The business of blockchain and the benefits of belonging to a School community

Startup founder and Imperial College Business School graduate, Andrea Bonaceto, on blockchain’s potential for boosting transparency, and how he benefited from his Business School experience. Interview by Ellen Buchan and Tim Banerjee Dhoul

‘Blockchain is philosophically aligned with providing a positive social impact,’ says Andrea Bonaceto, Founding Partner and CEO at Eterna Capital, a blockchain-oriented investment fund.

Andrea argues that the technology behind Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies is a disruptive force for finance because of its ability to remove the ‘middleman’ and create greater transparency in business.    

The Imperial College Business School graduate’s entrepreneurial passions were awakened during his studies, with Eterna Capital his second venture since his time at the UK institution. In this interview for Business Impact, Andrea talks about the intensity of life as an entrepreneur and offers some valuable insights into how belonging to a community of like-minded peers can open doors to new ventures and partnerships that can fuel your professional interests and ambitions.

Why did you choose to study a master’s in the UK, and why Imperial College Business School? 

I studied in London for a couple of months as part of the LSE Summer School in 2011. I really liked the vibe of the city. Moreover, London is one of the world’s main financial centres, so I decided that London would be my first choice for my post-graduate education.

When I first joined Imperial, I was interested in a career in strategy consulting or investment banking. Coming from a theoretical economics background, I thought an MSc in finance would provide me with a set of tools to leverage in the real world and provide a direct boost to my career.

Being enrolled at Imperial meant I was able to benefit from its top-class engineering department as well as its high-profile Business School. Looking back, I think this combination is crucial for building a healthy, innovative entrepreneurship community. 

How did your time at Imperial College Business School help you to launch HiredGrad and now, Eterna Capital?

While at Imperial, I had the opportunity to work with Imperial Innovations, a technology commercialisation and venture capital investor that focuses on technology, as part of my programme’s Applied Project. This experience introduced me to London’s startup ecosystem, captured my professional interest and encouraged me to start my own company.

The Imperial College Business School community, and that of the wider Imperial College London, have been very supportive during the set-up phase of both HiredGrad and Eterna Capital, offering advice to me and my colleagues, as well a workspace at the Imperial College Incubator.

How else have you been able to use what you have learned from your master’s in finance in your career to date?

Imperial has a very diverse community of students and recent graduates. Studying my MSc in finance at Imperial meant I was constantly in touch with people from very different backgrounds to my own.

I learned so much from talking and sharing ideas with friends from different cultures that I met while studying at Imperial. The importance of diversity in both personal life and business became even clearer to me.

What prompted the move from a company that helps graduates to one focused on blockchain and fintech?

After completing my studies, I dedicated my time to launching my first venture; HiredGrad, a London- and Bangalore-based graduate recruitment startup, with my classmate and Co-Founder Krishna Venkata. The company was born of an idea we had developed together during our studies, which gained momentum thanks to support from Imperial College’s startup incubator.

While the venture grew, I became increasingly interested in working in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies space. I started researching the blockchain space with Nassim Olive, another alumnus from my programme, who was working at [investment management firm] BlackRock at the time. Nassim introduced me to his colleagues, Asim Ahmad and Mattia Mrvosevic, who were researching similar fields, and a new partnership grew.

Can you provide any examples of the use of blockchain technology that is already making a positive social impact?

Blockchain is philosophically aligned with providing a positive social impact. By definition, blockchain is a list of blocks, or records, which are linked together and secured using cryptographic techniques. Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared, and continually reconciled, database. However, this database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records are truly public and easily verifiable.

There are numerous applications in the industry for this technology, from supply chain and data management, to sharing economies, financial services and environmentally friendly projects. Blockchain has the ability to remove the ‘middleman’ when not necessary, creating greater transparency and sustainability in business.

You’ve worked in large organisations in the past, such as KPMG and Deloitte, what were the biggest challenges you faced on entering the startup world?

Entering the startup word was a natural transition in line with my personality. I prefer less hierarchical and fast-moving environments. I learned that starting a company is a very intense endeavour. You never fully ‘switch off’ and, for those projects you are passionate about, you’re always willing to walk the extra mile to get things done.

Therefore, before starting a venture, it’s important you are psychologically ready for a long-term rollercoaster. Resilience is one of the most important characteristics of an entrepreneur, as there are many challenges to overcome, no matter how far your company has progressed.

Andrea Bonaceto is Founding Partner and CEO at Eterna Capital, an investment fund focused on blockchain technology. He holds an MSc in finance from Imperial College Business School.

   

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