Lorenzo Bonfiglio is an international retail and foodtech executive who builds decentralized, communal platforms at scale. As the Los Angeles-based head of Expansion and Strategy for retail pop-up marketplace xNomad, he’s driving the growth of short-term retail in North America and beyond.
While still a student, Bonfiglio founded Pronto Systems, an on-demand goods delivery platform that leveraged a network of on-demand partners. In addition to his work at xNomad, he continues to advise independent artisans and gallery owners on business development and logistics. He’s fluent in English, Italian, and Spanish, and can speak a few others too.
We had the opportunity to speak with Lorenzo recently about his career so far, his work at xNomad, and the business and tech trends that excite him most.
What drew you to entrepreneurship as a younger person?
I had excellent role models who showed me what could happen when you work toward ambitious but realistic goals. This is what entrepreneurs do all the time: Where others see intractable problems, they see solutions-in-waiting. It’s a refreshing outlook that far too few folks share, and I wanted to be a part of it.
What’s the most important lesson you learned early in your career?
Change is inevitable. It’s not always a good thing, but it happens, and those who fight it at all costs tend to have worse outcomes than those who find ways to adapt.
Unfortunately, in a business context, change can lead to failure. I learned early on that it’s not failure that defines you but what you do next: what you learn from it, how you apply those lessons in similar future scenarios, and how you share your learnings with those around you.
What excites you most about the pop-up retail movement?
Pop-up retail is, in my view, the most exciting retail trend in many years. I see it as an evolution of earlier digital retail solutions that decentralized power and agency. eBay, Etsy, other merchant-friendly platforms. But it’s more than that, and potentially more empowering in its own way. I believe platforms like xNomad will play a central role in a more productive, efficient, and equitable retail ecosystem that works for more people.
Looking ahead to the future, what’s one trend in technology or business that you’re really excited about?
I’ve said this elsewhere, but I have high hopes for generative AI. I think current models like GPT-4 and Gemini just scratch the surface of what’s possible in this space. As people become more comfortable using them and better at actually getting quality results from them, the value proposition will become even clearer than it is today. With that said, while we do need to prepare for a world where AI does much of the work we rely on humans for today, I’m skeptical about the risks of “superintelligent” AI in the near or even medium future.
How do you deal with setbacks, personally?
I treat every setback as a learning experience. I do this without exception, even when I’m not directly responsible for the issue — even when it’s entirely out of my control. There’s always something to be learned, in good scenarios and bad ones.
If there’s one bit of advice you could give your younger self, what would it be?
From a business perspective, being too early to an opportunity is just as “bad” as being late. The technology and expertise might exist to make a solution technically feasible, but it’s equally if not more important that the market is ready. Ironically, earlier solutions often end up paving the way for “right on time” solutions by creating the first shoots of a viable market. But they don’t survive long enough to see that market mature; they fail so that others can flourish.
What’s it like to be able to speak so many languages?
It’s a great joy on a personal level to converse with so many different people in their native tongues. More than that, being fluent in multiple languages gives me some perspective on the world that doesn’t come naturally to monolingual people. It’s an advantage, I think.