Angelo Mascaro ist der einzige Italiener, den ich kenne, der keinen Wert auf exklusive Hemden mit schicken Manschettenknöpfen und die entsprechende Sonnenbrille legt. Aber ein wenig italienischer Eitelkeit ist ihm geblieben: Als uns Skype zum Interview live verbindet, stelle ich fest, dass die Farbe seines Brillengestells haargenau zum Grün der Vorhänge in seinem Office passt.
Erstaunt murmele ich statt einer Begrüßung: „Your glasses match the curtains… They are green.”
“Oh, yes!”- sagt Angelo, “I’ve got another pair of glasses in orange; those are the colors of my business: orange and green.”
Die Firma von Angelo, die MIT GmbH (hat nichts mit dem berühmten Massachusetts Institute of Technology zu tun), entwickelt Lösungen für Messsysteme optischer Instrumente. Der Italiener lebt und arbeitet als Selbständiger seit 2014 in Deutschland, liebt die deutschen Tugenden und preist in unserem Gespräch die Güte des deutschen Finanzamtes an.
Luba: Why did you decide to come to Germany and start your company here?
Angelo: I am an electronic engineer. In the past, I was owner of a company in Italy, which made measurement systems for tubes and optical instruments… Thirteen years ago I’ve sold this small company to a big company, a customer of mine and continued to work for this bigger company. After ten years I’ve decided to go back to the entrepreneur status again. So I created an agreement with my former employer to start my own company using my expertise. I didn’t want to do it in Italy because the situation in Italy was very hard for an entrepreneur with increasing taxes everywhere… So I’ve decided to come to Germany, because the situation here is much more stable.
The infrastructure for entrepreneurs and startups in Germany is very stable.
Luba: How did you know that the infrastructure for entrepreneurs and startups in Germany is very supportive?
Angelo: I used to come to Germany for visiting exhibitions, especially to one relevant for my industry in Stuttgart. I had plenty of opportunities to speak to entrepreneurs and business owners about the realities of having a business here. I remember, I met a Greek guy and I asked him about why he moved his company from Greece to Germany. He explained to me how difficult the situation for entrepreneurs in his own country was… About the corruption… I was about to thank him and leave when he asked me: “Why do you still live in Italy?” Indeed, the situation in Italy was at this time not much better than in Greece. I started to ask myself why I can’t do it the same way as the Greek guy did. From that day on I started to create a plan on how to move my business to Germany.
Luba: How was the idea for your company born?
Angelo: My first company was a software company. I used to develop software in the area of automatic control. Once a prospect customer asked me about a possible optical solution for measuring tubes.
Luba: It was not like: you were sitting on the beach and thinking: “Oh my god, this is a completely new idea and I will revolutionize the market!”
Angelo: No. It was a long evolutionary process. For example, in another application I saw a problem a customer was struggling with and found a solution how they can organize the process more effectively, saving one major part of it – a robot, which took over a part of the process so far.
A creative solution for a problem doesn’t appear when you working on it with persistence.
Normally, the big ideas come when you are stuck with a problem for some days or weeks. Then, when you go to sleep, your brain starts progressing although you are not really aware of it. A creative solution for a problem doesn’t appear when you working on it with persistence. It appears when you are in the gym or driving or sleeping…
Luba: How did you get your first customer?
Angelo: I already knew some customers in the Stuttgart area through my former employer. But in the long-term I need to find new customers. What I wanted to do is learn to relate to the final customer, not using the established approach to make business through a middle man. As the result, the final customer gets a better price and my company gains some of the revenues which would go to this middle layer of business.
Luba: What are 3 main factors which differentiate having a business in Italy vs. having a business in Germany?
Angelo: First of all, here in Germany the risk of not being paid by the customer is much smaller than in Italy. The usual practice in Italy is that they either don’t pay at all or they pay very late or they pay only a part of the amount due.
Be sure to get paid. It’s much easier for entrepreneurs in Germany.
- This would be the first factor. Be sure to get paid. It’s much easier in Germany.
- Then, there is the relationship with the tax office. In Italy, you are assumed to be guilty until proven otherwise. In Germany the assumption is another one: you are innocent until you have been proven guilty of charge. Once, I have mistakenly been charged a fee by the tax office in Rheinland Pfalz. After having contacted my tax advisor they not only paid the amount back within 15 days, but apologized via letter. This could never have happened in Italy. On the contrary, if you are right and they owe you money, then they “increase the fun”: if you want to get your money back, you have to hire a lawyer and pay this lawyer with your own money to get the money back. So, at the end, you have paid more for the lawyer than you got back from the tax office.
- The third factor: Everything goes smoothly in Germany. Once you have set up your business and your accommodation, everything else continues to be fine. In Italy, everything is a surprise! On the surface, everything might look smooth, but then you discover some dirty tricks and are confronted with some unpleasant surprises. As the result, you lose a lot of time. Better to invest some time at the beginning of the project or when starting a business rather than be confronted with unpleasant surprises afterwards in the long run.
Luba: If you had the chance to start your business all over again, what would have you done differently?
Angelo: I should have separated between being the inventor and developer and working as a consultant more consequently right from the start. For example, 25% should be for the development and the rest for the consultancy and selling. At the beginning I totally immersed myself in consultancy, but some of the intended projects didn’t have the results I’ve expected. Then, missing great results here, I immersed myself totally in the development of new products and instruments, not doing enough for sales…
I also realized there was no need to establish a GmbH right from the beginning, as it’s more costly in the end. I established a GmbH to show to my potential clients that I am not a one-man show, but behind the company is some capital and the company managed to stay on the market for 3 years in the row already.
Luba: What kind of advice would you give other foreign entrepreneurs and immigrants wanting to start their own business in Germany?
Try to learn as much as you can about the area and the industry you want to be in, when still in your own country. When you are in Germany, there will be no time for research.
Angelo: The first thing to consider is…
- “What benefits do you expect from starting your business in Germany comparing to your own country?” The bigger the gap, the easier the decision is made. Moving from Eastern part of Germany to the Western part of Germany might be more difficult to justify than moving from South Africa to Germany. In the last case, you have got more good reasons to move… Especially, if the reason is not a huge one, you might miss your country. Ask yourself if you would be ready to stay here for the rest of your life.
- If you are quite sure this is the thing you want to do, try to learn as much as you can about the area and the industry you want to be in, when still in your own country. When you are in Germany, there will be no time for research. When I moved to Germany I already had my tax advisor, knew the area I wanted to settle in and the distance to my next potential customer. There are a lot of things you can do when still in your own country and you must do them there! When you are already in Germany, you will need to solve a lot of problems you didn’t expect. For example, I didn’t know my car would break down right after I moved to Germany. So, I had to buy a new car. The better you are prepared, the smaller the problems you have to solve.
- Then, try to establish good social relationships right from the beginning. Seek contact to people who are not of your own nationality. Don’t create your own ghetto. Otherwise, all the enthusiasm of the new business will crash because of solitude, boredom etc. And: don’t underestimate the problem of the language! In my imagination I would speak German freely after 2 to 3 months. The fact that we are doing this interview in English shows I am still far away from this goal!
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