Dave: Hey everyone, Dave here with another episode of the Faily Tech Connect podcast. Today I’m speaking with an individual I met last week at one of our co-working events, Daniele Dellavalle. He has recently joined the realm of startups after more than 12 years in Aerospace designing, building, and testing amazing products like helicopters and rockets. He is now the CPO and co-founder of Tach Ignite, a tech-driven startup accelerator with a mission to skyrocket fledgling startups from the Aerospace history to funding in the shortest time possible. Daniele, how you doing?

Daniele: Hey, what’s up? Thanks for having me.

Dave: It’s my pleasure. In what you mentioned about designing, building, and testing amazing Aerospace products, you didn’t use the word launching. Did you get to launch any rockets?

Daniele: Yeah, actually, that’s a pain point. We were close to launching a rocket, but then Astra kind of pivoted to building a bigger rocket. So I contributed to the design of one of the stages of Rocket 4, but the rocket didn’t make it to space yet. The design is still ongoing. Hopefully, we will see that rocket in the sky sooner or later.

Daniele: Yeah, that’s closer than I’ve ever got, so that’s super cool. I haven’t had anyone really, to my knowledge, with an Aerospace background and now working in a startup accelerator. Before you were co-founding Tach Ignite, which I want to hear about down the line in the show, you were not in the realm of startups at all. You had maybe a more traditional corporate job, and it was a journey to kind of get here. So we’re going to kind of build the show around that, talk about our mutual experiences, and transitioning to where we got now. So tell me a little bit about where you were prior to being Danielle, the CPO and co-founder of Tach Ignite. Where did you kind of start?

Dave: Sure, sure, yeah. And before, we talked about this before, we kind of have a similar journey. So starting from the very beginning, I was born and raised in Italy. I have a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Master in Management. I started my career in a big corporate environment. The company is Leonardo Helicopters, 46,000 employees, so you can imagine a very slow-moving but huge and heavily processed environment. I had fun there. I started as a contract manager, so I was basically managing the contracts for the sale of helicopters. My customers were mainly government entities, specifically South America and Northeast Asia, like Korea, Japan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico. It was a very fun period of my life. I had the opportunity to travel a lot, to deliver the helicopters, test the helicopters with my customers, so I flew a lot of times. It was super fun.

Dave: That’s cool, man. When you speak, there are just so many similarities that I’m hearing. For example, I did 23 and Me, and I’m a little bit Italian. I didn’t do Aerospace, but I played with Legos as a kid and built little space things. And I didn’t really do helicopters as my first corporate job. I worked at a bank. So super similar, right? Just kidding. But in any case, so yeah, I mean, why would anyone leave a really fun job like that? Let’s talk about that. Why are you still not doing that? That sounds great.

Daniele: Yeah, that’s a good question. I didn’t leave that job. In 2016, I moved to the US, completely different kind of job as a program product management. I really enjoyed kind of building, designing the product, starting from defining the requirements, analyzing what the customer wants, and reviewing what really the market, the competitors do. Designing, moving forward with the design, the test, and the production. That was very interesting. The portion that I didn’t like too much is, you’re kind of limited, right? You have a lot of constraints. So if you’re the kind of person that likes and is comfortable following a path with minor deviations, that’s super fun, totally appropriate. But a lot of times, I found myself in a position where I wanted to change, to improve, to change the process, to speed up, to change the product, to pivot. And the bureaucracy, the processes, the levels that you need to get approval from were just too slow, slowing down too much and kind of discouraging. So yeah, I was pushed to look for a startup environment. So I was very close to joining a robotics company in Boston, but then they didn’t go through. So I moved forward, I looked for a job, and it was kind of the dream job, designing and building rockets. So I joined Astra in San Francisco, as you mentioned. And fun fact, I joined Astra the day after the last launch of Rocket 3, so it was a Sunday, and I joined on a Monday, in 2022.

Dave: And then we know what happened to Rocket 4. Yeah, I’m not a statistician, but I’m seeing a direct correlation with them hiring you and not getting G and four off the ground. What can I say? You start working there, they don’t want to let you launch a rocket. But that’s fine. I’m sure that’s… You know, it’s all good, man. Tach Ignite though, I mean, first, I cannot help the fact that there are some aerodynamic sort of keywords that are incorporated into what you have here with Ignite and Skyrocket, you know, startups. Am I mistaken, or is that deliberate?

Daniele: Yeah, I can’t get rid of my roots, right? So yeah, I need to have a rocket somewhere.

Dave: Of course, yeah, this is good.

Daniele: Helicopters were too slow.

Dave: Helicopters were not moving quickly enough. So how do you end up… Yeah, so then how do you end up launching an accelerator? So that, to me, is such an interesting concept because it’s not just a startup, right? It’s sort of like the startup of startups. It’s like someone… You know, it isn’t enough to kind of take on just the individual risk of one particular startup, but I want to build my business model about all the startups involved. I’m always really in awe of people that try to build this concept, and there are so many different pieces involved in it. You know, raising the money, and then negotiating with the startups, and mentoring them and stuff like that. So yeah, tell me again why this is a good idea and where you guys are at in the journey.

