I am Ettore Fantin and I am passionate about startups and growth hacking. I am a digital native and have been fascinated by the internet my whole life. I made my first HTML website in 2004 at the age of 10 and that interest continues 18 years later.
I created a lot of YouTube videos in high school which gained substantial amounts of views. I was one of the first content creators to be accepted into the partner program, which meant I was able to monetize my several million views. Through this experience, I learned valuable skills regarding video production as well as digital marketing.
In 2012 I went off to college at Case Western Reserve University. I studied finance in undergrad and I also earned a master's degree in financial big data. I built several side projects and companies with my friends while in college. They studied computer science and I was able to learn some programming skills from them. We attended many hackathons together and even won prizes.
Aside from hackathons, my friends and I did a lot of software development contract work with local entrepreneurs. We built MVPs that were used to raise venture funding. Word got around that my team could develop small projects quickly and affordably, so we got a lot of requests for new projects. Our final project became a company that grew to over 20 employees before graduation. Once I graduated, I joined the company full-time until it was acquired by our biggest competitor in 2017.
We worked on our side projects together while living in a five-bedroom basement apartment. The same apartment where we hosted balloon and blanket-fort parties. It was awesome to see our project's progress from a gross basement to a real office in an actual office building. I still kind of miss working off of fold-out tables and furniture we found in the trash.
Outside of software startups, my friends and I would also participate in several pitch and business plan competitions. Although we worked with tech and software, I was still attending business school and could put together a mean pitch deck and business plan.
This got us in some pretty cool situations. Most notably, we were finalists in the Tibetan Refugee Innovation Challenge where we presented our business plan to the Dalai Lama. We were also finalists in the casting for "America's Greatest Makers" Season 2 on TBS.
That's me in the background of the Dalai Lama giving a gift to Martin Scorsese at the Tibetan Refugee Innovation Challenge awards ceremony. Definitely one of the most surreal moments of my life.
In the fall semester of 2018 I began to teach guest lectures at Case Western Reserve University's Think[box] facility. I had a blast. My lectures covered several aspects of digital marketing such as social media, paid advertising, ecommerce, graphic design, and branding.
I gave these lectures twice per month and prepared an hour lesson plan on the topic. These lectures were available to the public, so I had a variety of people attending. At the beginning of every lecture, I like to go around and learn about why the people attending decided to come so I can tailor my presentation to help them the most. I've taught a variety of people ranging from a retiree who wants to sell their hobby crafts all the way to a dentist who owns a private practice and wants to learn how to attract clients.
This experience has been amazing for my personal growth and development. I've learned a lot about different local businesses and I've been able to keep my marketing skills sharp. Giving these guest lectures has definitely improved my communication skills.
I've also been pretty involved in creating content on LinkedIn. They added video features to their platform in the summer of 2017, and with my background in video creation and YouTube, I was one of the first people to begin creating on LinkedIn. My videos and posts are a lot different than those of other creators, and the platform is weird in the sense that there is not evergreen content. While other creators share stories in an attempt to motivate each other, I am much more involved in analyzing current events in tech, business, and startups. It has been an interesting experience so far and I've been connected to some very interesting people out of my 10,000+ connections. If you're reading this and we're not connected, feel free to send me a connection request.
I've also been quoted as an expert several times on large publications such as Forbes, Thrive Global, and Crowdfire.If you're interested in me giving a lecture or talk at your event or company, please email me with information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project GraveYard 🪦
Lots of people have lots of ideas and I'm no different. However, I am different in that I actually try out many of my ideas. As a result, I've had a lot of
failures learning experiences. Here are some of those learning experiences:
My friends and I were very early adopters of a Proof of Space Time concept called Chia which aimed to solve the biggest problems with cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and Ethereum are very energy inefficient considering how much electricity they consume to mine on graphics cards. Chia solved this by introducing a new type of farming that utilized data storage instead of computing power.
