We are entering our final week here in Italy and wow what a whirlwind it has been. The European Innovation Academy has exceeded all my expectations and provided me with an unforgettable life changing experience.
We started on July 8th with a product expo and team formation. I immediately found my team member Maria and her idea called Health Minute, a platform to break the barrier between patient doctor communication. Her passion and detailed analysis of the market drew me in and I knew I had found something special. We found our remaining team members Clarissa, Walter, and Jessie and we instantly clicked. Unlike other teams who had problems from the very beginning, we established an open and respect policy and things have been running smoothly ever since. We were paired with highly successfully mentors who gave us valuable insight and guided us through the beginning stages of creation. By the end of the first week we had fine tuned our idea, established revenue streams, got in contact with specific members of our market, and created a prototype.
We work around 10-12 hour days Monday through Friday and then we get the weekends off to travel and explore! This first weekend I headed to Florence with two of my friends. We went to the breath-taking Boboli Gardens, the leather markets, the Florence Cathedral, and the Uffizi Museum to see the real David statue. It was a packed weekend, but Florence was such an incredible city with some of the nicest people. My absolute favorite part about Florence was the abundance of gluten free restaurants! Being gluten free has been quite a challenge here in Italy, especially as we are located in Torino a smaller city. Florence is known for being one of the most gluten free friendly places in Italy. I had the World Champion Gluten Free Pizza at Ciro & Sons, and it 100% lived up to that claim! There was also a bakery called Starbene Senza Glutine that had multiple locations around Florence that was entirely gluten free! For the first time in Italy I was finally able to have a pastry and they were the best pastries I’ve ever had! It may seem simple and silly but not having to worry about whether or not I’ll be able to find something to eat for my next meal was such a relief.
Week two started promptly Monday morning at 9am. This week was particularly difficult as we were working to make our product tangible. This required meticulous attention to detail, color shades, logo sizes, spacing, etc. It was exhausting, and our eyes were burning at the end of each day from staring at our laptops for hours straight. We had another product expo on Tuesday where we presented our first round of pitches and provided our peers and the staff with a better look at our developed product. We gained a lot of positive feedback which even further validated our market. On Wednesday we were introduced to our phenomenal marketing mentor. PJ Leimgruber was an absolute pleasure to work with an helped us navigate the complicated world of healthcare and develop our marketing campaign. He saw the potential in our idea and taught us how exactly to express that to others. We ended the week launching our marketing campaign, finalizing our functional prototype, and finalizing our assignments to make it into the “Product Sprint” to gain access to additional pitch and software mentors.
At the end of the work day Friday we headed straight to the train station and hopped on a train to Rome for the weekend. We got into the hotel around midnight and had to be up the next day for our “Rome and Vatican City in a Day” walking tour. We were tired, but we rallied and had the most unbelievable day. Seeing Rome has always been a dream of mine and it seem surreal to actually be there. Around 23,000 steps and 12 hours later we literally saw ALL of Rome in one day. We saw the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and so much more. I learned about the history of all of these places in school but seeing them in person gave me a much deeper appreciation for them. Sunday there was, not so conveniently, a train and plane strike. We weren’t exactly sure when and how we would get back to Torino but we knew we weren’t going to miss our on Rome so we decided to just wing it once we got there. We were so lucky because our train went out on time with no problems at all. We made it back to Torino and crashed from exhaustion until Monday morning.
So here I am in the present, today is Monday 7/23 at 9:30 am and we are getting ready to launch our last week here at EIA and in Italy. We are one of the teams to have made it to the product sprint (YAY) and now we work our butts off to make it to the top 10 teams in the pitching carousel. I am sad that my time abroad is close to coming to an end but I am so thankfully beyond words for the opportunities that I have had while I am here. Our product might not make it anywhere, we might not get invested in, but what I have learned about creating startups and my personal abilities is priceless. I look forward to bringing back my newfound knowledge and applying it to all my future endeavors.