
  • Tim Langley – CEO & Co-Founder of CANDDi
  • Rose Lewis – Co-Founder of Collider
  • Rupert Saul – Investment Manager at AXM Venture

The Fireside Chats will feature:

  • Formisimo, which recently got into Seedcamp
  • Rormix, which closed its first seed

Growot, the winner of Startup Weekend, will be showing its recent updates to the product they will launch in May, a couple of days after the conference.

The event will take place on the 3rd of May at the new space of Techhub Manchester. We are selling tickets both for students and non, we think this event is everyone, but it’ll be great to have the presence of students that are those who should lead the next generation of entrepreneurs in Manchester.

You can BUY TICKETS here:

Interview With Matt Clifford From Entrepreneur First

I have just interviewed Matt Clifford from Entrepreneur First, an accelerator that accepts application only from GRADUATES with strong technical skills aka Computer Science students.

Matt Clifford is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Entrepreneur First, “the UK’s leading programme for aspiring tech founders”.

Can you give us the standard profile of the applicants you accept every year? Do you accept non technical people and what skills do you look for in technical applicants?

We’re looking for people who can make a big impact in a tech startup on day one. The nature of what a tech startup does means that a lot (in fact, most) of these people are going have tech skills. But there are lots of other things that are important too. A big task for a startup is gaining a very deep understanding of their customers’ needs. We’re very interested in people whose skills and experience help with that. Successful non-technical applicants tend to have impressive domain expertise or lots of skill in the techniques needed to distribute what the startup is building to customers.

Universities are looking at employability rates as a way to increase worldwide rankings and Entrepreneurship is often not considered at all. In what way do you think we should put the focus of Universities on Entrepreneurship?

Most unis have active and vibrant entrepreneurship scenes, whether that’s largely led by a university department or by a student-led society (or both). One thing outside that that we’d like to see is a greater emphasise on making and building within academic courses – that is, the combination of cutting edge academia with a drive to create actual products. There are some computer science and engineering courses from which you can graduate without ever having built anything, which seems a shame.

Why is Entrepreneur First a charity and what’s the mission behind it?

We’re not! We’re a community interest company. We don’t seek to make a profit out of our normal operating activity, but we do have an investment fund and our investors will make a profit if our startups do well. The EF team, though, is motivated by a deep sense of mission: we believe starting a startup is the most exciting career choice for the most ambitious young people and we want to make it the obvious one too.

Have you got any success stories?

Lots. We built 11 companies last year that have created millions of dollars of value. Some of the most successful ones include AdBrain (disrupting mobile advertising), Blaze (cutting-edge bike light and cycle safety products), Prizeo (YC W13), Kivo (YC S13) and many more. The current batch is just as exciting and we’ll be unveiling them to the world in March.

What’s the value of getting into an accelerator that looks at the people instead of looking at the ideas?

Well, if you don’t have an idea, one major value is that you simply won’t get into an accelerator focused on ideas! But (obviously) we think there’s more to it than that. In startups, people are way more important than ideas. Ideas in startups are essentially experiments; what’s really important is the quality and the character of the people doing the experiments – and that’s what we focus on at EF.

How many applications have you received for the summer internship and what do you expect from the 2014 summer interns?

Hundreds. We have two big goals for the summer programme. First, we want to give people the chance to get a taste of what working in a startup is like. Second, we want to give our startups access to amazing talent. Finding great people is almost always the number one issue facing good startups.

I know you have recently released a program exclusively for Girls (Code First: Girls), but do you think programs can solve the “ratio” problem or is that more a mindset issue, regarding the presence of women in technology, that we all have?

I think the issue is extremely complex. It’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about at EF. My co-founder Alice has written some great things about this. This is probably the best summary of our thoughts: “Tech shouldn’t be a boys club: what I’ve learned from getting more women into tech.”

From what Universities are your graduates from? It might be interesting to see the Universities that get people involved in entrepreneurship the most.

This year we had applications from students and grads from 105 different unis. I’m skeptical that the breakdown of our applicants and cohort by university is a good proxy for which universities get people most involved in entrepreneurship. We’re so focused on tech that it’s much more a reflection of where the best (and most practical) computer science departments are – and consequently of where we spend most time recruiting. I think our top three unis this year are Cambridge, Imperial and Edinburgh.

How many people are part of the Entrepreneur First team and are you recruiting?

There are six of us full time. Alice and I divide our time between helping the startups and working with our external stakeholders. Alex runs most of our programme activity. Zoe is in charge of all our work at universities, finding amazing talent. Chloe manages our relationships with startups. And Maddie runs Code First. We have a couple of internships open right now, but otherwise aren’t actively recruiting for permanent roles. That said, we’re always excited to hear from exceptional people who have something to offer.

What are the 3 most promising startups in London?

Well, obviously I want to name three EF ones, but that would mean picking favourites… So, picking from outside EF, I’d point to GoCardless (fintech), Thread (fashion) and Show My Homework (edtech) as people doing very exciting stuff. Full disclosure: I have friends at all three, so am hugely biased.