Harddrives are much more energy efficient than graphics cards, and this seemed like a great solution. The way Chia works is that you create “plots” which are then farmed in continuously until it hits a block. The problem with plotting is that it could be very time-consuming and farmers are very limited by their cpu’s threads and RAM. Within the Chia Forums, people with powerful cpus began creating plotting services. However, these services were very inefficient; it normally requires back-and-forth with the service provider and then you had to figure out a way to transfer terabytes worth of information, which often meant mailing hard drives. Can you imagine mailing a hard drive to someone hoping they’ll put the right files on it and then mail it back safely? In 2021?!
HyperPlots was the first cloud Plotting-as-a-Service on the market. My friends and I did all of the cost calculations associated with cloud plotting and priced our service accordingly. While they created the actual self-service platform and the plotting backend, I created the frontend of our website and marketing. We had an amazing-looking landing page and I went on to create some Chia troubleshooting videos that got us the traffic we needed.
Within the first week, we had our first customers! We also had our first competitors. The competition created a price race which cut into our profit margins. Furthermore, Chia started to decline when the creators failed to come out with pooling as they had promised. This made farmers upset which caused many of them to abandon the project causing the price of Chia to tank. As the price of Chia tanked, it no longer made sense for anyone to purchase expensive cloud plots.
Overall, Hyperplots was an awesome experience in quickly launching a company and trying to take advantage of an opportunity. Unfortunately, external factors caused our business to no longer make sense to the customer.
Early 2021, NFTs were completely popping off. People were selling pixels for millions of dollars. I thought it was a bubble, but that didn't mean there wasn't an opportunity with NFTs.
I saw that the most successful NFTs were ones that were backed by an official organization, like the NBA Topshot. I wanted to do something similar, but collaborating with Museums. The idea was that if NFTs were being distributed by a credible source, they would be valuable.
I created INCHxINCH in an attempt to help museums monetize their art collections without selling any of their pieces. The idea was to take high quality photos of a famous piece of art and then use software to split it into 1 inch by 1 inch fragments which would later be auctioned in the form of NFTs. This would be great for collectors or someone who wants to give a special gift to an art lover. A single collector could collect multiple fragments to recreate a large section of the artwork. I researched art copyright and found that although museums owned original art pieces, for newer pieces, the rights still belonged to the artist. This is why you see museum gift shops exclusively selling prints and gifts with old pieces of art unless they've received permission from the artist.
I couldn't pull this off by myself because it would be incredibly difficult for me to convince any museum collaborate. However, I knew if I raised money I could leverage the connections of partners at a VC to get my foot in the door with large museums. I built a website explaining the concept (https://inchxinch.art/) and pitched it to some VCs. Unsurprisingly, nobody decided to bite before the NFT market began to tank. I still believe this would be a very easy and free way for any museum to raise large sums of money. Look at the explainer image below. Essentially, each square has unique coordinates which would be auctioned off one by one.
Sunscreen Affiliate Twitter Bot
I had this idea to generate website traffic to an affiliate site using twitter bots. It was originally inspired by a twitter bot called "Sneak Mountain" that corrected tweets that accidentally said "sneak peak" instead of "sneek peek". I liked this bot because people thought it was funny and generally made them laugh. I wanted to create a similar one with the intent of generating website traffic.
I decided to create a twitter account personifying the sun. The bot spoke in the first person as if it was the sun and it replied to people who tweeted the string "bad sun burn". It replied saying "haha, gotcha" and then recommended some sun burn relief cream which was an affiliate link going to amazon.
The bot was going wonderfully. People really enjoyed the humor from the bot and I was getting hundreds of clicks on my links. One big issue I had was that Amazon stopped accepting traffic from twitter. This would've been really nice to know prior to sending them loads of traffic. To overcome this issue, I had to create a website that hosted the affiliate links. This way, Amazon saw the traffic originating from my website instead of Twitter. However, conversions dropped substantially by adding that additional layer and it became difficult to earn affiliate revenue.
