Tanya Noel and the conference in Italy that never happened

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3D Tetris on a screen made of water? Yes please

On the face of it a good idea: four days in the beautiful Tuscany shooting the breeze about tech and entrepreneurship between European and US delegates.

However, try organising that from the U.S., not locking down the sponsors so they couldn’t pull out at the last minute and then telling the delegates the event is officially cancelled, but so late that some of them have already arrived in Italy.

That at least seems to the be outcome of the abortive Partners for Growth and Innovation conference, which, despite a slick web site filled with enticing images of Tuscany, put up a statement this week:

“We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation of our Tuscany conference, due to the unexpected defection of our main corporate sponsor, and some unfortunate miscommunication, on our side. We learned our lesson and do apologize. We are now directly fixing any remaining issues, and will work soon on preparing for a new gathering, this Fall, with a different format and a pristine long term organization. Thank you for your understanding and support. Stay in touch!”

That was the official story. But since canceling the event with less that 24hrs notice to delegates – many of who were on their way to the venue – the principle organiser, Tanya Noel, has continued to promote another event in the Fall, with many of the same speakers, including myself. I’d agreed to speak at the one this week, but realised recently that Noel had put me into the line-up in the Fall (this is not the case).

So what is going on? TechCrunch Europe has had access to a series of emails which throw light on the abrupt cancellation of this event.


Tanya Noel appears to be a Palo Alto based events organiser and social networker who started promoting the PGI conference on May 24, only a couple of months before the event it was due to happen this week in Tuscany.

She asked Italy/US-based entrepreneur Paolo Privitera to speak and promote the event to his network. As an Italian-born entrepreneur who works with three startups in San Francisco and his own, Digitix, Privitera says he marketed the conference to his large personal network in Italy.

However, it appears Privitera rapidly lost confidence after turning up to the hotel just before last weekend only to find an extremely angry hotel manager.

He wrote to Noel on Jun 26 saying The Palace Hotel in Viareggio had cancelled all the hotel room reservations for delegates, after losing faith in Noel’s ability to come through with a deposit for the venue. “It is clear the conference is totally and ashamingly [sic.] over” he wrote. There then followed a flurry of emails to and between speakers, initiated by Privitera.

The story of whether money was sent to the hotel to cover the conference room or not now takes a complex turn.

Privitera claims the the conference never really “existed” since only 12 tickets were sold, of which 8 sold via his personal network. He claims Noel owes the hotel $14,000 in lost bookings.

Noel admitted – on these emails to speakers – that her credit card bounced when trying to pay for the conference room. Her credit card “was lost, and no longer valid.” She says the hotel still agreed to hold the rooms, so long as the delegates paid for their room.

Events manager Serena Giovannoni has told us: “the Hotel manager did not cancel anything, because 24h in advance of a reservation they had no interest in doing this. They’d rather have people coming. The problem was that people were expected to pay for their own room upon arrival and the hotel would not accept the idea that they would invoice to Tanya Noel afterwards. The hotel had lost trust in her.” She says Noel implied she would have to collect money from ppl for the coffee breaks, lunches and dinners.

At the beginning of June the hotel says they had asked for a 30% deposit to be paid in case of cancellation but they say Noel never paid and said a sponsor would come forward.

Unfortunately it would appear many speakers and delegates did not know they were supposed to pay for their rooms.

As an alternative Noel says she sent $1,400 to Privitera via PayPal to pay for the conference room at the Palace Hotel. Noel claims she had an “an agreement in place with the hotel that that they would invoice PGI for whatever the room balance was.”

With this Paypal transfer Privitera was supposed to withdraw money, via his own bank account, and use cash (although there is a $500 daily limit on ATMs) to pay the hotel.

However, when he checked his Paypal account, he says, the money had not cleared and it was then that he received an email from Noel saying that she was not coming to the conference in order to “save on costs” and that he would have to chair it.

Let’s repeat that: the main organiser was not coming. Noel had decided not to show up to the event she’d organised, claiming that this would save on costs.

