Alice Troiano is the co-founder and CEO of G.APP17, a digital platform that helps businesses and non-profit organisations come together to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Before founding her startup, Alice worked in the consulting industry helping not-for-profit clients achieve their goals and build a sound organisational strategy to maximise impact worldwide.
What’s the idea behind G.APP17?
G.APP17 enables businesses and nonprofits to work together and achieve the Global Goals in a simple, cost-effective and measurable way. We build partnerships with an impact, but without the hassle.
How do you go about quantifying impact?
Impact is a challenging aspect. From our conversations, what we realized is that it cannot all be about numbers, but it also can’t all be about storytelling. We’ve created a framework that merges storytelling and case-studies so that charities can express the stories behind projects and the difference they’re making, but also convey the numerical background. For example, out of the 100 people that a charity supports, 70% have come out of unemployment. We try and use impact indicators that are both numerical, but also enable partners to share photos, comments and pictures to give life to those numbers.
Has it been difficult for you to get companies involved in the initiative?
Originally, it was difficult because we were no one. It was a huge challenge to get through the door. Being an international student, when you don’t have a whole network supporting you, it can take a lot of time to get to know the right people. We’re lucky enough that demand is now organic, and people are asking us to talk at CSR panels and events. Once we managed to get the connections we needed, it was just about leveraging the networks of other’s networks. We get a lot of inbound requests from companies and nonprofits through word of mouth, which has been amazing. I remember myself going into PwC thinking, “What am I even doing here?” It can get really scary, but it was just a matter of getting our foot through the door. You need to understand that you can bring something to the table and you’re the expert in your field. You’re there to help them solve a problem, and that’s the best attitude to have.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you?
Right now, my main challenge is not losing the strategic vision. When you start, it’s really easy to get lost with the operational side of things. Sometimes I get lost in e-mails and let go of my creative objectives, but it’s a balancing act. We need to make sure we don’t lose sight of where we’re going with this.
What’s something about yourself that you admire, and has helped you in the start-up journey?
Determination. I am a very determined person. It’s what’s made me what I am today. But I really am trying to develop other qualities which I think are crucial to the start-up ecosystem such as empathy. It’s being able to merge and combine that determination with the empathetic understanding of my partners that makes a huge difference. Let me give you an example: when you’re planning your sales strategy and present it to a team, if you do not show an empathetic understanding of what the customer is telling you and instead focus on your product, you’ll lose attention. I let the customer talk 80% of the time during these meetings: if I assume I have the solution to your problem without knowing your needs, I will never ever build a solution that actually matters to you. Even in the co-founder space, when you have to work with people in different backgrounds, you cannot be focused on yourself. If the co-founding team doesn’t work together, there’s no way the start-up can progress no matter how many customers you have.
What’s something that you’ve felt you needed to work on a lot and haven’t got right yet?
One thing that I was really struggling with was delegation. I was trying to do everything myself and take it all on my own shoulders. It’s not that I didn’t trust my co-founders, but I just didn’t want to give them more than what they had. It’s easy to get in the loop where you start trying to manage every aspect, but now that I’ve started to delegate a bit more, I feel like my mental wellbeing would thank me for changing how I go about things.
What would you say to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
I think on a practical level, use all the support you can get from your university. The support that we got from LSE Generate, and the fact that we are in London are both such privileges. If you can get the most out of the networks that you have, it will enhance your ability and comfort a lot. For me, the accelerator is where I got to meet people in the same boat. It can be really strange that all your friends are going out on a Saturday night, but you’re at home filling in an application for an Innovate UK grant. Once you meet people that share similar experiences, it becomes easier to get through both the highs and lows of the journey.
The other thing would be, is that it’s okay to receive a ‘no’. Many people are going to stop you in your tracks and straight out say ‘no’. If you look at the rejection as something that’s stopping you, then maybe you should reconsider whether entrepreneurship is for you. Every ‘no’ is an opportunity to grow and to improve your idea. That one ‘yes’ out of however many people you talk to, will be worth more than anything.
From delivering workshops on the Global Goals to supporting organisations with their partnerships and impact strategies, Alice is passionate about helping leaders and organisations discover their potential and thrive. She holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and has been invited to participate in numerous LSE programmes including a female founders conference and a podcast series on entrepreneurship for young people. Alice is a purpose driven entrepreneur, striving for a world where social impact and sustainability are no longer up for debate. You can contact her at [email protected].