Mache News was an app that curated and ranked college news from around the country. I actually came up with the branding for the app. The name came from paper mache, which normally takes a bunch of news papers and makes something new.
This project started when my friends and I were approached by a local entrepreneur to help him create this app. He had successes in the past, and we decided to take on the project thinking we could piggy back on his track record. My friends and I created a functional app that we could use as an MVP to try and raise money from angel investors.
Attempting to raise money from angel investors was an awesome experience. Although we were not successful in doing so, we got to meet some incredible people in our area. The entrepreneur we had been working with started to get desperate during these pitch meetings and began to lie. These lies were harmful because it put a lot of pressure on my team to create things that were technologically impossible. We eventually told the entrepreneur to stop lying to potential investors or else we would have to step away. As you can probably guess, we ended up stepping away.
Shirt Bleaching Stencils: Launder
In college I stumbled into the world of t-shirt bleaching. I learned that there was an entire community which carefully cut stencils from freezer paper and then sprayed bleach to make cool designs. While the end products were awesome, the freezer paper stencils only worked for a single use. However, in college I had access to a laser cutter and got the idea to laser-cut reusable stencils in acrylic.
We started off with a simple stencil of the state of Ohio. We figured that was a design a lot of people could be interested in during holiday season. Especially since we were on a college campus and people were traveling home for the holidays. We went to Walmart and purchased about 40 sweatshirts in a variety of sizes and colors for $6 each. Next, we got to work and bleached them all in our apartment building's laundry room. We had an entire process figured out and created the sweatshirts quite quickly. The only part we overlooked was ventilation and probably lost a couple brain cells spraying bleach in a basement.
We ended up selling the sweatshirts for $35 each. Our cost of goods sold were about $6.40 taking tax and bleach into consideration, and each sweatshirt only took about a minute to make.
Overall, this was a cool project and I still think there's potential with reusable bleach stencils.
When I was in high school, there were plenty of websites reposting online content and getting massive amounts of visits. These were sites like failblog, funnyjunk, ebaum's world, and others. I saw that my friends were visiting an extremely simple website called picsthatdontsuck.com. The website was simple, all it had was a funny picture and a button that, once pressed, would show you a new funny picture.
I liked the concept and thought it would be very easy to replicate. However, I was pretty concerned about hosting costs at the time and it would be a big task to curate a large library of images. My solution was to instead use embedded YouTube videos. Since I'm not storing any images, the hosting was very simple. All I needed to do was find a large collection of YouTube URLs to swap out in the embed code every time someone pressed randomize.
The website worked great, and it got a decent amount of visits. However, I never successfully monetized it and decided to shut it down about a year later.
Schwergsy Twitter Bot Army
In college, my friends and I were introduced to the idea of large twitter accounts being able to sell promoted tweets. We analyzed the landscape and determined that we could programmatically grow large twitter followings to eventually sell tweets.
Our plan was to create a variety of accounts in different niches where we could easily scrape and repost content from Reddit. These niches included cute animals, food, fitness, and more. Once we scraped the content, we would match it with applicable hashtags, and then schedule the tweets.
At the time, Twitter developer accounts were unrestricted, and we were able to use their API for all of this automation without any problems. After running the accounts for a couple of months, we grew a cumulative following of over 100,000 followers. This was the point where we decided we could go ahead and create a front-facing media company to try and sell tweet bundles.
We began to charge $0.20 per thousand followers per tweet. So for example, an account with 10,000 followers would just cost $2 to post a promoted tweet. We sold this in bundles across several accounts in a specific niche.
We learned that while we were on the cheaper end of promoted tweets, people would rather interact with a single large account rather than multiple smaller ones. It is easier to track from the customer's side.
Eventually, Twitter became a lot more restrictive with their access to developer accounts. They made this change to crack down on spam, and we were definitely culprits haha.
If you want to hire me to speak at your event or as a consultant, please do not hesitate to contact me!