Noel says Privitera was to “co-chair” the conference, along with another delegate who now says she was never contacted. Privitera say this was news to him – he’d been asked to speak and promote the conference but co-chairing was never mentioned until the point when Noel said she was not coming.

According to Noel, the Palace Hotel manager did not cancel the hotel reservations, but the hotel’s event manager did.

Following the chatter of emails amongst speakers hurriedly cancelling their travel plans, Noel sent an email to delegates via PGI’s eventbrite page that “the Venue has now changed from Viareggio, Italy, to a beautiful conference center in Umbria.” Noel says she disabled all the ticket sales immediately on Sunday and that she “did not cancel this conference”.

However, the Umbria “plan B” did not materialize, especially since, at last count, only two people made it there.

On the emails that followed, Noel claimed that Privitera acted too soon, claiming the hotel had NOT cancelled. But he says that without the hotel’s backing or the main organiser the conference was unsalvageable.

The “conference”, with no venue and a handful of delegates who made it over, was “moved” to Umbria, Tuscany, although there was no venue organised apart from the vague suggestion of using a local monastery. The conference was, somewhat hastily, re-branded an unconference.

One couple who arrived at the alternative location in Umbria said on an email to speakers that they found no alternative venue organised. Although Noel later confirmed the monastery could be used for the unconference, to TechCrunch’s knowledge, nothing actually happened.

Despite the distance and picturesque but obscure location north of Pisa, it’s also clear that a number of Italian entrepreneurs threw their weight behind the event thinking it would attract US-related speakers to Italy and promote entrepreneurial ties.

However, PGI appears to have been poorly positioned for Italian entrepreneurs from the start.

A well known conference called Frontiers of Interaction, in a stunning historical theater in Rome, lasted 2 days and cost $300. PGI tickets were pitched at $699 for four days, not including hotel costs.

It’s worth adding that having 60 overseas delegates turn up is not small thing in a town like a Viareggio, where restaurants and cafes would have probably have heard on the grapevine that a bigger than usual delegation was due in town. Our sources say the financial impact on the hotel alone is closer to $20,000.

We understand Joey Fernadez, founder of Klout actually went to Italy, as did Clint Nelsen of StartupWeekend. Both have said they ended up just trying to make a vacation of it all.

Noel says delegates had agreed to cover their hotel and food (unusual for conferences where at least lunch is normally part of the deal). However, several delegates say they had no idea they were supposed to pay for their hotel rooms.

One or two ticket holders have talked about legal action.

Noel says “our sponsor did not come through.” So her idea was to stay in the US, while the conference was on in Italy to “continue trying to raise sponsorship.”

Looking at the PDF still on the site, it looks like conference sponsorship ranged from $3,000 (lunch sponsorship) to $35,000 for the whole conference. Any sponsors that were on the site have been removed, only media sponsors remain.

Normally conferences sign up sponsors to contrats which prevents them from pulling out at the last moment. Noel has told us, on email, that despite verbal reassurances the main sponsor pulled out. She admits that not getting them to sign a contract was “Dumb on my part!”

Noel has apologised to speakers on email for the “disruption, stress, and worry, that this has caused” and says she will reimburse delegates. She says she “should have allowed more than 3 months to plan it.”

Noel admits the conference was “a little too far out” and that it only had 18 registrations. “Clearly I screwed up in some ways, for which I am extremely sorry,” she says.

So this appeared to be a conference with no sponsors, no attendees, no conference room and in a location that, while great for a vacation, or informal gathering, is not the usual conference venue.

We understand Italian entrepreneurs are now emailing Noel to ask her not to come to Italy, lest this incident rub off on their own Italian events.

Noel admits she made mistakes and is sorry: “I failed, big time, but I gave it everything I had.”

Noel’s site now says this week’s event has been “rescheduled” to Umbria in September although questions will be raised about the ability of PGI to execute an event, going forward.

It would appear the whole episode appears to turn on couple of points. The hotel lost confidence in the organiser after a bounced credit card bill. Then the co-organiser lost confidence on Noel after finding out, just before the start of the event, that she was not coming. This lead to a series of email exchanges in which the entire speaker list was CC’d. The speakers lost confidence and cancelled their travel plans.

