Nine years ago, Riccardo Donadon and Maurizio Rossi had the idea of creating an environment which would help generate Italy’s next generation of entrepreneurs.
“Riccardo and I are both entrepreneurs, and we both had exits around 2000, a good years for exits.
We felt that the best leverage for the young Italian society was technology. We wanted to help.”
“So we set up a small hub for entrepreneurs in a farmhouse twenty minutes from Venice. At the beginning, we self-funded and created the first three ventures. Finding investors was easy. Us.
Two years later we started expanding. We bought old farmhouses, and renovated them to be homes for budding entrepreneurs and their start-up. The purchasing and refurbishing new houses forced us to commit to grow our cadre of young people as well. We were farm-driven. Our love for developing farms and real estate forced us to develop the start-up environment at the same time.”
“Today, nine years later, the incubator has become a ‘platform’. The environment now is more structured. We have 450 people wandering around twenty buildings spread around eight large and twelve small farms (we will eventually reach forty).
We select young people with amazing projects. We provide full room and board for a period for at least three months, and a whole program of acceleration. Then after that, a reasonable number of start-ups remain there for growth stage. These select companies then help raise the newcomers and contribute to the environment and vision of what we do.”
“A central component of our vision is education. We feel that current K-12 education in Italy and elsewhere has to be disrupted. Students need to grow and learn with an entrepreneurial spirit and approach. They must consider technology as a critical component of their lives.
That is why we started (in 2011) to develop a new education process which we call “Digital Academia”. For us, this represents the future.”
We have good relations with the Ministry of Education. In Italy anything public takes forever. We will have to work through private channels. ”
(Kind of like Israel and other countries that I know!!)
Maurizio comes to Israel eight or nine times a year. He feels at home here, and feels a lot of respect for what we’ve done here. There is something intangible here, the Mediterranean way of life. He thinks that Israelis are entrepreneurs of their lives. To create a country from scratch, in sixty years, against terrible odds, has caused us to embrace entrepreneurship as a way of being. We are entrepreneurs of our own destiny.
Maurizio and Riccardo recently hosted the most amazing three day event for entrepreneurs, mainly from Israel and Europe, Kinnernet Italia, with the collaboration of start-up guru Yossi Vardi.
Maurizio thinks that the combo of Israeli entrepreneurship and Italian design can create a synergy that is unparalleled even in the most famous accelerators elsewhere.
Will this lead to financial success?
“Why not?” says Maurizio. “There is no special recipe, no secret sauce. If there is, it is to combine the best people, in the right time, round the right idea. When that happens then success is a natural outcome.”
“For us, it would be more than just financial success, however important. This will help the sustainability of what we want to do: build a Human Farm which will reach out to youngsters in Italy, and who knows, maybe the world.
Failures are okay, as long as they are fine failures. These are the ones you can learn most from. Sometimes there is just one ingredient missing. But someday when you do understand what is missing, you will have the full picture that will complete your current recipe.”
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The Naked Cucumber – A New Start Up
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