Can Italy become a startup-friendly country? By having a look at the past, we could answer “NO”! But in the latest years, something has started changing. Interest for startups has grown and a consistent number of investments have been made.
Following the wave of investments of 2012-2013, the landscape is now changing. New players have come in (CII2, Key Capital, Quadrivio, Programma 101, United Ventures, among others) while current operators (e.g. Vertis, Innogest, LVenture Group, Digital Magics, to cite some of them), are increasing their efforts. In 2013, according to official figures from AIFI (read here), the amount of investments decreased (YoY) but the number of operations reached an all time peak.
Opportunities come from startups, actually. Given the recent experience (funded startups), precise trends haven’t emerged but a lot of interesting companies trying to disrupt traditional sectors (e.g. legal, condominium, job market), develop SaaS solutions (real analytics to monitor consumer behaviour, front-end building and back-end apps services), and compare prices, have been funded. Among the rising sectors, food represents the focus of Expo Milano 2015 (Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life). A lot of e-commerce startups dedicated to offering Italian-made, healthy fresh food and high-quality wines, as well as social platforms around the sector, have been attracting the attention and resources of investors. In addition, interest in companies promoting “Made in Italy” products has been growing with investment in platforms such as Lovli, Formabilio, LoveTheSign, which joined previously funded Maison Academia. The ecosystem of tourism, with apps and platform to find and book events and places, is on the rise as well, also stimulated by the opportunity of the Expo itself. The attention for gaming, with recent investment in Interactive Project and GamePix from LVenture Group, is also confirmed. Finally, a big opportunity is given by the banking sector in order to find solutions to “fix” it. To this end, UniCredit recently launched a broad initiative, called UniCredit Start Lab, featuring a fintech incubator and partnerships with venture capital firms to co-invest in focused startups. Other players are expected.
Startup investing is still inadequate in Italy. As said above, in 2013, the amount of early stage financing decreased, with €81m invested (-39,5% yoy) in 158 operations (+16.2% yoy). To contrast this trend, tax reliefs, similar to the UK Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), have recently been introduced by law for investments made by companies (no more than €1.8m for each tax year) and individuals (no higher than €500k during each tax year). Anyways, some successesful expamples can attract new players. The creation of an “exit market” can help incentivize them come in, as well.
In Italy, investors tend to follow a model similar to other countries with larger vc funds leading rounds and angels and early stage investors participating in them and Maybe, the presence of some pre-seed funds, standing half-way between incubators/accelerators and venture capital, represents a particularity of our system. Several convergence points are growing across Milan, Rome, Treviso, Torino, Trento, Bologna, Florence, Naples, Catania, etc.