Paolo Barletta, from Chiara Ferragni to the uFirst skip-the-line app


Paolo Barletta (Courtesy Gruppo Barletta)

What do an app to do shopping have in common by skipping the line with the influencer Chiara Ferragni? During the lockdown, one of the most downloaded apps on smartphones was uFirst, which thanks to a messaging system allows you to queue and get to the store exactly when it’s your turn.

An app that became known thanks to a agreement signed by Esselunga, who chose it to regulate the entrances to its warehouses (with the application you could virtually take the number for access from the app and monitor the progress of the row remotely, receiving notifications near your shift), but the app has long been used in various realities, in large retailers and retailers, but also in hospitals, banks and municipal offices. In fact, it was born in 2015 as a platform, available via app and via the web, which allowed to change the way people access the most congested services in the city, with the aim of generating time savings.

And here is the point of contact between the two realities mentioned above, because the creator of the patent of this app is a thirty-year-old businessman who first, 8 years ago, invested in Chiara Ferragni and precisely on her clothing line and shoes: Paolo Barletta.

Serial entrepreneur, Barletta started with the idea of ​​creating an application for the world of leisure, quickly realizing that the challenge to be overcome was instead that represented by the public sector and institutions. This brings us to the merger in 2018 with Qurami, the skip-the-line app created by Roberto Macina and used in Italy by over 400 structures including Municipalities, universities and public and private entities, which provides an online booking system for their shift.

(Courtesy uFirst)

And today “we are experiencing a huge progression because the app has become necessary as well as useful,” Barletta tells Forbes. “Because it can be activated at company canteens, local public transport companies, neighborhood shops, restaurant chains. All realities with which we are already working “.

And all situations united by the need to manage a quantity of flows that must be prioritized.

“There will be a planned release plan. Among the companies we already work with, we can mention Ikea, Leroy Merlin, Eataly, Prenatal, Iren, Tim and Scalo Milano. In addition, many other shopping centers throughout Italy will soon be active and several large-scale retail brands have followed Esselunga, including Eurospin, Auchan, Lidl and MD “.

But as we go from being the first investor in Chiara Ferragni, “with 40% of the industrial part, the one that deals with the collections that bear his name”, already in 2013 when the influencer was still unknown to the general public, uFirst and others? The common denominator is the investment company Alchimia Spa, created to engage in venture capital investments, in parallel with other entrepreneur activities, which is also a.d. of Gruppo Barletta Spa, where hospitality activities are concentrated such as the Soho House, Rosewood and other projects in the luxury hospitality segment.

Alchimia was officially born in 2018 and some investments previously made personally by Barletta himself (uFirst / Chiara Ferragni / Virgin Hyperloop One, CUE) are inserted within it and from there then a dedicated team is structured that continues the expansion, with investments divided between Europe, Israel and the United States.

(Courtesy uFirst)

Alchimia “is not a fund but an investment company, where the question we ask ourselves is <> That’s why we usually have a place on the board of companies in which we invest. ”

Last year Nicola Bulgari also decided to join the Alchimia team, with a 12% share (which has the possibility of rising to 19% within this year). Barletta holds 88% of the company, which currently has a valuation of around 94 million euros and a total of 20 investee companies.

“Among these we have companies like Texel, which deals with screening and is based in Israel; we have an investment in Cue, which created a Covid rapid diagnosis device in 25 minutes, and which the US government also entered; and a stake in Leone Film Group. We have a significant share of uFirst, equal to 57% “.

But why has uFirst become so important? “We have tried to launch many other systems, which however have enormous technological limits and which need many months of commissioning and improvement. We have gained experience, are adaptable and can integrate a number of players. We also already have a user base of over two million. ” A leadership position also evidenced by the numbers: in a few weeks uFirst has become the third most downloaded app in the Italian Apple store immediately after Zoom and Tik Tok and before Google Meet. Among the utilities it was in first position for 3 days before Tim, Wind and Poste.

A business that pleases, so much so that the Moratti family and Eduardo Teodorani-Fabbri, son of Maria Sole Agnelli, have already invested in uFirst. Meanwhile, the app has also arrived abroad. In Ecuador, with over 60 points. And it is also arriving on the English market: just last week, the managing director of uFirst participated in several programs broadcast on the BBC.

And for the future? Barletta is convinced that the more uFirst will spread and “the more it will help our lives change for the better”. With a great ambition that seems to project itself into the future: “I dream of a near future in which I open the app, I insert the various things I have to do and the app will tell me where to go first, it will put me in line and also tell me what way to go to find less traffic. Therefore, an app that gives everyone the strength to better manage their time and that can also improve the environment by helping to decrease our daily emissions, a component we are already working on “.

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