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The Italy of startups always last in Europe

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At the halfway point at the end of June, the Italy of startups was exalted for the most prolific semester ever, which projects the country towards one billion investments at the end of the year. However, the enthusiasm soon subsided once we moved on to the analysis of the data and the comparison with the rest of Europe, where in 6 months they were collected 49 billion euros, 8 more than the previous year’s total, the value of unicorns (startups valued at one billion dollars) has doubled and around thirty new ones have been born.

Today Europe is the fastest growing ecosystem in the world, investments in startups have tripled compared to the first half of 2020, while the global average is 2.3x (Dealroom data): “To shorten whoever is in front you have to go at a speed higher than his – is the comment of Gianluca Dettori, president of Vc Hub, an association that groups investors and startups – Unfortunately Italy is going slower and slower”.

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Our country is growing below average, at 2.2x, one growth rate that seems better than that of France (1.8x), however a mature ecosystem, and only until we compare the unicorns born across the Alps in the first six months of the year (7) with our own (none) – We still lose ground to the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Austria, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland and Norway, which grow between 2.7x and 12.4x. With several of these nations that have celebrated their first unicorn in recent months. If we then look at the absolute values, Italy is the country with the lowest overall investment share in Europe, like Russia.

All this despite the pandemic, which instead of stopping investments in startups has made them global. Fintech, SaaS, Food and above all e-commerce have taken the sprint. In the post-Covid world it is no longer necessary to move to Silicon Valley. You can close investments with top venture capital from the sofa at home, as the Prato startup, Commerce Layer, did and without even looking for them. Why if you do well, foreign investors and companies notice you: another example is that of Satispay, which he collected from Square and Tencent at the end of 2020. American funds that look to Europe and Italy are more and more. Sequoia and Accel have started scouting programs in Europe, with the second being created a $ 650 million fund for early-stage startups from the Old Continent (among his talent scouts Luca Ascani, founder of Populis, now based in Rome). Meanwhile, Y Combinator, the world‘s largest accelerator (30 unicorns in 15 years), which previously ran its own accelerator program in San Francisco with around 150/200 startups, switched to online mode, doubling the number of startups. admitted and increasing the number of non-American startups, today about half. The Europeans have been 63 in the two programs of 2021, ma of Italians there is only Blink.

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Another tool to compare with is the number of unicorns: 29 (source: CBInsight, to which Pleo and Manomano must be added) between Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands (there would also be the Czech Republic, which however celebrated its unicorn on July 1st). The our unicorn, Depop, is technically English: despite having closed the seed round with Italian investors, Simon Beckerman soon moved to the UK and the company is in fact English.

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making to the analysis of the first rounds of 2021 in Italy, what stands out is the incidence of megarounds and the role of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP). That a few off-average rounds are responsible for most of the collection is not surprising: it is the 80/20 Pareto principle, an empirical law on the cause-and-effect relationship which not even Europe escapes. The difference is that our megarounds range from € 10 to € 100 million, while in Europe they range from € 250 million to € 2.8 billion. As for CDP, the “state venture capital” entered about a third of the rounds signed in the first half: “Without the investments of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti it would have been a bankruptcy semester”, according to Gianmarco Carnovale, president of Roma Startup, association local category. In support of this claim the analysis of Alex Larose, VC associated with Eldorado.co, a French innovation financing platform, which points the finger at the drop in investments in the second half, almost halved, underlining how Cdp’s operations have gone from 23 to 4. It should be noted, however, that the heavier megarounds are almost all in the first quarter: Cortilia (34 million euros), Casavo (50), Everli (100) and Scalapay (40) they raised almost half of the total for the first six months (464 million euros, plus crowdfunding and rounds with an undeclared amount).

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There are not only shadows in the trend of investments in startups in Italy. Andrea Di Camillo, founder of P101, writes for European Business Magazine that “Italian investors are extremely selective and this forces startups to be excellent at accessing venture capital funds”. Which are still too few, almost all operators in the sector argue. The good thing is also the increasing involvement in the sector of Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) funds, which as Larose points out have participated in just under half of the rounds: “It is really encouraging that the Corporates participate more in the ecosystem. If this trend persists, one of the most important pillars of the ecosystem could quickly emerge. ” Finally, there is the significant increase of rounds in scaleup, even if they mostly coincide with megarounds, an indication of an ecosystem that is maturing.

To give us hope for the future there are the 46.3 billion euros of Next Generation Eu funds, which Di Camillo defines as “a crucial opportunity: even if there are no unicorns, rest assured: Italian startups are rare gems to look closely at, in a context in which Italy will become an increasingly strategic market in which to invest” . Dettori appears a bit skeptical: “The leaders in Europe begin to to measure oneself on the ability to generate unicorns. Here we have all the resources necessary to compete, but we have to believe in it. The problem is that we talk to each other and we can’t talk to society “.

Very critical is Angelo Coletta, president of InnovUp, former Italia Startup, an association that groups startups and innovative SMEs: “We are growing, it is true, but we are always behind. The two fundamental problems of the ecosystem remain: on the one hand, too many funds of inadequate size to do A rounds and that despite this they persist in doing them, thus ruining the cap table of startups in which they invest and forcing the founders to end up under the majority with the next round, so that then no one invests us anymore; on the other hand, there is a lack of professional figures with global culture and international experience, in startups as in Vc “. On the same line Carnovale:” Unfortunately there are many investments that have nothing to do with venture capital, but they are in fact private equity or M&A rounds which effectively take control of the company away from the founders “.

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