The Italian who spent a penny and made a splash

Patrick Browne
Patrick Browne - [email protected]
The Italian who spent a penny and made a splash
Domenico Colucci (centre) picks up the award for European Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Photo: Nextome.

When a 26-year-old from the Puglia city of Bari couldn't find the toilet in a shopping centre, little did he know the episode would inspire him to create one of Europe's hottest startups.


Nextome, the brainchild of Domenico Colucci, is an app that provides its users with a way to navigate busy indoor spaces, such as trade fairs, museums or large shopping centres without getting lost.

The app works by using patented Bluetooth sensors placed around each space -  WiFi is not accurate enough for indoor navigation -  which feed data back to the app, allowing users to move through chaotic and confusing spaces with ease.

The app was launched in early 2014 and earlier this month, Colucci picked up the prestigious European Commission Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in Helsinki.

“It's a great honour to win the award – previous winners have included phenomenally successful people, like the people behind Soundcloud, which is now absolutely massive.

“It's great to represent southern Italy too, which gets a lot of criticism for the state of its economy. Hopefully successful southern startups like us can change people's ideas.”

The success of the startup is down to a couple of factors.

When large spaces buy the Bluetooth technology from Nextome to provide navigation for app users they are not just offering a public service that is highly appreciated.

The app also helps them gather data on how people are interacting within their spaces so that they can improve the flow of people and see which areas are most popular.

But in spite of the app's success, Colucci  is looking for more investment so that Nextome can meet the huge demand it has received.

At the moment the startup has a staff of just four people and is hindered by Italy's snail-paced bureaucracy.

“We would love to map Italy's museums – and they are keen for us to do it. But 80 percent of all museums here are state-owned and we would need to go through two years of contract tenders to try to win a contract with them. Being a small startup we can't afford to wait so long.”

In order to progress, Colucci wants to move part of Nextome's operation to foreign pastures to enable it to grow.

“I think London and Berlin are the biggest startup hubs – and we would like to move the commercial arm of our business there or to the US as these are the countries where we've had the most demand.”

However, being a proud Italian he has no intention of abandoning his home country altogether.

“Whatever happens we will keep the technological side of things in Puglia and keep flying the flag for southern Italy.” 


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