VC launches in Italy – this just doesn't happen. What is going on?

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Scanner-cam from earlier in more detail

Google Italy’s country manager, Massimiliano Magrini has reportedly resigned and now plans to start a venture capital fund and a “startup incubator” (although these seem quite different). Magrini is probably in a position to financially – he started up Google in Italy in way back in 2002 after working at Altavista. And apparently he’s not doing it alone: he’s joined by 20 other players in the Italian tech scene.

He told Italian based blog “I will develop in Italy what venture capitalists are already doing in the USA. The timing and the place is right. I’m getting great feedback from the financial community. I will create a real new Silicon Valley in Milan”.

For those of you not familiar with the Italian Internet scene, this is fighting talk.

There are almost literally no VCs in Italy, and what investors there are tend to to be Angels or corporate investors only interested in e-commerce startups which hit revenues almost from the word go. Web 2.0 style startups are almost completely non-existent there. CrunchBase lists only a handful of companies, although of course that’s probably not definitive.

So for a new VC to launch in Italy is highly significant. Clearly, it really is a good time to startup.

One of the few other cheerleaders of tech startups there is Milan-based VC dpixel, headed up by serial entrepreneur Gianluca Dettori. He started the TechGarage event for the first time last year.

  • Stefano Bernardi

    Thanks for picking up the story Mike, as you say it is quite an event to see a new VC in Italy: the story has in fact also been published by the most important italian newspaper: Il corriere della Sera.

    Google has already released some comments about this story:

    I’ll keep you updated if anything new comes out.

  • Radu Ticiu

    Probably it is somehow exaggerated to aim to replicate the Silicon Valley in Northern Italy, but Lombardy+Piedmont is mentioned within EU innovation-focused initiatives as one of the Europe’s geographic region where universities, research, industry and finance are most favorably interconnected in order to generate entrepreneurial innovation.

    Furthermore, Mr. Magrini’s initiative to start a coupled VC&incubator is in line with new approaches promoted by projects like Achieve More Partnership (,

    “The Partnership also intends to establish a new type of early stage funding paradigm by testing the potential to develop seed funds, linked to the leading edge business and technology incubators.”

    Hope to find in couple of years in Northern Italy a new functional model of support organizations for innovative KIS start-ups. Eventually one that is easier to transfer to other EU countries than the Silicon Valley model.

  • Fabio De Bernardi

    Mike, the Italian situation is rather grim but things are starting to change from what I hear.
    There’s no lack of talent in engineering / development – what is missing is the ecosystem, including the attitude towards entrepreneurs. If you fail in the Silicon Valley you’re a semi-hero, if you fail in London you can keep on showing up at and keep dreaming big, if you fail in Italy you’re covered with shame and doubt.
    However, another great example of game-changing people is
    I recently visited their HQ and I’ve been amazed by the atmosphere and the talent I found there! And it’s real web 2.0, believe me.

    I also wrote about H-Farm here:

  • mark donnei

    I wrote a brief article on this on my blog and saw that this story had also been published in a newspaper aswell. I just did a search on the google and saw quite a lot of posts on this topic.

  • Danilo Gasparrini

    I have recently return to Milan after 10 years in London. Things are changing in Italy but we are still at early early stages. There are great entrepreneurs even in the internet arena but they really struggle to get financing. I really hope that Magrini new venture will help to change this trend. I am optimistic on the Italian internet scenario.

    Danilo Gasparrini

  • Salvatore Merando

    God luck to the initiative. Anyway I agree with some comments on the “Italian conservative scenario”. it should be necessary a strong cultural turnover and also more open communication on vc: this could improve the link between “demand and supply”.

    Assochange, Associazione Italiana di Change management (www. could be interested too.

  • Adrian Haas

    Italy has become a dark-horse tech market ready to bloom. I agree that the problem that many people had in the past was obtaining VC or similar, however Massimiliano Magrini has all the ingredients to be successful. Not only he’s positioned himself to win based on his experience at Google but he is actively recruiting a top-notch team that will blow away many similar companies. Kudos to Mass Magrini and his team. I can’t wait to see the results.

  • Mauro Pretolani

    I am glad to hear that Magrini is joining the limited community supporting start ups and venture capital in Italy.

    However, number one issue in Italy is not the lack of VCs. if you take an helicopter view, Italy is possibly one of the most underdeveloped VC market if compared to its potential.

