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BUSINESS

From student to Italy startup millionaire

Daniele Ratti may have just graduated from the University of Bergamo, but the 23-year-old from Bergamo is not facing the anxious months, or years, of job hunting that await many of his peers.

From student to Italy startup millionaire
23-year-old Daniele Ratti sold 51% of his start up Fatture in Cloud to TeamSystem in July. Photo: Daniele Ratti

Earlier this week,Ratti announced he had sold a 51 percent stake in his accountancy software start-up, Fatture in Cloud, to the American market leader in accountancy software, TeamSystem for more than €1 million.

Italy is not a country famed for creating young tech millionaires, but it was ironically the unique challenges the country posed that led to Ratti design the software.

“It was difficult for me to make money from previous businesses I'd tried, to set up” Ratti told The Local.

“Regulations here are so complex – but that gave us a gap in the market because foreign accountancy software wasn't designed for Italy.”

Fatture in Cloud is an online system for managing invoices and allows small businesses and freelance workers in Italy to easily keep track of and categorize their expenses online for a monthly subscription fee of €5.

The programme was designed by Ratti – then a software engineering student – in August 2013 and was officially launched in January 2014. 

It was a difficult period for Ratti, who had to balance work and study.

“I worked morning, evening and nights,” he said. “Sometimes with just a break for lunch and one for dinner.”

But the hard work soon reaped rewards.

In its first year of operation, the startup turned over €200,000 – money which Ratti reinvested to help it grow.

It was a gamble which paid off: the company has seen three figure growth in 2015 and currently has 45,000 subscribers across Italy.

Before the acquisition was completed in July, representatives from TeamSystem had been courting Ratti for some time. They had even held a meeting with him to discuss a possible acquisition at his university bar.

Ratti took a long time to consider the deal, before finally accepting to sell – he wanted to be sure that the buyers would help the company develop in the right way.

“In the end they made a really good offer and they will help us reach out to more people,” Ratti explained.

Following the acquisition, Ratti remains in charge and hopes to establish Fatture in Cloud's position in Italy before extending the service to other countries in 2017.

The company of just three people has just moved into new offices in Bergamo, but is now in the process of hiring more staff across a range of fields.

Ratti's story is one of incredible success at such a young age, but he insists it is a story that can be replicated if the government does more to help talented people in Italy.

“It's too complicated here. Businesses have to pay fixed taxes – even if they don't earn anything, they have to pay taxes in advance too. The government could do a lot more to simplify bureaucracy and incentivize young entrepreneurs.

““But it doesn't matter where you are operating, if you have the belief and talent you can do it. Startups are all about scaleability – just –find and idea and grow it quickly.”

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BUSINESS

EU finds Italy’s Alitalia loans ‘illegal’ but airline free to keep money

The EU's antitrust authorities ruled Friday that Italy's 900 million euro loans to long-struggling airline Alitalia were "illegal", but cleared the country's new carrier to get state funding and avoid paying back the money. 

Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP
Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP

“Following our in-depth investigation, we reached the conclusion that two public loans worth EUR 900 million granted by Italy to Alitalia gave the company an unfair advantage over its competitors, in breach of EU State aid rules,” said EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“They must now be recovered by Italy from Alitalia to help restore a level playing field in the European aviation industry.”

But the authorities in Brussels simultaneously said new flag airline ITA – set to start flying next month – was not liable to reimburse the money and that 1.35 billion euros being injected into the firm by Rome did not breach state aid rules.

“Italy has demonstrated that there is a clear break between Alitalia and the new airline ITA, and that its investment in ITA is in line with terms that a private investor would have accepted,” Vestager said.

“Once ITA takes off, it is for Italy and ITA’s management to make use of this opportunity once and for all. And we will continue to do our part to ensure fair competition in the European aviation sector.”

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Loss-making Alitalia was placed under state administration in 2017 but Italy has struggled to find an investor to take it over. The situation was only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that grounded airlines worldwide.

The Italian government gave the company two loans for the amount of EUR 600 million and EUR 300 million in 2017, as Alitalia scrambled for liquidity without access to the debt market.

Earlier this year Italy said it had reached an agreement with the European Union for a bailout that creates a new debt-free company to take over some of Alitalia’s assets – ITA.

The board of directors of ITA last month approved a binding offer for 52 of Alitalia’s aircraft, related airport slots and other assets.

The Italian government has created a 100-million-euro ($117-million) fund to reimburse Alitalia customers.

Italy provided state loans to Alitalia totalling 1.3 billion euros between 2017 and 2019.

In July, it approved another 700 million euros for ITA.

Further sums are expected in 2022 and 2023, bringing the total to 1.35 billion euros.

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