Pandemic, excellent engineers and dolce vita. Three elements apparently disconnected, but which together serve to frame a small revolution taking place in the world of Italian innovation. American entrepreneurs, investors and funds are starting to look at our country as a land of opportunity. Small changes, for now. Mostly silent.
But those who observe them closely are certain: the geography of innovation is drawing new boundaries. “It is the pandemic that has opened the dance. The lockdowns initiated the first exodus from San Francisco. And some champions of the digital economy have arrived in Italy, but few are still aware of it ”. Marco Trombetti is co-founder of Translated, one of the most successful online translation companies in the world. He and PiCampus, a fund to lead startups on the path to success. He will bring some of these stories to the Italian Tech Week. Personality of absolute importance from Silicon Valley who in recent years have landed in Italy. Among them, also the first investor of Elon Musk.
Good engineers and cost of living
Why Italy? “We have the best engineers in the world and their cost to a Silicon Valley company is not that high. An engineer who has a company cost of 70 thousand euros for us, reaches 240 thousand euros there ”. San Francisco is one of the cities with the highest cost of living in the world. To live well, a family needs to earn at least $ 400,000 a year. Half of this money is just for rent.
The pandemic, explains Trombetti, has broken an already lopsided equilibrium: “When you realize that you can work for Twitter from Austin, at that point Austin or Rome, what difference does it make?”. It is no coincidence that Twitter, to stay by example, has decided to close a large part of its offices and focus on teleworking.
Same thing Salesforce, Airbnb, Spotify, Reddit did, to stay with the best known. But without permanent ties, even companies can hire where there is talent and costs are lower. As in Italy. “It is a bit as if geography today is playing the role of a social safety net”, reasons Trombetti.
Elon Musk’s first investor in the center of Rome
In the list of funds that financed the operation to buy Elon Musk’s Twitter, there is a mysterious abbreviation: VY. It is that of the investment fund of Alexander Tamas, which gave 700 million for Tesla’s number one operation. Musk and Tamas know each other well. Tamas, who will be present at the Turin panel, has already invested in SpaceX, Neuralink, Starlink, The Boring Company. All Musk companies. An eccentric character, some have chosen to live in Italy.
In Rome, to be precise. He where he bought two houses. He is among the largest American investors in tech (he has invested in Facebook and Airbnb), while he made his first money with the nascent Russian internet economy (he invested in VKontakte, the Russian Facebook). Today, his VY manages assets for 5 billion. “Tamas manages his business around the world from here. He fell in love with Italy and brought several projects here, he will tell about them ”, anticipates Trombetti.
The father of European Venture Capital invests in Italy
He was founder of Balderton Capital, one of Spotify’s first investors. Atanor manages 400 million. He has one foot in Germany, one in Italy. Coelho was among the first investors of successful Italian companies such as Yoox, Octo Telematics and Mister Price. “He has created top-level companies while many here complained. A visionary ”, comments Trombetti.
The Italian from San Francisco who does not speak Italian
Leo Rocco is of Italian origin. He is the son of Italian parents who emigrated to the US in 1965. But he doesn’t speak Italian. He lives in San Francisco. Here he launches his first startup, Gopago. Then he sells it to Amazon. Today he is the head of a new company. Confidence, which tries to rethink the life processes of a company by ensuring control of the various production steps. Ideal for remote work.
A piece of Confidence has decided to do it in Palermo: excellent skills and competitive salaries. It raises investments of $ 15 million and hires the first 50 people. “His decision to come here triggered a chain mechanism. Its investors also realize that Italy is a place of opportunity for them ”, adds Trombetti. Small pieces of a huge chessboard. But who sees in Italy a few more pieces to move.