Venice: City Of Great History And Bright Future

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Venice is one of the most dynamic Italian regions and brings you close to history and also to economic development – learn how to launch your startup here.

Venice is the capital of Veneto, one of the most dynamic Italian regions. The presence of the University of Venice, Vega Park and big corporate HQ/branches (ENI, Edison, Fincantieri) makes it a perfect environment to develop a successful startup. The recent decline of traditional industries have forced the local government to intensify programs towards startups in order to improve the labor rate. You can find a vital environment especially towards: tourism, arts, wine (and food industry in general) and technology.

The current regional situation is influenced by the crisis started off in 2008, but things are slowly changing. Being here now would allow to take profit from the good deal of help and support by government and social forces. Of course, nothing comes for free: there are some steps you will have to take, like for example learning the Italian language.

Discover Venice

Being in Venice brings you close to history and also to economic development. The city has always shown a great propensity to commercial activities but, in the recent years, local government has pushed for the creation of workplaces through startups and technology transfer from University. Of course, we are not Silicon Valley, but trials and errors are improving the ecosystem quickly.

Advantages Of Starting A Startup In Venice:

  • Do you want to place your startup at the door of Eastern Europe and at 1h flight from London, Paris or the likes? Pick Venice: fantastic location with plenty of opportunities to offer. By car, you can be in Milan and Bologna in 2 hours.
  • Living costs are surely high in the city center and a startupper might be in trouble to make ends meet. But just stay 10-15 km away and you’ll find prices fully affordable. In the Venice surrounding areas you can rent apartments at cheaper prices and you can shop at large malls or supermarkets (if you can’t cook… consider an Italian cuisine course!) If you decide to live in one of the largest close towns (like Mestre) you might opt to have a car and simply use public transportation (you lose some comfort but will gain some extra quids in your pockets).
  • Two big Universities within easy reach (University of Venice and University of Padova), one of the biggest Italian incubators (Vega Park), first class infrastructures: Venice can offer all this to your development plans. The local ecosystem spans much wider than Venice city and reaches close cities like Padova and Treviso. Here you will find plenty of small entrepreneurs able to guide you and share some good advice. Also, institutions are used to trade with SME and this is a really crucial advantage for your startup.
  • Do you need a cool location to impress your customers? Do you have a business plan towards tourism and hotelleries? Which better location than Venice! Tourism is one of the first sources for Venice and its ecosystem. Everyone in the world knows it, hence you can profit from this brand. Also, if your startup is about art and design you’ll benefit from the local Art Academy and bi-annual expo. In this case, you’ll profit from a large number of local experts and local/foreign customers used to spending a lot.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • Italian taxation: recently there are big talks on government efforts in supporting entrepreneurships and new business creation. Reality is that we are miles away from countries like the UK, Ireland or the likes. To start your own company you’ll need to budget a good deal of money to register and have it working (taxation, accountancy, etc.).
  • Italian language knowledge: things are slowly changing with many young students able to speak English fluently. But this is not the norm: public offices, banks, shops will require you to speak Italian most of the time.
  • Italian bureaucracy: money is not the only thing you should worried about. Italy is very famous for having a set of laws that makes things complicated. It’s not easy to be updated and consistent with all our rules/laws. This is going to cost you a lot of time and strength.

As you can see there are many pros and cons; deciding to immerse yourself in the Italian culture is both demanding and rewarding. Knowledge of the Italian language can help a lot especially if you have to deal with local customers.

Step 1. Connect With Venice’s Startup Community

Venice_guide_community

For many years Veneto has been famous for the multitude of small entrepreneurs: those people were able to create successful companies and fight international competition. Nowadays things are much more complicated and you need a more structured plan to launch your startup. In particular, it’s important to get together, share experiences and best practices. It’s a big challenge for people not used to this.

Here below are some websites/facebook groups where you can find news about upcoming events. I didn’t list any meetups: in Italy this tool is mostly associated with a local political party.

  • Ca Foscari Alumni alumni association very active in the startup scene. They organize yearly events with tours around Europe and California
  • Round Table is an international association with a 40 years story in Venice. In the website it’s possible to find local events

Regular Events & Meetups:

  • Startup Grind: local community organising monthly events. Format helps entrepreneurs and professionals to network
  • Nuvolab: events organised by the local SME entrepreneurs network. Focus is more on SME than startups
  • Pitch and Drink: just drive for 20 mins and you can join this interesting event. Normally held in cool bars, you’ll have the chance to showcase your business idea and, eventually, find a funder!
  • Digitalmeet: new and exciting local initiative to spread the innovation culture and the startup stamina. While the main event is in October, there will also be many activities during the year to support the fair.

Yearly or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Startup Cup Veneto: Business plans competition aiming to support and facilitate technology innovation. It’s scheduled once a year (2015 deadline was July 23rd)
  • Unicredit Start Lab: ambitious Unicredit bank program aiming to scout the most promising startups. While targeting the entire Italian territory, it has a strong link with Venice thanks to a partnership with Vega Park
  • Crowdsourcing Week: yearly event aiming to gather crowdsourcing experts and link them to the startup world. Held at H-farm campus, it is a great opportunities to deepen your knowledge
  • CSR prize: yearly prize focused on Corporate social responsibility. Do startups matter? Of course! There is a specific prize for them.

Step 2. Find A Coworking Space In Venice

Venice_guide_coworking

You need a place to work, collaborate and host meetings? You would require your own office but don’t have enough funds? Shared offices can be the right solution for you.