Daniele: Yeah, sure. Everything started with myself joining this kind of entrepreneurship groups and starting meeting with founders, with startups. I wanted to invest in some of the startups, to contribute and either join if there was a good project. I was totally looking for this kind of environment. So I met Param, who is currently the CEO of Tactic KN, and we started working together. I was kind of fascinated by the idea, the concept that he put together. We started interviewing a lot of founders. Actually, before we met Param, I already interviewed like 140 founders and startups, trying to understand what the problems are. He wanted to invest too, but he was not able to find the right opportunity, the right project. So he kind of flipped the table and said, “Okay, what can I provide? What help do you need?” What we figured out is that you can synthesize some pitfalls, some mistakes that early-stage founders do, and a few needs, a few very important fields where founders need help. So we engineered, we built Tach Ignite around that concept.

Dave: Very cool. I’m interested to hear your learnings on what the different categories were of startups failing. I mean, we hear about things like people getting in fights with their co-founders, something like that. But to me, that seems almost erratic and unpredictable. So I’m imagining it’s not things like that, it’s probably things related to, I don’t know, like not having a proper business model. I’m just theorizing. I’m curious, what did you see when you kind of looked at this market?

Daniele: Sure, sure, yeah. So first of all, we noticed a very interesting statistic. About 80 to 85% of the founders that we interviewed were non-technical founders. So we noticed this disproportion between CTOs and CEOs. For many reasons, I think there is a newsletter that we have published where we kind of dig into the details. But having these non-technical founders poses a risk on the product development, right? It’s very tough to develop a product, especially for an early-stage startup with a limited budget. You need to iterate quickly and to go out with an MVP quick. So that was the first problem that we are trying to solve. The second one is most of the time, the founders that failed were building a product that the market doesn’t need. They didn’t have any customers and users that are willing to pay for that product. And it sounds so simple, but I can tell you, if you interview one other founder that failed with their venture, you will find out that 80% to 70% of them were building either the product or some features that were kind of off with respect to the market and to the needs.

Dave: Yeah, that’s unsurprising. Because like you said, it is so true, we see it all the time. I’ve done it personally, I’ve read about it. Both of those actually, you know, when I did my first startup, I was a non-technical founder. And the process of trying to find that complementary piece was very difficult, and we ended up kind of hiring a developer. But I always was really insecure in the relationship and understanding the tech path and whether or not he was the right person for the job, sort of always doubt. So if I had someone like on your level to be that complimentary piece, that would have been huge. And then again, just building things that nobody wants. I mean, you just… If you go on any marketplace where people are selling products, it’s just a graveyard of products that people built because they thought it was a good idea, never validated the need. And then here they are selling it years later. Do you have any tips and tricks on the validation piece? Because I think a lot of people kind of get that we want to make sure that there’s a need. But how…

Daniele: Yeah, sure. Yeah, and you know, by the book, you can go there, you interview potential users, you kind of build the simplest MVP possible, and you test it. And by the book, it’s totally fine. But what we realized is that for a non-technical founder, even building that MVP, even building like a minimum number of features would have been very tough, either very costly or anyway slow and not giving them the opportunity to really test the product. So what we have implemented, we built what we called the TIRA, our Tactic Reference Architectures. So basically, some software templates that we are able to quickly tailor and we can deliver software products, platform, app or web-based product very quickly. So the concept is fail fast. Prioritize your MVP. If it’s not working, you can either pivot, arrange some features, remove or add features, and then you will have the real validation.

Dave: Yeah, I knew we’d get to like the secret sauce here, and I feel like that’s it because like you said, you know, by the book, you know, people have kind of read the book, they read the article, but the execution part is super hard and really understanding what is the proper MVP and getting that validation and then being able to build it. And so that being where you guys kind of come in and offering, you know, for lack of a better word, and you said it, like a template, which just is something that can, you know, by definition, can usually be put out more quickly, get some experience, some data with it and determine whether or not there’s actually, you know, a market here and some validation to keep going. That’s huge, you know, because again, it’s someone who has personally spent tens of thousands of dollars on products that nobody wanted or needed, and I have an LLC right now, I’m thinking like, should I just dissolve this thing? You know, it just creates problems, there are problems beyond just building a product that nobody needs. There are a bunch of different stuff. So I think it’s a great concept. So how do you find out about new startups? Like how do people get in touch, apply? Is it cohorts? What should people know who are interested?

Daniele: Yeah, we operate based on cohorts. So we have one cohort per quarter. Our Launchpad program applications for the second quarter of 2024 are open. Deadline is the end of this month for the application. So what we do, we have normally three to four weeks application window, and then we believe in long-term support. So we offer normally up to 12 months of support to our startups. That’s how we operate. Another approach that I think is pretty unique that I would like to mention is we believe in active investment. So another problem that a lot of founders face are the fact that they go through these accelerators, they get mentorship, they got these workshop videos, material documents, but first, it’s not tailored and second, the mentors do not have aligned targets. So in our case, as mentioned, we believe in active investment. So our mentors are investors themselves. They want the startups to succeed because they have a personal stake in the game.

Dave: Cool. All the angles sound great. I’m glad that we don’t have such a large queue in this podcast that when we get this out tomorrow, it’ll be in time to promote the next cohort, and hopefully maybe we can get some Philly-based companies interested. So thank you, Daniele, for sharing a little bit about your personal journey and what you’re doing right now at Tach Ignite. For people who want to shoot you a message, want to get in touch, want to follow along with any thought leadership you’re putting out, where should they go?

Daniele: Sure, so they can check our LinkedIn page, Tach Ignite, or www.tachignite.com, our website. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn as well.

Dave: Awesome, thanks for being on the show.

Daniele: Absolutely. No, thanks for having me and good luck with everything with PTE. Keep in touch.