Alex Adamo graduated from London Met with a first-class honours degree in Marketing and Public Relations, having left his hometown in southern Italy to study here. Since graduating, Alex has completed an MSc in Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London (UCL) and founded The Commercializer, a commercial consultancy firm. He is also a partner at online dry-cleaning company ihateironing.com
What made you choose London?
My first visit to the UK was when I was 17. It was during the summer break between my fourth and fifth year of high school. I wanted to see if I could survive in a country I've never been to before. At the time, I had never left my hometown! It was love at first sight; I ended up finding work at a Michelin star restaurant in central London. It was hard, but I learned a lot in terms of giving your absolute best, and that has stuck with me forever
London is different from other European capitals I've visited like Madrid, Paris, Barcelona, Warsaw, Frankfurt and Berlin. They are all more relaxed and like bigger villages. I was hooked by the intensity of the city and the way you need to be in London. When you leave the city, you realise you are one notch ahead of everything else that's going on. It's a fierce environment – people either adapt or leave.
What are some of the lessons you took from your time at London Met?
My degree in marketing and PR gave me a lot of commercial acumen, teaching me the rules of the game for running a business, without which it would have been just my ideas, ignorance and determination! I also appreciated the flexibility of the course. It allowed for a balance of lectures and teamwork and allowed me to fit work and other responsibilities around my studies. This made me a more well-rounded professional by the time I graduated. If I had only studied full-time, like I know a lot of people do in Italy, I never would have come out wanting to be an entrepreneur, or as a knowledgeable. It would have taken me another ten years to figure that out!
You were president of the London Met Entrepreneurs Student Society.
It taught me how to set objectives and be responsible for a team, making them happen, pulling everyone around a vision. However, the biggest thing that I left with was that you can make anything happen if you want to. London Met was a safe space to make mistakes. I came out with a higher level of maturity than most.
How did you become involved with the ihateironing.com?
A former member of staff at The Accelerator invited me to join ihateironing while I was completing my postgraduate studies. He had already built the tech and marketing; my job was to expand the business throughout London and the UK. This initially involved going door-to-door to dry cleaners and convincing them to work with us. In 2013, there was no competition or market for this idea, so it was challenging to get them to believe in it. But I persisted, and now the company has expanded to the US, Singapore and Australia, is profitable, and has more than 100,000 customers.
What’s next for you?
I am organising workshops for CEOs to be held in London, specifically focused on negotiation skills. I am particularly interested in supporting sustainable companies who often struggle getting the most out of a deal.
What specific challenges do companies that focus on sustainability face?
Non-profit or sustainable businesses often have founders or executives who are focused on doing good in the world, rather than being shrewd in their negotiations. However, this can sometimes lead to them being exploited. It is common for people to compromise their values during negotiations to reach a deal, but it is important to make decisions that align with one's personal values. For example, in a negotiation, if one tends to always be smiling, open and uses pleasantries such as "please" and "thank you", and the other negotiator tactfully decides not to do the same, it could lead to a disadvantageous deal. It is important for individuals to maintain their morality and values, but also find ways to protect them during negotiations.
My degree in marketing and PR gave me a lot of commercial acumen, teaching me the rules of the game for running a business, without which it would have been just my ideas, ignorance, and determination! If I had only studied full-time, like I know a lot of people do in Italy, I never would have come out wanting to be an entrepreneur, or as a knowledgeable. It would have taken me another ten years to figure that out!
Plan and prepare in advance. This might involve producing a term sheet for the investments, so all the variables that might be negotiated are clear: valuations, cash injections, governance, control, equity. Other things to consider are the break points; the minimums and maximums that you and your counterpart are prepared to accept, also known as the zone of possible agreement (ZOPA).
Attempting to raise money when you are dying as a business removes all your power in a negotiation. Go for an investment when you want to replicate your current successes on a larger scale. That way you stay in control, and your counterpart will want your assets because they know they are backing a winning horse.
Value yourself and your business honestly. Someone might be offering you a six or seven-figure sum for some equity, but most companies fail even with a cash injection like that. You have not made it; you are just getting started. Ask yourself do I really need this? Is it going to allow me to achieve my objectives and get where I want to get?
Think about why you went into business and entrepreneurship in the first place. Was it for freedom and control? If so, do not give anything away you would not be comfortable with. Otherwise, three to six months in, you allow the investors on your board, and they could ask you to do things that might not align with your vision for the business.
Ask yourself what would happen if you did not get that investment. Can the business survive with the current investors you have on board? You should not accept any offer without considering your alternatives.