How 'brand Italy' is helping startups flourish

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Federico Barilli, secretary general of Italia Startup. Photo: Italia Startup
15:33 CEST+02:00
The world of Italian business may be about to be turned upside down by startups. Here's why.

Across the Italian peninsular enterprising young Italians are taking a do-it-yourself approach to combating Italy's unemployment woes, with many founding small companies that have the potential to go global.

According Italy's Chamber of Commerce, there are currently 4365 registered startups working in Italy -  a country which offers unique possibilities when it comes to setting up a business with the potential for rapid expansion. 

“Italy is the fifth biggest manufacturing country in the world, and the second biggest in Europe after Germany,” Federico Barilli, the secretary general of the association, Italia Startup, told The Local. 

"The 'Made in Italy' brand is already a leader in global markets – especially in the fields of fashion, food, furniture and automobiles. 

"Italy gives innovative startups offering services or products in these areas the perfect environment to quickly test out ideas before hitting global markets.”

Barilli and his colleagues at Italia Startup are trying to boost investment in startups from its current level, which they estimate at €100 million, to €1 billion in the next three years.

They would like to see more money made available to help these growing businesses expand and flourish  - without them needing to resort to high risk, high interest Italian business loans.

“Growth is the biggest challenge facing any startup," explained Barilli. "But at the moment we have just €100 million of venture capital available for them grow – that's very low compared to the rest of Europe.”

Italia Startup would like to see more venture capital flow into these high-potential Italian startups – capital which the association argues must be stimulated by the government.

“The Italian government has already introduced a system of tax credits for research and development, which will help – but we would like them to introduce a unique system just for startups.”

It's a strong possibility that politicians will listen to Italia Startup's request. The government is already trying to make life easier for its would-be businessmen and has passed a number or business friendly reforms over the past 18 months.

A startup visa that can now be applied for online, and within 30 days applicants will be free to travel to Italy from far flung countries to do business and hopefully help inject some life into Italy's stagnant economy.

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“The globalization of human resources is very healthy and already exists in areas like San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley, which are great business hubs where skilled international teams work together," said Barilli.

So far there is perhaps nothing to rival San Francisco Bay or Silicon Valley in Italy, but with more than 25 percent of all Italian Startups located around Milan, the city is fast becoming Italy's own startup hub.

There is clearly more to be done to help Italy's startup ecosystem flourish – but if Barilli gets his way, Italy, or at least 'Made in Italy' will soon be open for business. 

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