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An Idea, Partners, and a 1 Week Budget: An Entrepreneur's Story

    By Grazia Bennett, Bizworld Advisory Board Member

    Name: Marco Palladino
    Age: 29
    Favorite Food: Pasta
    Favorite Video Game: Civilization
    Favorite Toy: Soccer ball

    Bizworld.org encourages kids to be creative thinkers, to become problem solvers, to make decisions and take risks. Marco Palladino, the co-founder of Kong Inc. has mastered all this and more. Kong Inc. is an open source API technology focusing on the protection, safety and authentication of data. Currently the top global 5,000 companies and some governments use Kong’s products. I recently had the opportunity to meet Marco and his enthusiasm and energy are contagious.

    How old were you when you first thought you wanted to create something? Since I was a child the only thing I was interested in doing with my toys was to take them apart. I was curious to learn how their mechanisms worked. I kept a hidden box for all the broken pieces of toys so that my mother would not find them.

    Were you a good student? I was a terrible student, although I had an immense passion to learn as much as I could once something attracted my interest. I would completely forget to do homework if I became interested in, for example, learning more about a compass – reading about the topic for hours. At 12 years old I taught myself coding. I did not have money to buy software, but I could spend Friday evenings designing apps on sheets of paper.

    You are Italian. How much more difficult is it for a foreign entrepreneur to succeed in Silicon Valley?

    In 2009 I moved with my co-founders, Augusto Marietti and Michele Zonca, to Silicon Valley after being accepted into the TechCrunch50 pitch competition. When we arrived to the Bay Area we had enough money to last for one week. We replied to a blog post by the former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who was just starting to work on his idea of ridesharing service. Travis was offering his couch to founders coming in from out of town for the competition. Our team was chosen with the teams of other two start-ups and we moved to Travis’ house.

    To raise funds for a start-up is truly a herculean task but we had tenfold more obstacles to overcome: we spoke broken English, we didn’t know the Silicon Valley ecosystem and we had only 3 months to do it in. At one of the evening events for entrepreneurs and investors that we attended daily to meet investors -- and frankly for free food -- we succeeded in getting funded.

    What is your best advice for the emerging and young Bizworld entrepreneurs?

    If you think you are doing the right thing, however hard it is, just do it. Things are not going to be easy and you know it, that's what makes it even more exciting. As Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” By the way, I will attend the annual Bizworld’s Riskmaster Luncheon on December 13 and I will be happy to talk with any aspiring young entrepreneur about pursuing their dreams.

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