[Made in Italie] Italy, a start-up nation? Reasons to believe
“Italy fails to express its potential“. An air of déjà vu if we take into account the latest reports on the economic outlook for European countries. A refrain that also applies to the theme of start-ups as taken up in the very serious study of the venture capital fund Atomico (State of European Tech) whose judgment is relentless on Italy. In terms of investments in innovative companies, Italy is not taking off. She even recoils. In 2017, Europe will have invested almost 20 billion euros. Italy remains stuck at 180-200 million euros. An abysmal gap, the causes of which are to be drawn not only from the low presence of venture capital operators and available capital, but also from the existence of an ecosystem of innovation in search of its own identity.
However, Italy is not doomed to play a minor role. Far from it. In addition to the fiscal lever which remains one of the centerpieces of the legislation recently put in place to encourage investment in start-ups, the emergence of new public initiatives should be highlighted. With the aim of strengthening the strike force of venture capital in Italy and trying to bring it up to international standards. At the national level, the Invitalia Ventures fund, endowed with 87 million euros, was born two years ago with the objective of investing in start-ups in the early-stage phase, with the invaluable support of the Ministry. of Economic Development, the European Bank for Investments and the American group Cisco.
The Italian Caisse des Dépôts also plays a key role in relaunching venture capital with the birth of the ITAtech fund (150 million euros) which invests, in partnership with the European Investment Fund, in technology transfer projects, or again the Tech Growth Fund (200 million euros) which invests in late stage operations. The Regions are not left out with local initiatives that are flourishing. Latium recently set up a FARE Venture fund (80 million euros), managed by Lazio Innova, the region’s economic development agency. An ambitious project with the aim of competing with Milan as a tech hub for innovation. In total, nearly 500 million euros can be mobilized to allow the Italian ecosystem to make the decisive leap in quality.
If the financial aspect remains one of the fundamental pillars to support the growth of successful start-ups, the development of a structured and connected ecosystem is just as important. Italy has made considerable efforts in this area, although there are still some errors to be corrected. The emergence of high-quality incubators and accelerators in the Regions, often linked to the world of large companies, is a healthy and stimulating element of contamination for the ecosystem. How not to mention the largest Italian accelerator, Luiss Enlabs, with 5,000 square meters in the heart of Rome, or hybrid accelerator-investment fund structures such as PI Campus, H-Farm, the Tuscan start-up studio, Nana Bianca as well as Cariplo Factory, which aims to be the open innovation hub connecting start-ups to large companies.
In this context, it is interesting to think of the French model and in particular of the French Tech Hub label, of which Milan has been a member since November 2016. An initiative which certainly aims to strengthen links between the French and Italian innovation ecosystems but which can also be a stimulus to help transform the Italian ecosystem into a reservoir of talents and projects ready to shine on the peninsula and Europe. And finally become a start-up nation.
It remains to transform the test. 2018 will be the decisive year.
Philippe Tandeau de Marsac is the development manager of Invitalia Ventures SGR, the French Tech Mentor and member of the French Tech Hub Milan steering committee.