Did PGI suffer from a lack of planning and visibility?

Noel says she found it hard to get word out about the event amongst tech blogs and social media. “We also did not receive support from any of the major bloggers or tech news sites, in the U.S. or Europe, even though we did ask many times,” she told us on email. However, of course this is not the core point of blogs which write about tech. And for such a complex event in such a location it usually takes a year of promotion whereas this was announced only a few weeks ago.

Tanya Noel, asked to comment, said “We’re deeply sorry that our conference failed, and in the true spirit of Silicon Valley which is built on a long history of failures, we will fix what we did wrong, take care of business matters, allow more time for planning.”

Finally, we’ve also heard a young student from Scandinavia arrived Monday, but she was told the event was cancelled.

Noel continues to promote the postponed event this Fall in Umbria.

  • TomR

    Mike, no one cares that your vacation was canceled.

  • Andrew F

    Grammar check please.

  • Mr. Brightside

    At least you didn’t wake up smothered by floppy buttcheeks.

    Now that would be a bad weekend.

  • steve

    What person in their right mind would have anything to do with any future conference Tanya Noel tries to put together. She obviously doesn’t know what she is doing.

    • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

      Fortunately, the people I’ve worked on successful events with, over the past twenty years.

  • Michael Price

    What a Butcher :-)

  • http://www.BreakingNewsBlog.us BreakingNewsBlog.us

    unfortunately, this kind of conferences is nearly USELESS in Italy, since, the italian market for VC and BA funds is very very small
    I’ve followed this market in last year and I’ve also started a blog about this argument:
    some sources say that in 2009 only 179 new seed and early stage startups have been funded with a TOTAL investment of only $40 million
    so far, I’ve asked many to know the names and websites of these “179 new italian startups” but no one has given me any info about them, so, I suspect that many of them (simply) DON’T REALLY EXIST
    in Italy there are many (like me) that want to start a new company but there are no funds around… so, the italian “startuppers” need more funds… and NOT more “conferences”…

  • Hardtobe Anonymous

    Mike (Butcher): More unfortunate than the story itself is that (1) you took the time to write it up (2) in excruciating detail & (3) then actually posted it on Techcrunch. This is pure is gossip & event sausage making & gratuitously making a big issue out of something that looks to have affected a miniscule small number of people. If it happened with a well known conference or a new conference that had a thousand people, fine, but what are you going to do next, report on an iPhone Meetup that was cancelled at the last minute? When the other writers at Techcrunch write about an iPhone app that has sold millions or why some little startup could disrupt Google, that’s what TechCrunch is all about, and with a little attitude. We like the occasional off topic piece (thank you Paul Carr), but those usually have some relevancy (not always). Mike (B), do you really have nothing other than this that you can find to write such a detailed story about to try to get attention? Try looking at Techmeme or Mashable or going to a Starbucks or to a Meetup & talking to some entrepreneurs for ideas. It was clear you were trying too hard here for some reason, but its unclear why. It wasn’t even remotely close to the scale of hundreds of companies that have raised millions of $ and ended up in the deadpool or other companies or executives that made mistakes over thousands or millions of people (facebook) that would make great, salacious stories. It looks like there were like 60-70 people slated to attend including attendees & speakers that this even could have affected, and I wouldn’t be surprised the handful of them that did end up going had planned to tack it onto a vacation anyway. She admitted making some big mistakes & if this was really a big deal, then fine write it up. That you wrote this up & in such detail makes you look very small and far outweighs any mistakes you’re trying to call her on. Is this the best that you have for TechCrunch Europe? Better send Sarah over. She’ll find & give us a much better story. For now, I’ll head over to Mashable & ReadWriteWeb for the rest of the day, and be sure to remember you were the one that wrote that jerky article the next time your byline shows up. Oh, and if Tanya does have the conference in the fall & its a hit, I hope you’ll have attended and write it up in a positive slant with the same zeal – you know, get the same attention you were seeking with this one, but by building someone into a hero instead of the villain. Both models will work for you, try it out if she succeeds. To be clear, I don’t know her or have any affiliation. I just can’t believe you wrote this.

