Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gianluca Mauro, Founder of AI Academy, located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

AI Academy is an online platform to teach anyone Artificial Intelligence. AI is everywhere, but unfortunately, just a very limited amount of people understand it today. That's because the information you find online is either aimed at technical people or it's full of marketing hype.

We believe that AI is a tool that can be used by anyone. Our courses help people without a technical background understand how AI can fit into their work and what opportunities are there for their careers.

Tell us about yourself

I am Italian, and in 2015 I won a scholarship from the Italian Ministry for Economic Development to move to Silicon Valley for six months. The goal was for me to learn as much as possible and come back to Italy to give that knowledge back to my country. During these years, AI was blossoming in the valley. Everyone was talking about it. One day, I heard a keynote from Peter Norvig, the head of Google brain, who was talking about how Google used AI as a tool to transform the way that their products worked.

At that moment, I realized that AI is too powerful of a tool for it to be limited just to tech companies in California. I decided to go back to Europe and build programs to allow anyone to understand it and use the same tools that Silicon Valley tech companies were using to change the world.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Lots of entrepreneurs focus a lot on hardcore metrics: revenue, growth, number of employees, etc. There are other factors that are much harder to measure but make it worthwhile to do what you do. In my case, I'd say that my biggest accomplishments come in the form of the tens of emails I got from people who say that they found their passion (and sometimes their life career) thanks to my courses.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Starting at a blank page. The freedom of choosing what to build and in what direction to go is amazing, but also a big responsibility. There were moments in my business when I had tons of choices on what to focus on, and that can feel quite overwhelming, especially as a solo founder.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Obsess on understanding your customer. Who are they? What do they say they want? What do they actually want? What are their ambitions? What are their pains?
  2. Having the right direction is 10x more important than being efficient. Does it matter how fast you move if you're going the wrong way? Invest in reflection time to make sure you're still moving in a place that matters.
  3. Think about what your values are and how you want to work, and hire accordingly. Wrong culture fits can be problematic at any stage of your venture.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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