A Great Opportunity by the Cities of New York and Milan

By Maria Teresa Cometto, Co-Author of “Tech and the City. The Making of New York’s Startup Community”

New York and Milan have so many things in common. They are both their country’s capital of finance, fashion, and media. Moreover, they are very dynamic cities at the forefront of innovation in many fields, from medicine to technology. So it makes sense that NY startups would look at Milan as a good place to expand and vice versa, and that both cities would partner together on the NYCEDC Global Business Exchange — Milan to make that happen.

Let’s start with Milan, often overlooked by Americans as a destination for fun and business. In reality, Milan is the Italian version of NYC: it has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and has become the largest startup hub in Italy in the last few years, in part because of the impetus and increase in vitality that followed the city’s hosting of the World’s Fair, Expo 2015, last year.

In the next ten years, the Human Technopole will rise where the Expo stood last year. It will be a research campus that could become home to as many as 1,600 researchers focusing on medical genomics, agriculture and food science, big-data analysis, and nanoscience. The plan will be developed by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, which has a great record in nurturing startups.

According to StartupEuropeClub, “Milan has the best environment in Italy for Startups”, with 22% of all Italian innovative startups, 53% of institutional investors, 35% of crowding platforms, 21% of incubators and accelerators, 13% of science and technology parks, 31% of co-working spaces, and 17% of fab-labs.

Milan has a strategic location, very central to the European market, and its business community is very international. It is the home to some of the top European universities, including Bocconi University, rated among the best for business and finance; and Politecnico, the engineering university that hosts its very own startup incubator.

One major player in the Milan tech community is Digital Magics, which was founded in 2004, has a portfolio of almost 60 startups, and has been listed on the Borsa Italiana stock exchange since 2013. Another important player is P101, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments in the digital sector, which is well connected to the whole Italian and European ecosystem.

Fintech is particularly strong in Milan, where Moneyfarm, an online investment advisor and one of the biggest digital wealth management companies in Europe, was born. Moneyfarm also has offices also in London and Cagliari.

In Milan, innovation also flourishes in other “hard” industries such as aerospace. It’s where D-Orbit is headquartered, with subsidiaries in Portugal and California. Founded in 2011 by a team of experienced aerospace pros, it aims to mitigate the problem of space debris, removing them through a decommissioning device that is installed in new spacecraft before launch.

So from genomics to fin-tech, from fashion to aerospace, Milan offers great opportunities to US companies for expanding their business to the whole European market.

For Italians, New York City is already a very popular holiday destination. However, very few people know that it is also on its way to overtaking Silicon Valley as the center of attraction for talent and capital from all over the world. In fact, during the last few years more and more foreign entrepreneurs have been coming to the Big Apple looking for opportunities in the tech industry. They have found a very welcoming environment, which is one of the ingredients for New York City’s success as a tech hub: there is a strong sense of community, everybody feels part of it, roots and works for New York City to become a startup capital. Members of this community are generous with their time and available to share their experience and knowledge with newcomers, foreigners included. That’s why the city is home to NY Tech Meetup, the largest organization in the world bringing startups together, with over 60,000 individual and institutional members. The NYTM monthly meeting is a good starting point to make connections and network with other entrepreneurs.

Another strength of New York City is the diversity of its economy and social life. Besides Wall Street, there are the Mad Men of the advertising industry, Broadway and the show business, booming real estate, fashion and media, an incredible restaurant scene, as well as new manufacturing. New York City is also home to a number of excellent research centers and higher education institutions, such as the Cornell Tech, whose new campus is opening in 2017, totally devoted to raising a new generation of tech leaders and innovators. All these industries are interacting in a creative way, and startups have been created to take advantage of this huge background, and they are all sectors where Milanese entrepreneurs can be very successful.

The high concentration of people in New York City, as well as their ethnic, cultural, and social diversity, is appealing because it makes the city a laboratory to test new products and services aimed at the global market. If you make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere, as the saying goes. It’s true also for the tech business.

And of course there is the money, of which there is plenty in NYC, with so many VCs and the most active organization of Angel Investors in the US. In the first half on 2016, $3.1 billion were invested in NY startups, more than anywhere else except Silicon Valley.

With all this in mind, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the City of Milan have partnered together to give companies the opportunity to expand between these two international cities. Through the NYCEDC Global Business Exchange — Milan, up to 20 companies can get started with their cross-Atlantic growth. If you’re interested, you need to hurry up! Applications close August 31st. Find out more information here.


@mtcometto

About the Author

Maria Teresa Cometto is an Italian journalist based in NYC since 2000. She is the co-author of the book “Tech and the City. The Making of New York’s Startup Community”. She writes about business and tech for the leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera and for the website StartupItalia!