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“Dream big and look for crazy people to follow you”: startups according to Donadon

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“Dream big and look for crazy people to follow you”: startups according to Donadon

“There is excitement in Italy. I see a new generation, competent, with a global vision and a desire to invent new things. But for the country to make the leap, free zones are needed for startups and the ability to dream big“.

Riccardo Donadon wants to change the system. The son of an entrepreneur, his story was already written in the family’s livestock farm. But digital conquers him. In the 2005 crea H-Farmthe first startup incubator in the world (Paul Graham’s Y Combinator will be born a month later) and incubates 124 of them. In 2021 it climbs with the unicorn Depop.


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by Silvio Gulizia

Meanwhile, it rewrites its business model and creates the largest hub for innovation and training in Europe. We are in Roncade, in the province of Treviso, in the Ca ‘Tron estate, on the Venice lagoon. Donadon won against everyone. Against the bureaucracy (“A nightmare, 5 years lost”), the mistrust of the system (“they consider us those crazy people who have opened a campus in the middle of the fields”) and against those who say: “but education is a business“? “Yes, there are funds that are giving enormous evaluations. But above all it creates a crazy impact, it trains the new generations”.

From kindergarten to masters. Two thousand students. One language: English. At the center of the Campus they have just placed a telescope connected with a 40mq screen. Young people arrive from all over the world. “They do robotics, metaverse, programming. They breathe that atmosphere that I breathed in the United States. And that tells you: anything is possible. You are free. You can do great things ..”

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It doesn’t matter where you make them …

“It is not essential that the process of a startup explodes in Italy, the important thing is that it comes back here to consolidate itself. The next Elon Musk must be an Italian. Then he does it in Austin or London, what does it matter? memories of his country and that he knows how to bring something back home “.

Do we have the conditions for this to happen?

“Yes. The new generation is prepared, speaks English, thinks global, has the ambition of wanting to create a model. In the first year of university, they already win the Red bull Contest. They know how to pitch, they know how to behave ..”

How do you see the world of startups in these six months of 2022?

“There is much more desire to invent new things. A third of our students have the dream of becoming an entrepreneur. The new themes are very attractive: Web 3, Metaverse, NFT. Technical themes, but already understood. There is perhaps less attention on the educational world: edu-tech is not yet seen as an outlet for making a revolution “.

The startup law turns 10. What is its balance sheet?

“Fundamental decree to give dignity to a sector below deck. 10 positive years of development, but we must do more. It is not enough to push startups to do and put capital into it, there is a lack of awareness of how important the digital economy is in the country “.

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What to do?

“We all have to work to be more aware that it is not the other economy. It is the economy itself. When I look at the American news, I notice that there is no continuity between a news on Ford and one on Google. And then we all work . Venture capitalists should collaborate more with foreign VCs. Newspapers should do less specials and more daily news … “

What did the experience of Simon Beckerman, who created the unicorn Depop from H-Farm, give you?

“A huge sense of satisfaction. We’ve come full circle. Risked and learned. The process took a lot longer than we imagined. Five years ago we were afraid of losing everything, but we took home one and a half times the investment. C ‘is a but … “

TechTalk with Simon Beckerman, Riccardo Donadon and Paolo Barberis on Depop, the startup that has become a unicorn


“The impact on the system has been low and this awareness convinced me even more. We need to invest in training and create” system activators “. Within a few years, at least 600 university students will come out of H-Farm and propagate the message of innovation in the world

What would you say to those who want to start up today?

“‘Dream big, think in a global logic and believe in it’. In Italy the ability to dream big is still lacking. The country immediately asks you for pragmatism”

What wouldn’t he say?

“‘Build Tesla here’. It makes more sense that you go there. You find more madmen who follow you and don’t look at you with distrust. But then come back …”

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His next goal?

“We have created a place to show that it can be done in our country. And now I dream of a campus in the metaverse. It will open in 2023 and it will have a huge impact”

What inspired you?

“The USA and then three years in boarding school. I learned to live in a group, to collaborate and to understand that there are things you didn’t think you liked and then you are passionate about”

A strategy to make a difference?

“Italy must create specific” economic zones “for startups. Free zones. Without bureaucracy, without taxation (for a few years). Digital business zones which then become propulsive poles”.

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