In our European Scaleup Monitor 2021, we have studied the scaleup landscape in Europe. It offers a platform that centralizes European knowledge around opportunities, challenges, best-practices and other salient elements of the process of scaling-up and the emergence of scaleups in various countries as well as regional ecosystems. In this expert insight article we cover the scaleup landscape in Italy. What opportunities does the Italian scaleup ecosystem offer? Are there still growth opportunities for the Italian scaleup ecosystem? What challenges do scaleups in Italy face? In this article Nico Valenti Gatto , Operating Director at Bocconi University in Milan, and Emil Abirascid, Founder and Editor in Chief at startupbusiness.it, give an elaborate breakdown of the current state of the scaleup landscape in Italy.
The Italian ecosystem is quite unique in the European landscape. First of all, it is sad to remark that the total yearly investment in startups and scaleups is still rather small when compared to other similar European economies, such as France and Germany. The figures do look encouraging, though, as the amount of total investments in young and fast-growing companies doubled between 2020 and 2021. However, the Italian ecosystem has far from expressed its full potential. This is reflected by the low level of maturity of some secondary yet not less important elements of the scaleup ecosystem, including institutional support and internationalisation.
For example, when talking about scaleups in Italy, it’s interesting to note that some of them are actually based in Italy, and these are what one would officially refer to when talking about Italian scaleups. Others are founded by Italian entrepreneurs based outside of Italy, such as Soldo in the UK or Kong in the USA. The fact that Italy still needs to refer to these internationally-based scaleups to boost its figures is a sign of a market that is still relatively young, but it is also a sign of talent and high quality entrepreneurs that stem from Italy and Italian universities.
These factors are nevertheless not stopping smart Italian entrepreneurs from starting up their ventures and, eventually, successfully scaling them up. During the last 10 years, a quite consistent number of made in Italy startups managed to grow up to become top European scaleups that are capable of attracting top foreign investments and expanding worldwide. The large rounds that we’ve seen over the past year have been an incredibly positive signal that investors and founders have started to see eye to eye and that Italian tech companies are being given the chance to expand internationally, attract and retain talent and most importantly, inspire seed startups to focus and reach similar if not bigger goals.
In this year’s edition of the European ScaleUp Monitor, Milan is confirmed as the main scaleup city in Italy, while other very important cities such as Rome and Turin are showing positive signs of growth. It is important to notice, though, that the total amount of investments in a city’s scaleups is just an indication of the general performance. Investments are in fact cyclical and fluctuate from year to year in terms of their destination. Some years more money goes towards scaleups, some other years more money is invested in seed-stage startups. This depends on several factors, for instance on which sectors the most active funds in a given year are, what the (new) fiscal policies are, and how active the so-called informal investors such as business angels and corporate investments are.
In conclusion, what is most important to focus on is strengthening a real European startup and scaleup ecosystem, where investments, partnerships, hiring are more fluid, easier and more effective. That’s why the European Scaleup Monitor is an important tool: to better understand the European scaleup scenario as a whole, rather than compare single ecosystems, an approach that appears quite outdated in 2021.