How & Why the Silicon Valley Model Inspires Italian Startups

Back in February, I talked to a group composed of more than forty startups from Le Marche visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.

Led by Frans Hysa, a recent Ph.D. graduate in Management between the University of Maryland and the Polytechnic University of Marche, the group was welcomed by local entrepreneurs, investors, and the whole Italian community. Due to his focus on open innovation strategies, Frans shared more about the project and explained why Italians keep choosing Silicon Valley to kick off their startups’ journey.

The Italian Startups visiting the Silicon Valley with The Hive

It all started in Le Marche region, but the echo produced by The Hive program can now be heard also in California. The Hive Incubator and Accelerator was born in Ancona in 2014 with the support of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, focusing on the territory of Le Marche Region. The organization has put together two visionary entrepreneurs, Giorgio Guidi and Sir Russell Luxford, who share a strong belief in innovation as well as the idea of using their knowledge to promote Italian companies’ success.

Given the current Italian scenario, it is not by accident that such experiment started in Le Marche: the region has today the second highest rate of new startups created in Italy. The result is quite outstanding if we consider that running a business in Ancona is different than doing so in Milan, Rome, or Bologna, whose local economies are much stronger. Nevertheless, it proves how innovation can be developed anywhere when it follows the right motivations and deploys the use of the best tools.

Why the Silicon Valley?

I’m the Chief Innovation Officer at The Hive, that is now developing the IDEA project (Innovation as a Driver for exports to America for the Marche Region economic system) that supports internationalization of Italian startups. For our first week, we picked Silicon Valley, involving more than forty startups and four business incubators.

What’s the goal of the experiment?

Although we are supported by the regional government, our main goal is to create new drivers, through innovation, and increase exports to America for the whole economic system of the Region. We are fifty people, mainly founders and incubators’ team members. Startups represent a variety of sectors and industries.

Can you name the startups that you think better represented Italian excellence?

Armotia is an active startup that designs, manufactures, and sells electric motorcycles, branded as Armotia. This is one of the few startups in the world to make electric off-road motorcycles and it’s today the only one to include the two-wheel drive. Their motorcycles, presented at EICMA 2015, want to involve the biker in a 360° experience, from a completely new driving experience to the customization of its components, without considering the social side of the ride. Also, Synbiofood was born from the idea of actively contributing to individuals’ health. Their goal is to give a strong support to food culture of millions people, through an ongoing research for a better life quality. These two companies represent the core of The Hive’s efforts, thanks to their business focus on food and manufacturing.

Why these young entrepreneurs want to check the Bay Area?

All the founders are between 20 and 45; they joined the program to visit the Bay Area for different reasons: they needed training, including some inspirational and networking events with other peers; they also wanted to meet VCs, to attend conferences at universities, and get introduced to American-based startups.

Our founders are mainly inspired by the tech-community, that is somehow unique in the Bay Area. They are aware that they have many opportunities to meet the smartest people in the industry, develop new ideas, create business relationships, and eventually get funded.

What does leave them speechless?

They are impressed by the speed of doing business. Everything runs quite fast. They realized that you can achieve here in one week what you can achieve in not less than a month in Italy. I won’t complain about the Italian system, however it is obvious that here local and central government really help US-based enterprises during the development of their businesses. And this is what makes a difference, when comparing the two systems.

Can you explain how the startup scenario looks like nowadays?

The Italian government has embarked on a process to create new regulations that support startups and innovative small and medium enterprises. Starting in 2002, new laws have been created for the startup ecosystem. The new regulations include not only the definition of requirements in order to be considered as innovative business, but also an easier access to capitals for startups, which also means government’s support as guarantee, work for equity regulation, exclusion from bankruptcy for startups. These new laws and more others define a growing tech community that include startups, accelerators, funds, events, startup programs, and so on.

What’s in the near future?

We have just started this long-term program. As I said earlier, this business trip is just the beginning of our internationalization activities. The Hive will support Italian startups as much as possible, in order for them to get a deeper understanding of the international markets. We have created some business relations and agreements. I can’t help but suggest all Italian founders to follow our activities because we have big plans for this upcoming year.


Originally published at www.italoamericano.org on March 16, 2017.