Meet the Italian entrepreneur who raised $340 million from Ryan Reynolds, Gabrielle Union and others: ‘Profitable from day one’

Meet the Italian entrepreneur who raised $340 million from Ryan Reynolds, Gabrielle Union and others: ‘Profitable from day one’

It’s not every day an entrepreneur raises hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for their company. It’s certainly not every day that his start-up attracts Hollywood stars as investors.

But that’s the reality for Bending Spoons—a Milan-based tech firm that on Tuesday announced it had raised $340 million in financing from investors including movie stars Ryan Reynolds and Gabrielle Union, Italian bank Intesa SanpaoloJapanese footballer Keisuke Hondaand digital media veteran Kerry Trainor.

Since being founded in 2013, Bending Spoons—which declined to disclose its overall valuation—has gone on to build a suite of mobile apps at content creators, including video editing app Splice and AI-based photo editor Remini. The company’s apps are used by more than 90 million people every month.

The company took a somewhat unconventional path to get to this stage, CEO and co-founder Luca Ferrari told Fortune—helped by the fact that the business was “profitable from day one.”

He took Fortune inside his big fundraise.

Unconventional ‘underdogs’

While many start-ups choose to fundraise way before their ninth year in business, Bending Spoons’ unusual early financial success meant it was able to hold off. Instead, the founders reinvested their earnings into the company and sought capital via bank loans.

When Bending Spoons opened the gate for its first ever funding round last summer, Ferrari said it was “oversubscribed almost immediately”—but the founders decided to “keep the round open for some exceptional individuals.”

Reynolds, who invested an undisclosed sum through his company Maximum Holdings, said in a statement that Bending Spoons’ standout products were what piqued his interest.

“Their apps enable anyone to become a creative genius with minimum effort,” he said. “In fact, their products terrify me so much, I had to invest.”

“He told us he fell in love with the fact we’re underdogs,” Ferrari told Fortune.

Advice for start-ups

Bending Spoons’ story is exceptional. It’s thought that 90% of start-ups eventually failwhile many companies operate for years before ever turning a profit.

Budding entrepreneurs can take Ferrari’s advice without spending a penny.

“Be an independent thinker,” he said. “You might crash and burn—but you have the chance to do something successful. When by default you do what everybody tells you to do, you’re destined to be mediocre.”

It’s a philosophy that Ferrari himself said helped him build Bending Spoons from the ground up into the company it is today.

“The choice we made to accept a slightly slower growth curve enabled us not to raise money early and keep complete governance and control,” he said. “Everyone we went to for advice told us to do the opposite, and we went against the grain of what they advised us. You have to try to think with your own head as much as possible.”

Ferrari also stressed the importance of taking care of the people who help to build your company. Bending Spoons prizes itself on investing in its workforce, which has seen it win multiple prizes as a top employer.

“We’re proud of our company culture,” Ferrari told Fortune. “We’ve won awards for being the best place to work in Italy, in Europe, for women and for millennials.”

The company’s reputation as an employer, he said, was because the firm “never compromises on its ‘all for one, one for all’ motto.”

“We have a near zero turnover rate—we’ve practically never lost a person who we really wanted to keep, and I think that speaks volumes.”

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