    • Jake

      @Hardtobe “To be clear, I don’t know her or have any affiliation.”

      I HIGHTLY double you don’t know her. Techcrunch puts out highly criticial pieces on a daily basis and you don’t normally get people who come to the defense as vigorous you did did here.

      • Feyd

        This doesn’t necessarily mean he (Hardtobe) is not right.

      • Boo

        Unbelievably small minded article that only serves to demonstrate the pettiness and arrogance of mike butcher more than anything else. Not interested in your spoilt vacation plans, please write about something that actually has relevance to the tech community in Europe rather than your personal travel schedule. What next, an expose of a bad call centre conversation you had with your bank?

    • Hardtobe Anonymous

      Again, in case it’s not really obvious. I am actually Tanya Noel and the first reply was an attempt to look like I have more allies in this than I do.

      When I speak in “we” and “us” terms I’m actually speaking in one voice but making the situation look like it has more organizers than there are is helpful in convincing everyone and myself that I am the victim here.

      I understand that people involved did so based on trust in me, i mean in Tanya. But in the end it doesn’t matter because I’ll show all of you this Fall at my second attempt at a tech conference in Italy that is organized from Palo Alto. TechCrunch will regret not kissing my ass and the readers in your comment will all wish they had come.

      • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

        Yes it probably does come across as petty. But because this affected a lot of people I know in the European tech scene (more than you realise) I felt it worthwhile documenting what went wrong and why. I’m really not bothered for myself, but for the people who actually made it to Italy, this was a major screw up on the organiser’s part. It’s very nice in Silicon Valley to just drive to somewhere to hang out in your scene. But in Europe we have to make great efforts to do this – get on planes and take time out and incur quite a lot of expense. That’s why this was a big deal over here. and in case you hadn’t realised, Italy is in TechCrunch Europe’s “beat”.

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    A) We started promoting the event in March, 2010, while visiting the White House in Washington DC with a group from Silicon Valley, to discuss how to create more jobs and improve the global economy. We started exchanging Facebook messages with Mike Butcher in April, inviting him to speak at the conference, June 27-30, 2010.
    B) We started asking many of the major bloggers and tech news sites, in Europe and Silicon Valley, including TechCrunch Europe, for support to help get the word out to the tech community, in March, 2010. We received no support, except from one entrepreneur in Finland, who tried his best, to help us get the word out via blogposts and a podcast. Otherwise, we used grassroots methods via social media. Also, our main media partner in the US, never followed through.
    C) Our Italian advisor, agreed to help us get the word out to the Italian tech community 6 weeks before the event, but waited until one week before the event.
    D) We sold 18 tickets, and had about 10 – 15 guests attending, plus there
    was a US company that had referred their clients in Italy & Switzerland to sign up at the door, on the first day of the event. With the 30 speakers, we expected to have a total group size of 60 –
    70 people.
    E) The money that was sent to our Italian advisor, via PayPal, was an instant transfer
    from our PayPal to his PayPal, and was to be paid personally to the hotel manager for the conference room, and the advisor’s hotel rooms.
    His reply to me at that point was “I will bring the money for the conference room tomorrow. I will withdraw your money from paypal.”)
    F) We contacted the event planner many weeks before they tried to use the credit card, and notified them it was cancelled, and that we would pay the hotel by money wire instead, before the start of the conference. Originally we had been told that the hotel would also be glad to invoice us.
    G) When our only corporate sponsor defected, we asked many (not all) of the speakers
    if they would be able to cover their own hotel rooms, and only one replied that they would not be able to. We were covering for the rest of the speakers.
    H) Only one 23 year old Italian entrepreneur suggested that we not
    have an event in Italy. Otherwise, we have received much support by email, asking us not to give up, and to try again in the future.
    I) The list of some of our original speakers on our media page, were listed as ‘may speak in the future’.
    J) I had not fully decided yet, about not coming to the conference, and was waiting to speak with our advisor by phone, before making that decision,
    in order to cut costs for the event. He sent out an email stating that the hotel had cancelled the event, which was not true, before discussing with me.
    K) The couple who arrived to Umbria, live in Umbria, and they are the ones who introduced us to the new place, that donated conference space for us to use. That is where we will be having the conference, in the Fall.
    L) When we spoke with the attendees directly, and it became clear that Umbria was too far from the original venue, to move the event there, we cancelled it, and started reimbursing attendee’s. We also offered them free admission to our next event in Italy, in the Fall. We have had good responses from the attendee’s that we have been working with. We also had been in touch by phone with the entrepreneur from Sweden, before the event was cancelled, and by email, afterwards.
    M) We have also been in contact with our speakers, about any costs they may have incurred. All the speakers there now, attached a vacation to the trip, and no one is there only for the conference. No one is stranded in Italy.
    N) We spoke with the hotel manager by phone on Sunday, and they assured us that they had not cancelled the hotel meeting or sleeping rooms, and that they were still waiting for us, to arrive. The manager said they would have worked with us, in every way possible, and had been looking forward to our arrival. Some rooms were to have been paid by us, some by companies of the speakers from Paris, and some by the speakers, directly. The money for the conference room had already been wired by PayPal to the advisor, and he was to have delivered it on Saturday 6/26/2010. The conference meetings had been scheduled to start on 6/28/2010, at the hotel.
    O) We’re deeply sorry for the cancellation of our event, that everyone involved, worked on, to try to make a success. We are taking care of all business matters in the proper way, so that everyone is taken care of, and will work to create another event, in the future. Thank you for the support. It’s greatly appreciated.

