Startups in Italy? Here is how you can make it
Fernando Napolitano, chairman and CEO of Italian Business & Investment Initiative, explains how to do business in Italy. From scratch
Fernando Napolitano, Chairman and CEO of Italian Business & Investment Initiative, a platform for the collaboration and the realization of business opportunities between the U.S. and Italy has no doubts "Italy must expand itself abroad professionally."
What does "professionally" mean?
We export a lot, mainly manufactures, but this is not enough. Entrepreneurship should not be limited to the industrial field. Economy is changing and so are the world's scenarios. The problem with Italy is that its professional expansion has always been limited to some sectors only. We should fill the existing gap between enterprises and internationalization. The model that enables us to export only through sales represantatives or a distributor must be overcome. Business opportunities are much broader as shown by the example of Luxottica.
What should Italy do?
The American market is competitive and complex because its distribution channels are sophisticated and broad. More qualified human resources are essential to a firm to become "big." Even in startups, the most important pieces of the value chain are the human resources. This is the reason why we organize events such as the one at the Bocconi University of Milan, where students, startuppers, venture capitals, investors and entrepreneurs can meet and create synergies.
Where does this chain start?
We have, nowadays, a great chance to develop enterprise in the technological field through the Fullbright Best program, that gives the chance to our best "innovators" to get trained for some months in the U.S. The program literally "throws them" in a big start up of the Silicon Valley or in the East coast.
Italy always seems to be behind other countries in this sector..
Truth is we are ready too. If an Italian wants to create an enterprise in the High-Tech sector, the best way for him or her to learn how to do it is to go abroad following programs offered by Fullbright Best and Mind the Bridge, in order to come back with an operating model in mind. The second step offers young people support once they are back here. This is the reason why partnerships such as the ones with Intesa SanPaolo, Innogest fund and Mind the Seed are so important. They provide new companies with the necessary help in order to accelerate and develop their potential. The best, among them, are later selected to be introduced through a special network to American investors.
This way it is possible to get the best out of both worlds..
Exactly. Expertise comes from Italy while the common large market, with its flexibility and financial liquidity comes from U.S. We should never forget that ventures are there to invest their money because they expect to make a lot more at a later time.
Are you trying to say that in Italy we've got all the conditions required to succeed in the startup market?
We have all that takes to be successful entrepreneurs. The government has passed reforms and approved tax deductions that are useful, but you cannot expect the institutions to be the ones that make you a lot of money. That depends on your own culture and mindset. Glancee is a perfect example of what I am saying. An Italian company acquired by Facebook.
Are there any Italian companies interested in accelerating our startups and eventually acquire them at a later time?
Something is moving in that direction. Enel lab, just to mention one, accelerates startups in the energy sector and acquire them later. It is a very good example of a big company that considers innovation a resource for its own core business.
So, in this critical moment for global economies, is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
If we want to consider the bright side of crisis, we can observe how small and medium companies are forced to allow new entrepreneurs into the "family owned" capital. It is a great resource and opportunity, as this is qualified human capital that can really make a difference.