Coworking spaces were pretty unknown until few years ago; nowadays they are a trend even in Venice. It’s possible to find several options based on budget and needs. Someone might need a cool location while others might require a cheapest solution. Check out your options below:

  • Vega Park: here again 🙂 Vega Park allows you to rent your office space and grow your startup without limits. In this center you will work with many other startups and profit from services provided by the Park management and their partners. Cost is 20e/day
  • Stepventuno coworking space between Venice and Padova; you can easily find prices on the website
  • Morelab coworking space for people loving design and architecture
  • Terzopiano: brand new open space between Venice and Treviso. It offers typical shared office services. Usually hosts startups local events.

Step 3. Tank Your Finances In Venice

Venice_guide_financing.

Do you have all the money you need to start your venture? Maybe yes, if you have savings or if your idea doesn’t require much investment. But honestly, most of the time startuppers will require additional funds. Stats identify family and friends as the primary source for starting up a company: not hard to believe. They know you and it’s easy they also believe in you. Of course, you might risk your relationships to some extent and you’ll need further options once your venture grows.

Here below are some options you can try in Venice. Take into consideration that you are in Italy and sizing tends to be smaller than California or London.

Incubators:

  • H-farm: large incubators focusing on projects that simplify the use of digital tools and services for people and companies.
  • Vega Park: incubator supported by the Vega science park. Focus is on spinoffs/startups engaged on ICT and green technology. It also hosts a local fablab.
  • Incubatore ex-Cnmv: incubator located in the Venice city center (Giudecca Island). More than 1000mq fully equipped to run small companies.
  • Incubatore Ca’ Emiliani a Marghera: new incubator located in the Venice surroundings (Mestre). It’s made up of 11 blocks on two levels. It’s a post industrial building. Some activities are forbidden (mostly towards wasting).
  • Incubatore Ex Herion alla Giudecca: cool location in the Venice city center. It’s an old church which has been redesigned to host companies (very good if you need an office in a stunning location)

Accelerators:

Venice and the Veneto region on a whole don’t offer much in terms of accelerators: don’t expect to find here what you might pick in Rome or Milan. Simply, the startup culture is very young and is in  development stage. By the way, some of previous incubators also has some accelerator programs. I will specific mention:

  • H-farm: this incubator is also part of the Global accelerator Program (Techstars). They offer two programs: one “H-camp” devoted to startups and new ventures, the other “Corporate acceleration” aims to foster young entrepreneurship within the corporate worlds. H-camp program lasts 4 months and include a 85000e fund (Services+room & board + cash). Startups intaken should have business activity inherent to: wine & food, fashion & design, travel & tourism industries (please follow the link above for a comprehensive list)

Grants & Subventions:

  • Formaset: network of agencies that can help to find funds
  • Loan for innovative startups If you are an innovative startup you can apply for a loan (0% apr) to the ITalian government. This is an interesting option for who is not interested in sharing equity
  • European funds: Regional funds approved by UE (FESR). About 300M are reserved to Veneto (So your Venetian startup can apply!). Your project should be toward environment or energy efficiency saving.
  • Collection of micro funding here is a list of funding programs (normally small sum, nothing to disburse) you can find in Veneto. They tend to be sector specific and might be hard to get if don’t know Italians.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

Equity crowdfunding platforms work at national level. Options listed below are valid in any Italian region.

  • startup.it: one of the largest platforms in Italy. You can also find detailed information and news relevant to the startup world
  • www.crowdfunding-italia.com: platform dedicated to smaller projects like to write a book, launch your original idea, transform your house into a b&b
  • www.eppela.com: nice looking platform for even smaller projects. You can find projects starting from 600€
  • www.wearestarting.it: brand new platform with a strong focus on innovative startups. Here projects have a larger size than previous ones. You need to register to check deals.

Angel Investors:

  • Custodi di Successo: new and successful angels’ network that is rapidly expanding in Italy. Venice chapter is going to be launched soon. This network is very active and has a very good deal rate.
  • BAN Veneto: large network with a solid presence in Venice. This network takes advantage of a large number of partnerships (banks, universities, entrepreneurs club)
  • IAG: another large angels network. It’s possible to send them projects directly (in the website there is a clear section with detailed min. project threshold)

Venture Capital Investors:

In Venice it’s hard to find venture capitalists. This basically depends on the local industry structure dominated by SME companies. This has some effects also on the invistors side since it’s not normally required to invest sum that VC normally place on the table. Here below are some alternatives that might be worth considering

  • Veneto Sviluppo: regional fund to support SME and startups. It operates both with loans and equity.
  • M31: located in Padua so at close reach from Venice. This is a large Venture Capital player focusing on technology business. They have 5 offices between Italy and USA so can offer a very international setting.

Other Investment Opportunities:

  • H-Farm: this incubator also invests in most promising companies (more than 140 deals so far)
  • Banks: Unicredit, Veneto Banca and some others can support to some extent with own startup programs or loans.

Step 4. Seek Further Advice In Venice

Venice_mentors

As we have already mentioned Italy in not known to be an easy place to do business; hence to avoid issues with tax administration and bureaucracy in general you should search the support of experts. This is going to cost you some good money but don’t think you’ll be able to keep accounts of tax on your own. You will find hundreds of accountants in Venice, you’ll need to dig which one suits your budget/needs.

Here below some links to websites where you can find further interesting information if you want to start your startup journey in this wonderful city (unfortunately most of those websites are in Italian only!)

  • Chambers of commerce: here you can see if your project meets the “startup innovativa” criteria which might bring some tax advantages to your venture
  • Region website: website managed by the Veneto region where it’s possible to find information, special deals, laws about startups.
  • SME: website dedicated to small and medium businesses. In case your business has overcome the seed stage, you might find additional resources here to succeed in your activity

Least but not last, here’s a link if you are going to take some Italian lessons Learn Italian in Venice 🙂

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Last updated: August 4th, 2016

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