    • callywog

      No one should attend your future event. This was remarkably unprofessional. Your list here is simply a litany of excuses which proves you don’t know how to organize a conference. I’m sure someone else is to blame, right? Just a combination of circumstance outside your control. Sh*t happens, right? Well, no; giving people such short notice that the conference is cancelled is unacceptable and doesn’t owe to random circumstances but you’re not being on top of things – and that is obvious from everything to not locking down sponsors to flubbing the deposit.

      Get out of the conference game!

      *If anyone goes to their Fall conference, it’ll only serve as more proof these things are only junkets, removing any semblance of seriousness.

    • Benetti

      Where’s the P) ?
      Also, what an idea to choose Viareggio as a location for a Web/tech conference… The place is a giant mega yacht shipyard where the nearest airport is Pisa (which is notoriously problematic to get to). You’re not lucky, but you really bought it onto yourself… Complete and utter mega pile of fail!

  • Tom

    I like your rants, really:) First one when Google didn’t invite you (YOU!) and now this when someone spoilt your summer holidays plans.
    GeeknRolla was great though!

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Thanks Tom. I also like writing rants. Although I may now cool it for a bit…

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    Thanks, HardToBe, and the others, for your support and comments, whoever and wherever you all may be! Appreciate it!

  • ganesh

    Why so much negativity in the comments for this post.

    As I understand, Mike was a speaker at the conf (on behalf of TC) so he is understandably pissed. He is just warning the rest of others to stay clear of organizers like Tanya.

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    The bottom line is that someone sent out an email at about 4am PST 6/26/2010, saying that the conference was cancelled, when in fact, it was not. I did not cancel the conference, nor did the hotel.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Actually the bottom line is that the hotel cancelled when they had no down payment on the conference venue/room and the organiser (Tanya Noel) didn’t turn up.

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    Our team of four tried to salvage the damaged conference, after the false alarm, but as it was too late, and too much damage had taken place by that time, we then formally and officially, cancelled it.

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    Mike, the Palace Hotel absolutely did not cancel the conference. I spoke with Edward, a manager there, and he verified that they had NOT CANCELLED the hotel. We already had plans in place on how the rooms were going to be covered: As I wrote above, Some of the rooms were being paid for by corporate check from a company in Paris, who signed up to be a sponsor on Friday 6/25/2010, some rooms were going to be paid for by us, and some rooms were going to be paid for by those speakers who had agreed to pay for them. We very clearly had until 6/27/2010, to take care of this. I had an airline reservation for Saturday from SFO, and had not yet decided not to attend. I was waiting to speak with our Italian advisor, early Saturday morning, before making that decision.

  • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

    The main message is that I regret very much that this conference did not work out, and impacted so many people. Of course I made mistakes, and I’m very sorry for that, and will try my best, not to repeat them, ever again.

    • callywog

      Well we all make mistakes. A few people got a trip to Italy they might not otherwise have taken. I suppose worse things have happened.

      • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

        Thank you, Callywog.

  • Hardtobe Anonymous

    So there are 2 people that have left comments as “Hardtobe Anonymous”, 1 is me, the first one that wasn’t so much coming to Tanya’s defense as much as saying Mike B’s article itself was overboard. I did not realize anyone can then leave a TC comment in the same person’s name, which the 2nd “Hardtobe Anonymous” commenter (impersonator) did. Ha on me – it really is hard to be anonymous, moreso than I realized. Look, everyone should cool it: 1) @Jake, I am not Tanya, and no, I do not know her. I never hard of her or this conference, I’m just a TC fanboy, who is also an entrepreneur. I literally just though the article was over the top detailed & harsh given how many people it really impacted. You’re right, people don’t usually come to defense with that much vigor, but again, I wasn’t really coming to her defense as much as calling Mike B for writing the article. 2) I understand Mike B & a few other minor speakers are pissed about the conference, but he really shouldn’t use his power at Techcrunch for this. When the JooJoo *really* screwed over Mike A, I was all for TC taking that guy to task – this just didn’t rise to that level. Does Techcrunch actually want to instill a level of fear that anything, no matter how minor can result in a writer’s tirade/attack on someone when that other person doesn’t have a built in established platform to equally defend themselves even if its like a tiny infraction? Where do you draw the line? I’m saying draw it a little higher than this. Yes, the point of Techcrunch is to have attitude, etc., but this just came off as overly vindictive. Mike Arrington, MG, Eric & the rest generally maintain a level of professionalism – they take people to task when what they’ve done really affects a lot of people, fine – eg. all the scamville articles, etc. about Farmville, Offerpal & a lot of the personal stuff there & in other places over time. Just search within Techcrunch on “CEO” and “lie” and there are plenty of articles that are all fair game. But this was one very little conference (60 people) and she’s clearly said she made major mistakes. @callywog, re: telling Tanya to get out of the conference business, I wouldn’t want to be your kid – what are you going to do, tell your kid that if they fall of the horse, never ride a horse again? Look, I don’t know all the details, but yeah, my guess, is she made some big mistakes, which she owned up to like not getting the sponsor to sign a contract. And then she posted other stuff to set the record straight on things that she felt wasn’t her fault. Yeah, at the end of the day, the buck stops with her, but the article was so strong that she probably felt she had to defend a little in addition to her apology. So my guess is she’ll never make a mistake like the contract thing again. Screw me once shame on you, screw me twice shame on me. If I were her, I would create a blog for the next conference that goes into very open detail during the planning process to show how the sponsor this time is signed, and all the other details along the way, etc. I would challenge Mike B to follow the planning process & critique it along the way. And I would try to nail it like it was my last college final that I had to pass or I wouldn’t graduate. I wouldn’t just crawl into a hole. My whole point of my post was that this really didn’t impact very many people and it just doesn’t rise to the significance of Mike B writing this. Lastly, please remember, if there is another “alterego” Hardtobe Anonymous post, hopefully you’ll recognize it. That was also pretty shitty of one of you to do, but I look at that as a problem needing a business solution (verifying commenters). Anyway, I’m going to bed. I suggest we all let this go, get some sleep and have a good July 4th (that is, for those of us in the US, you Brits can only mourn it :-). My guess is that there’s a 50-50 chance the H2B alterego is going to post again to throw you off.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Actually if you read the article it’s extremely factual – at least as much of the facts as we could get. And it puts both sides, including Noel’s defence of her actions. It’s not as opinionated as you imply. But if these conferences are to continue in Europe or the US, people need to know how this one turned out (hint: it didn’t happen).

