Italy has suffered from a reputation that it's not friendly to startups: too much bureaucracy, not enough funding, too many long lunches, and not enough hustle.
But recently, some Italian startup hubs have started to transform, making them highly attractive to the founder looking for the next great place to start a company. In particular, I like the look of Turin for the next big thing in startup ecosystems.
In 2012, Italy introduced the Italian Startup Act to foster innovation and make the country more attractive to entrepreneurs. The act introduced tax incentives for investors and created a fast-track visa for entrepreneurs, as well as making it easier to register a new company and relaxing labor regulations.
Plus, Invitalia -- the national agency tasked with attracting foreign investment -- offers interest-free loans to innovative startups through its Smart&Start Italy program, which funds projects costing up to €1.5 million.
A strong startup ecosystem is hugely important, and Italy has seen a boom in startup numbers over the past few years.
From 2017 to 2018, the number of startups in Italy rose over 20 percent, from 7,866 to 9,647. A 2018 report showed Italian startups employed more than 50,000 people, up a third compared to the year before, and earned just under €1 billion in total revenue.
Those startups are raising more money, too. Startup Italia reports that in 2018, Italian startups raised €522 million, up from just €140 million in 2017.
So why am I especially excited about Turin--or Torino, as they call it in Italy?
It's weathered the economic crisis.
Turin is in the Piedmont region in Italy's industrial north, and cities there have weathered the European economic crisis better than other areas. It has world-class polytechnic schools and the biggest and oldest Italian university incubator, I3P. It's the world's 78th richest city by purchasing power, and its economic roots are based in the automotive and aerospace industries--modules for the International Space Station were produced there.
There's a great talent pipeline.
Those polytechnic schools--including the Polytechnic University of Turin, which is known as one of Europe's best universities for key fields like engineering, computer science, and technology--create a stream of highly educated founders-to-be and early-stage employees. Add these smart young people to the growing startup scene, more funding, and less red tape, and I see a recipe for startup success.
The city is ready to boom.
Turin knows mobility and is well poised to jump from a Fordist city of the Second Industrial Revolution to a Smart Mobility hub, ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this, Turin reminds me of Detroit, which is still fighting its bad reputation from the collapse of the American auto industry but has earned its new nickname as Comeback City. I love the startup scene in Detroit these days, and I see a similar future for Turin.
Life is looking beautiful for startups in Turin these days.