Are there startups in Naples?

When we launched StartCup Calabria 2011, the University business plan competition, at our firm, we imagined that it would have been quite a challenge. And it was. Cosenza and Calabria all together is a beautiful place, unknown by most, but not exactly Mountain View if you are a tech entrepreneur.

But at the end the event turned out to be a success, and I must say it has been rewarding to follow the progress of several startups which partecipated in the bootcamp. The finalist are now incubated at TechNest incubator of Unical (the University of Calabria, 36.000 students with strong science and engineering departments).  I had a lot of fun in following up their Facebook group, and this is the vibe currently running at TechNest.

In the next months I will be involved in Vulcanicamente, an event organized by the Incubatore Napoli Est.

If you have not seen Naples (Napoli) in your life, well you should put in your wish list to do so and while there stop by Capri then chill-out in the Costiera Amalfitana. But if you are a startup, Napoli Est is not nearly close to anything like Silicon Valley and the incubator is definitely not as functional as TechNest. So here we go, last week we kicked off Vulcanicamente, a startup bootcamp, during  in a press conference with the City  authorities.

We are in a very peculiar phase in the Italian venture capital market, whereas for a number of reasons it’s easier for startups to raise funding if they are located in Southern Italy. There are around 100 million euros of early stage venture capital, looking to invest if you are a startup in Napoli or anywhere below Rome. However at Unical we where right in the campus, working back to back with the professors and engineers. The TechNest structures is big, very functional and the team that manages the incubator is very active.

The Napoli Est incubator is smaller and much less functional. And it’s off-campus, located in a difficult part of town. But on the other hand it’s one-hour of train ride to Rome, faster than the average ride to work of any resident in our capital. It’s located in a difficult neighborhood, and it was meant to be so, among other initiative  intended by the local government to socially relaunch the area (a challenge in the challenge itself). But again, on the other hand if there is a social side to entrepreneurship, well definitely this should be a stimulus at least to some startups that target social impact more than profits.

As I look back at the challenge of StartCup Calabria last year and confront it with Vulcanicamente, it now looks like that was a ‘piece of cake’ and this seems to be definitely an order of magnitude higher of a challenge. But the real question is, are there enough interesting startups in Southern Italy and in Napoli, to justify any investment?

We will complete the boothcamp with Techgarage, our demo day, where I will make sure to bring all the VCs that can invest in Southern Italy that I know and will try to answer the question.

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