Startups give new energy to Italian development

In order to create new jobs, to let talents come out and to stimulate economy it is necessary to support the launch and development of innovative enterprises in Italy, thanks to everybody’s commitment: investors, politicians, university, enterprises, media. Andrea Rangone, Digital Innovation Observatory Director at Milan Politecnico: “A virtuous circle is starting and it is a good sign for the next decade. We are seeing positive outcomes in all the steps of startups’ life cycle”.

Source: by Manuela Gianni 03 November 2014

Every year in Italy is developing an entrepreneurial culture as an anti-crisis receipt and a new ecosystem helping young talents to start and develop their business is arising. Obviously, we could do more, but there are many stories telling us that it is possible, despite the crisis: brilliant Italians have already start their successful business and realize their dream of making their idea a millionaire exit.

It is a great opportunity that our Country has to take, in order to sustain economic development and create new jobs. Andrea Rangone is strongly committed of it. He is the Digital Innovation Responsible of the Milan Politecnico and Italia Startup Advisor, who has been active for years in spreading entrepreneurial culture in Italy and in giving a real support to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially in hi-tech sector.

Prof. Rangone, why do you pay so much attention to startups during an economic crisis such as the one Italy is facing?

As is known in a mature economy such as the Italian one, a considerable part of GNP and of employment comes from start and development of new enterprises: there is a vast body of literature confirming that. So, in order to invert the trend, it absolutely necessary to diffuse an entrepreneurial culture and greater awareness towards startups. Big Italian companies and multinational companies are disinvesting from Italy and bureaucracy restricts our Public Administration. Young unemployment reached the memorable record of 40%, so it is clear that giving a chance to young people is a priority for the entire system.

I’m sure there is a great potential: I see a lot of energy, initiative, competence and creativity. We have to release this potential, motivate talents to give themselves a challenge. The history of our Country tell us that, thanks to widespread entrepreneurial, last century we became a global economy, creating our economic and productive bases made of a mass of SME. Sustaining innovative startups means laying the foundations for a new Made in Italy that could give to the world the idea of a Country able to generate excellence.

While in the past years startups and Internet were seen as a mirage, especially after the fall of the new economy in 1998-2000, today it seems that there is a trend reversal and it is a good sign for the future.

What does make you positive, in particular?

I see many positive elements, which all together are contributing to a new startups ecosystem, a rich soil where let new ventures grow up. First of all, there is a big awareness at a political level. The 2.0 Development Decree, in particular; during the last months we did a lot: young people that want to start a new innovative enterprise have easier legal and bureaucratic processes and fiscal subsidies in order to encourage private and business investments. Government understood that supporting startups and developing a new innovative entrepreneurship means drive a 360 degree industrial politics and boost the entire economic system. We know that we have to face important financial restrictions and that is difficult to image big public direct investments. But it is important to go on with this action of de-bureaucratization and abolition of exemption in order to let this positive energy, which we can perceive in our country, flowing and materializing.

Another positive sign comes from traditional enterprises. Currently, with the big transformation we are experiencing, starting new innovation processes is fundamental and I see many important Italian ventures which understood the importance of open innovation and look at startup in the hi-tech sector, for example participating to scouting initiatives and “call for ideas” that reward the best projects.

During the last months, the educational supply on entrepreneurship increases. The entire educational system, especially university and post-university, is orienting toward educational paths – which are also cultural paths – that can give young people the skills to start a business. I also see more attention from media toward startups, this is an important feature that stimulate the culture of the country from the bottom.

Last but not least, I believe that institutional investors, so called venture capital and private and public incubators are doing a very good job. This contributes to create an ecosystem and start a virtuous circle.

Anyway, we need time to achieve important goals: values are not significant yet and international benchmark put Italy at the bottom of the barrel. According to the Startup Observatory of the Politecnico of Milan School of Manager and ItaliaStartup and realized with the institutional support of the Economic Development Minister, in 2013 in Italy have been invested 100 million euros for a thousand startup projects. It is not enough, not only compared with France and Germany: also Spain invests more than us.


Despite this unfavorable climate, during the last years a lot of brilliant young Italian business men started successful startups. What does arise from your Observatory?

There is a lot of examples of successful experiences also in Italy, especially in the IT field, the sector that is growing more. There is a positive dynamics in every step of the startups’ life cycle, from their birth to their exit. We see a lot of investments to the most promising young business men: for example Comprameglio has been financed with 5,3 million euros by an English private equity fund and other foreign business angel, Facilitylive has been financed with 10 million euros and Cloud4wi obtained 3 million euros by United Venture.

There are also some startups that grew significantly during the last years and today are showing interesting turnovers: this is the case of Decysion which had a turnover of 5,4 million euro in 2013 or Beintoo which has a turnover of 2,7 million euros. Other enterprise has already achieved success: Jobrapido, start in 2006 and transferred to Daily mail for 60 million euros, or EOS (Ethical Ontology Science), another Italian startup purchased by Clovis Oncology for 331 million euros.

Politecnico of Milan and Italia Startup with the institutional support of the Economic Development Ministry, one year ago started the project “The Italian Startup Ecosystem: Who’s Who”. Can you describe it and explain which its objectives are?

It is a project aiming at showing to the national political and economic system and to international representatives a picture of the main players of the startup ecosystem of our Country. It is the first mapping of the sector in Italy and has shown an unexpected framework: 1200 innovative startups have been counted in Italy, and among them 100 are financed high-tech startups. There are 100 incubators and accelerators, 32 institutional investors (6 public and 26 private), 40 scientific and technological parks, 65 co-working areas and 33 startups competitions. 50 % of the innovative startups are in the north, 36% are in central regions and 14% down South. It is a starting point aiming at giving to Italian startups the possibility to be more visible and attract foreign investments.

University has a crucial role in this context, especially in the high-tech field. What does Politecnico of Milan is doing?

University can and must play a fundamental role: startups do not arise only in garages but also at school and Politecnico is playing its part. We started different projects. The first one is Start-up Program launched two years ago: it is a cultural program of the Politecnico’s MIP supporting Start-uppers, Entrepreneurs and Executives for business projects developments. It is a program that encourages participants to improve their project with specific methods and tools, developing important “soft skills” such as: innovation, leadership, negotiation, conflicts management, communication and motivation, empowerment, etc…
It is not just a program of frontal lectures: we organized during these years a series of meeting with entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists and Business Angels. We also do research activities with the Observatory in order to improve business dynamics and startups scenario. Two years ago we launched Polihub a project that aim at creating a startups district in the Bovisa campus.