    First of all, in absolute terms Italy is one of the largest LBO markets in the world, normally in the top 5 and depending on the year, ahead of Germany or China. Venture capital wise, in absolute terms Italy does not make it to the top 20 countries. This means that legal frameworks and finance are not the issue in Italy.

    Certainly the fact that Italy has a limited number of young people, with is fast aging population, does not help, nor does the limited flexibility of the labour market. But these issues are present in many European countries.

    In terms of technological culture, Italy is behind the rest of the G7, but the gap in VC is out of proportion. For example, if compared to the UK, Italy publishes about 1/3 the number of international university papers (that of course, are mostly written in English- major advantage for the UK).
    But VC activity in Italy is much lower than in the UK, possibly 2 orders of magnitude smaller. Lack of Intellectually property is just a factor, but by no mean is dragging Italy so low- I wish that there was in Italy 1/3 the VC capital that there is the UK!

    Also the lack of actual VCs is possibly not the main issue.

    In the last few years a number of VCs has started to operate in Italy (Innogest, Quantica, Aladdin ventures, Atlante, D-seed).

    Furthermore, in Europe the number of Senior professional in VC that is Italian is pretty high, there is one Italian Partner for each of Balderton, Amadeus, Doughty Hanson, Soffinova. In two European funds, the majority of the partners is Italian: 360 (formerly netpartners, based in Paris and Milan) and TLcom (my fund, based in London).

    Kreos Capital, one of the major venture lender, has two Italian Partners.

    Italians have more VC money providers than Spaniards and Poles- recently both regularly ahead in terms of actual VC money invested (at least until 2007…)

    Therefore, adding more VCs will help the Italian market, but it will not solve the problem.

    Number of entrepreneurs per capita in Italy is top of all G7 countries. It should be the heaven for VCs.

    Therefore, where is the issue?

    Italy is a country where entrepreneurs have come mostly from the lower ranks, former blue collar workers, mostly without a university degree (Del Vecchio/luxottica, word leader in glass frames, Benetton , or even Natuzzi, based in south of Italy, world leader in leather sofas- NADAQ listed).

    The main issue is possibly to be found in the culture of Italian universities, where only recently the idea of an entrepreneurial Job has started to be “on fashion”. In Italy, University degree and Enteprenuership have not got along very well in the last century.

    The hopes is in this new ideas of entrepreneurship in universities, where the strongest forces have to be found around good initiatives of University incubators (Turin and Milan Polytechnics among the top). They not only create actual new companies, they make circulate the idea of entrepreneurship among technically educated young people- that is the building lock of the tech start up and the VC world.

    Lastly, good news: apparently Italian VC investment level is progressing – a sign that the potential is so underdeveloped and the starting base so low, that it can beat the world crisis.

    Magrini is right in joining the ranks- it will never be a Silicon valley, but if Italy continues to move towards its full potential, there is plenty of new start ups (and Money) to be created.

    Mauro Pretolani
    General Partner

    TLcom Capital LLP

    • David Semeria

      Excellent comments Mauro – It’s nice to see someone who knows what they’re talking about every once an a while.

  • Gianluca Dettori

    indeed there is quite some activity going on in Italy but as others said here, the eco-system is not fully developed. And I agree too that not necessarily we are in a position to replicate the Silicon Valley model. Great news that people like Magrini join the industry,

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  • Michele Vitale

    what I don’t understand is why the many existing VCs and Angel investors get global, too.
    I mean: in Italy there are tons of business opportunities (and entrepreneurs) that VCs could harldy find elsewhere. For example, Italy has 72% of European and 50% of world cultural heritage. Italy has maybe the most appreciated (and copied) culinary products and traditions. Couldn’t it mean something businesswise?
    Sure it could. And if international VCs (maybe with the help of Italian advisors) should take the risk to consider Italian entrepreneurs who try and exploit those assets… well, 1) this would bring action in the so far lacking VC scene in Italy and 2) this would foster, I am sure, well sound and innovative businesses also here.

  • Michele Vitale

    edit: “why DON’T get global.” – sorry

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  • Michele Nicosia

    I’m very fascinated from this old discussion!
    Nowadays, what’s new?

    After one year, something is going to be better/worse than before?

    Magrini , and all of the others VCs italian partners are vanished?

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