  • Steve

    Tanya, in my opinion you do not show any strength as a conference organizer. And clearly you lacked any money to cover unforeseen expenses. Make yorself a favour and look for some decent work.

    • http://www.thestartup.eu Stefano Bernardi


  • http://www.SEOforSite.com John Danenbarger

    Speaking of petty comments, here is mine: Umbria is not in Tuscany. Tuscany is a region; Umbria is a region. I was very interested to know WHERE in Umbria this new conference was thought to be held.

    I could warn anyone that Italy is basically business start-up unfriendly. It not only takes a fortune to pay for the startup fees (over €2,000), there is no understanding from the tax authorities that it usually takes years to show a profit. The result is that, if you do not claim a profit in the third year, your company will be taxed as if you had made a profit equal to your competitors/peers.

    It is a long story as to why it is this way in Italy, but basically the ruling class has no concern for those they rule. Starting a business from scratch means that you are among the subjects. Woe be it to anyone who tries to initiate communication twixt the two.

    The EU may have to tolerate Italy’s lack of understanding that new business creates growth. But if you are going to establish a business in the EU, you would soon discover that starting in Italy is a no-no.

    I know that this was completely off subject, but I suspect that this Italian nightmarish view of entrepreneurship lurks in the background for the flop.

    • http://www.pgi.vc Tanya

      @John, What you write about the startup infrastructure or lack of it, in Italy, is most true. I became more aware of this in 2007, when I decided to take my son to Italy to live there for a few months, enrolling him in the middle school, and to see what the *real life* in Tuscany, was all about, vs the beautiful image that most Americans in the U.S. have from watching movies. No doubt, Tuscany and Italy are beautiful, and the people are hospitable. In terms of trying to make a living there, what I saw was great difficulty, and only those with a great deal of money, or connections, were opening businesses. I knew the economy was challenging, but when I saw middle aged and senior aged Tuscan’s going to the bank at the end of each month, to take out micro-loans, to cover their basic utility bills, or to buy food, it was then that my eyes opened, as to truly how difficult it is for people in Italy to make ends meet each month. Tuscany is not in the south of Italy, where it is even more challenging to start a business and survive (Ciao Professore is a good movie to watch, to see how life is for the children in some areas of southern Italy, where the economy is poor).

      It was from this sentiment, of how complex and challenging the economy is in Europe, and from a visit to the White House in Washington DC, this year in March, with a group from Silicon Valley interested in promoting a bill to make it easier for people from other countries to come to the U.S. to start a tech business, that inspired this first conference to take place in Europe, and in Italy, in particular.

      When I speak with Italiani in Italy or in Silicon Valley, the sentiment they have about this lack of infrastructure to support Italian entrepreneurship development, is very strong. By nature, many Italians are entrepreneur’s, and they love innovation, and they want to be part of the worldwide efforts to create and build new and innovative technologies. The week before our conference, there was a Pan-European conference on Innovation in Trento; two weeks before our conference there was the innovation conference that Mike B. mentioned took place in Rome, by the Italians of the Frontier, and on the exact days of our conference, there was the ‘Internet Life’ event in Firenze (Florence). (Naturally, when we chose the date of our conference, we did not know about these other conferences.)
      In the process of organizing our conference, my team and I spoke with many talented, passionate, innovative European’s, including Italian’s, and it was clear, that even though some of the government’s are not doing all that they can, to encourage the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship, the people in Europe are doing amazing things, and trying their best, against many odds. More power to them!

  • a VC

    Personally, it would be great to see TC Europe focusing more on early stage startups in incubators, basements and working out of coffee shops then a write up about an event that wasn’t that important on tech radars (compared to a Le Web or Plugg)?

    I’m sure Mike and co have strong enough relationships with folk like Simon Jenner in the Midlands, Thomas Drapier in Scotland or other folk across the continent to get regular updates in order to offer the rest of us more than enough insight into interesting teams, concepts and ideas?

