From growing up in Italy and starting multiple businesses before beginning college to living and working in places like Russia and New Zealand, Cristiano Bellavitis is no stranger to new experiences. His latest adventure, however, will be moving from Auckland, New Zealand, to Syracuse, New York, to join the Whitman community as an assistant professor in entrepreneurship.
“It was probably the first time I immediately felt at home when I visited a university,” says Bellavitis. He speaks fondly of when he first visited the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, though it did take him nearly a day of flying. When he finally arrived at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport, EEE Department Chair Todd Moss was there to pick him up, despite the late hour.
“I think I landed at 10 p.m., and Todd Moss, who has a large family, came to pick me up and then drove me to the hotel. I really appreciated it,” Bellavitis recalls. “I really felt at home and that I could be friends with my colleagues.”
Bellavitis was born and raised in Rome, Italy, and developed an interest in entrepreneurship at a relatively young age. Before he attended university, he launched multiple initiatives like a video rental store and an electric vehicle retail showroom. He explains that the showroom was a better venture to pursue. “But even then the timing was not ideal, because I started too early. We started with cars, but they were too expensive, too bulky. Later we went into bicycles, and that was much better,” he says.
He then began pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Rome at the Libera Università Maria SS Assunta when he was 22. Bellavitis studied business and spent six months abroad in Belgium through the Erasmus Program, which is a European Union student exchange. He attended the University of Rome Tor Vergata and earned a master’s degree in business administration.
Bellavitis then relocated to London to study at Cass Business School, which is one of five schools in the University of London city system. He earned his Ph.D. in entrepreneurial finance and focused his research on network theory as it relates to the venture capital industry.
Since completing his Ph.D., Bellavitis has continued doing research, and his work can be found in multiple journals, including Organization Science, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, British Journal of Management, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, and Journal of Business Venturing Insights. Most recently, he has been working on research concerning cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. Specifically, he looks into initial coin offerings, or ICOs. ICOs are often a form of fundraising for new cryptocurrency startups. This is a quickly growing industry, with some governments, like China, looking to develop their own virtual currency.
“It’s a very interesting industry because it’s emerging and regulations are emerging. There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s useful or not,” Bellavitis explains. “So there’s definitely a need for research in this area.”
After earning his Ph.D., Bellavitis moved to Russia and worked as a professor in Moscow for nearly two years before moving to Auckland, where he has lived for about four years now. Living and working in so many different places, he says, has given him the ability to feel comfortable wherever he goes. He explains, “I still feel like I am an Italian, but more so a world citizen.”
Bellavitis continues “From when I was about 25, I really loved other cultures. I started traveling much more broadly. I traveled all around the world. The first thing that I learned is that obviously the world is very big, and it’s important to acknowledge this.”
That global experience also helps him when teaching. He explains that he encourages his students to look globally. “I always tell my students, if you want to start a company, you need to start thinking of a global world, or a global stage,” Bellavitis explains. “It’s important to look at the international markets, at least for supplies, employees, customers and many other reasons.”
When asked about what brought him to Syracuse and the Whitman School, Bellavitis explains that he was initially attracted by the strength of the University. “First, I was very attracted to the prestige of Syracuse University. Especially for entrepreneurship, it’s a very prestigious school and high in the rankings,” he says. “Also, the U.S. university system is a leading system.”
The United States, he adds, is also closer to nearly everything than New Zealand is. “Closer to the world I used to know,” as he puts it.
On a more personal level, Bellavitis says that when he visited the Whitman School, meeting other faculty and staff members added to his interest. “Meeting my colleagues was the stronger motivation for coming to Syracuse,” he explains.
Outside of work, Bellavitis enjoys soccer, both playing and watching. He also likes to read and tries to get through a book every week or two. He is interested in both novels and educational pieces, but often chooses books that are related to finance. Bellavitis has also traveled to many countries over the years — in the past he has aimed to visit two new countries each year, sometimes choosing to spend the trip hiking or backpacking if possible.
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