Advice from a serial entrepreneur: Meet Hult masters alum Luca Rubino
Entrepreneurship is more than a career choice—it’s an attitude and a mindset. If you’re wondering what it takes to be a serial entrepreneur, meet Class of 2017 alumnus Luca Rubino. Luca embodies the global mindset and entrepreneurial spirit that’s integral to the “Hult DNA.” An Italian native, he’s traveled to over 30 countries, is fluent in three languages, and has a passionate interest in foreign art and culture. He was recently nominated by Forbes 30 Under 30 Italy as a potential candidate for the 2019 list.
Diverse interests make for diverse skillsets
Before embarking on his Masters in International Business at Hult in San Francisco, Luca had already launched three companies of his own. The first, Sweet Sicily, is an import/export business, which brought gourmet Italian food and wine to the U.K. He founded this venture in 2013, during his undergraduate studies at Scotland’s University of Stirling, where he was awarded with an athletic scholarship for his football skills and won a national championship going undefeated with his team.
In early 2016, Luca added two more businesses to his portfolio as co-founder of innovative jewelry design company Royale Jewellery and Antonio Cannizzo Design, which specializes in 3D modeling and printing of high-fashion 100% custom jewelry.
Luca and his design partner’s unique, made-in-Italy jewelry has found favor with celebrities like Hip Hop artist Miguel, who can be seen wearing a custom Royale chain and pendant in his video for “Skywalker”, NFL player Shane Smith (New York Giants), Justin Bieber’s stylist Ugo Mozie, and many others.
Hard work pays off
At just 26, Luca’s own wide-ranging and successful business ventures are a testament to his diverse interests, business acumen, and anything-is-possible mentality. He’s also not afraid of hard work—an attribute that’s served him well as a serial entrepreneur and as a student at Hult. Where others might be tempted by the party atmosphere that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with student life, Luca was balancing full-time studies with managing two businesses from afar and taking full advantage of the invaluable networking opportunities afforded by San Francisco.
Almost a year on from graduating from Hult, Luca now splits his time between Los Angeles and Munich. While continuing to build on the success of his jewelry companies, he holds the title of “Entrepreneur in Residence” and Global Head of Digital at Automobili Pininfarina, a pioneering automobile design company that’s developing the all-electric sports and luxury cars of tomorrow.
“I knew I wanted to be near the opportunities of Silicon Valley. My main criteria was that I wanted to study a course that was led by actual industry experts with real business experience.”
We ask Luca a few questions to find out more about his career journey and get his advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
As a successful entrepreneur, what made you choose to do a masters degree at Hult?
I knew I wanted to be near the opportunities of Silicon Valley, so I did my research on schools. My main criteria was that I wanted to study a course that was led by actual industry experts with real business experience and who offered personalized attention.
Talking to Hult made the right choice obvious. While other schools sent me links to “find out more” Hult was the only institution who actually took the time to call me, talk to me, and really get to know me personally. I attended the Campus Premiere events in London and Boston, which gave me the chance to meet some Hult professors and see how the program was run. Going to business school is a big investment. The one-to-one support and family environment that Hult offered really made all the difference for me.
“Along with introducing recyclable packaging and materials from sustainable sources only, we now donate part of our profits to a customer-chosen charity.”
Did you have any particular professors who became your mentors at Hult?
I was fortunate to learn from three professors in particular who made a big impact on my experience. They are all inspiring serial entrepreneurs themselves.
The first was my International Business Professor, Ted Ladd—this guy is a genius! I remember sitting down with him to tell him about a business idea I had. And, well, he basically destroyed it. It was frustrating in the moment, but I came to understand that he was right. He made me think and introduced me to the Lean Startup method. Being challenged by different points of view makes you grow so much.
Another influential professor was Larry Louie. He’s was my financial mentor and taught me how to approach investors. He was so generous with his time, dedicating an entire afternoon to offer his invaluable guidance outside of class.
Finally, Omar Hernandez really inspired me with his approach to social entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses. In fact, he inspired me to change my business model to make my jewelry company more sustainable. Along with introducing recyclable packaging and materials from sustainable sources only, we now donate part of our profits to a customer-chosen charity.
Tell us a little bit about how your career evolved after graduation.
I wanted to spend some time working in the U.S., so in the lead up to graduation I really focused on building my network and landing a well-paid internship. I went to dozens of meetup events in San Francisco throughout my time at Hult, and I applied to more than 200 internships. From there, I attended over 90 interviews, which I used as an opportunity to really refine and perfect a winning interview technique.
I was selected out of over 250 applicants to work as a Business Development Specialist for Zentist, a 500 startups portfolio company, that is revolutionizing how patients book affordable dental care. It was an incredibly inspiring environment, and after three months they even offered to sponsor my work visa so I could stay in the U.S.
In the end, inspired by everything I had learned and the young and successful entrepreneurs I was surrounded by in Silicon Valley, I decided to take some time to focus on my own business. During this time, we were commissioned by Ugo Mozie to supply our jewelry for a campaign with Adidas Original, which was a huge career highlight.
Tech for me is the future, so a few months later I went through several rounds of interviews for a job at Google. But ultimately, I took up my current role at Automobili Pininfarina. It’s an incredibly exciting startup environment to work in, and I was only the sixth person to join the team.
“Inspired by everything I had learned and the young and successful entrepreneurs I was surrounded by in Silicon Valley, I decided to take some time to focus on my own business.”
What does your typical working day look like?
Because I’m often traveling, I don’t really have a “typical” day—I’m literally in a different place constantly. I tend to base myself each month in either Los Angeles or Munich, but I’d be lying if I said I have a fixed schedule. It can be stressful but I do enjoy the traveling.
Within my role at Automobili Pininfarina, I’m responsible for looking after things like the negotiations with big technology partners like Salesforce and Google, and the implementation of new digital platforms for our sales and marketing team. I also take care of the artistic direction & digital strategy for our major brand events under the supervision of the CMO. These tend to be huge productions and expectations are high that we will deliver incredible events. Recently, I’ve also been working with film directors to create a documentary about the brand and distribute it on Netflix. So my role is wide-ranging, which I take great pleasure in!
I have big responsibilities and deliverables, but I’m fortunate that Automobili Pininfarina offers has enough flexibility that I can continue to work on my own business ventures too.
“The key to success as an entrepreneur is putting yourself in the right network. If you have no network, you have no people to do business with.”
What advice would you give to future Hult students who are aspiring entrepreneurs?
Hult is a platform that gives you all the resources you need to succeed. Don’t take it for granted and don’t wait around for opportunities to come to you.
In my opinion, the key to success as an entrepreneur is putting yourself in the right network. If you have no network, you have no people to do business with. To build your network, you need to be incredibly driven and focused on your goals—you cannot afford to go into networking events and be shy. If you want to be treated as a young leader you need to act like a leader. Have confidence in the value you bring.
Business can be a world of sharks, so you need to hustle 100% every day to live the life other people can’t. That means being flexible, and it means being willing to sacrifice many important things in life such as family, friends and all the beloved ones to put in the hours. It’s tough, but at the end of the day hard work pays off.