    I’d love to see ‘mini’ updates of some new companies that Mike, Steve and co meet on their travels, even if it’s a logo and a paragraph about the company. Speaking as someone from the ‘dark side’, that would be where TC Europe could really help boost the ecosystem as a whole.

    Keep up the good work

    • http://maxniederhofer.com Max Niederhofer

      I agree with that general sentiment. More frequent, shorter updates about European start-ups would be great.

      • http://www.mobnotes.com Gino

        And, as Italian empreneur living in Italy and running my business from here, I’ve to tell you this conference wasn’t attractive to me at all. 699$ for what? There are associations like BAIA and Mind the Bridge that really help meet Italy and Silicon Valley, at no cost.


  • http://paulpapadimitriou.com/tanya-noel-and-the-conference-that-never-was/ Paul Papadimitriou » Tanya Noel and the Conference That Never Was

    […] This was not a conference. It never was. Full point. Thanks Mike for the much needed factual write-up. ➡ Tanya Noel and the Conference in Italy that never happened […]

  • (immature) Italian entrepreneur wannabes

    “KIDS IN TECH NEED TO GROW UP” it is not mine…but I fully agree.

    The financial democratization (in terms of start-up costs) and technological accessibility (=most of the softwares needed for your e-platform are ready-made, costless and available online) of the Internet media allow first-comers to call themselves “Entrepreneurs” within a 24 hours time-period…and “serial or visionary entrepreneurs” or “web experts” after 48hrs…(owning a couple of domains or having a Twitter account doesn’t necessarily turn you into an e-xpert!). To tell the truth it is not all your fault, internet accessibility is so smooth, shiny and within reach that quite often can give you the feeling that you became “something or someone” after a few clicks, yes, it is a venial sin…AKA “The last spoon of Nutella syndrome”: you taste it (your first blog)…you try it again (your Twitter account)…one more(your first domain)…and by the time you have finished the all jar you find yourself speaking to a Nutella conference as Nutella expert surrounded by Nutella addicted….

    PS Tanya, I do not know you personally, but I can certainly say that the failure of this conference is not attributable to you: unfortunately you have surrounded yourself of (immature) Italian entrepreneur wannabes. Hope they will get this message…

    • http://naturalinteraction.org Alessandro Valli

      “I can certainly say that the failure of this conference is not attributable to you: unfortunately you have surrounded yourself of (immature) Italian entrepreneur wannabes.”



      I agree on what you wrote above, though.

  • Mitch Smith

    Very amateur attempt at organising an event all around, 20+ big mistakes made: lousy venue selection, naivety with sponsors, lack of financing to pull this off, poor programme development, wrong event partners, miscommunication all around, lack of leadership, etc. … and no Tanya, your ’20 years of experience’ certainly isn’t coming through.

    ‘nough said…

  • how to contact mike

    Mike, whats the best way to contact you personally? you’d love it.

  • twitter.com/gimmi81

    as an Italian , i noticed this conference too late on to think about joining.

    I’d also say that the location is a bit strange for an event about business/startups, since most of the new companies/incubators are in the Milan/lombardy area or anyway in different locations.

    I appreciated in any case the idea of an event like this one, we will never get enough of them to create a more open landscape to everyone who wants to launch a new technology company.

  • Paride

    Failures can teach something but this chronicle teaches me nothing. It is just a bunch of critics on someone that tried, that made some huge mistakes, and is now trying to fix it up and try again. Why are you making a critique to an entrepreneur that is doing what entrepreneurs usually do?

    Tanya Noel has probably major responsibilities in this story but she does not seem to run away like some companies at Wall Street did.

    Since my opinion may not be that relevant, I wrote some quote of some people that are a little more well known than me:

    I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work .- Thomas Edison

    A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. – John C. Maxwell

    The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect .- Adam Osborne

    If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough. – Mario Andretti

    Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

    In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. – Bill Cosby

    Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice. – Peter Drucker

    Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything. – W. Clement Stone

    I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success. – Jack Welch

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