Italy’s economy actually grew in the first quarter of 2015 by 0.3%. After three years of recession it’s the first sign of growth for a number of years. In an attempt to help continue this economic growth, the Italian government has launched a special permit designed to attract entrepreneurs from outside the Eurozone with innovative businesses ideas, writes Heather Landau.
It’s no secret that there’s been a history of red tape and excessive paperwork when it comes to incorporating a company in Italy, often dampening the spirit of the most ardent entrepreneur.
The new startup visa aims to reduce much of this bureaucracy by making the process simpler, faster and easier. Decisions on applications are typically being made within a month and the fast turnaround has seen a number of applications, particularly from entrepreneurs in China, Russia and Israel.
The high-tech, retail, fashion, food and manufacturing sectors will be particularly suited to the programme. New business ventures will be able to tap into the existing Italian business networks, while leveraging the ‘Made in Italy’ brand that’s synonymous with high quality goods throughout the world. These are attractive considerations for fashion and retail startups, enabling them immediately to add commercial value to their products. The available infrastructure and competitively priced manufacturing facilities are certainly giving overseas entrepreneurs food for thought.
Existing companies, both large and small, are also starting to realise the importance of encouraging growth within the Italian startup community. Historically the attitude of Italian businesses has been to shy away from innovation rather than embrace it. However the challenging economic climate over recent years has forced many to think of new ways of doing business, with companies now looking to the next breed of entrepreneurs to help with modernisation and new ideas.
By offering access to customer channels, support, advice and even financial backing, existing companies for the first time are starting to act like incubators, helping to turn these innovative ideas into sustainable business models.
Help For Startups
One of the recent criticisms about starting a company in Italy has been the lack of investment opportunities. Since 2011 the Italian government has embarked on substantial structural reform to try and put the economy back into sustainable growth. These new policies from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development have been designed to help encourage startups, some of the changes include:
· Cuts in red tape for company incorporation
· A simplified VAT declaration to help with cash flow
· Incentives for funding with 19% to 27% tax relief on investment into startup equity
· New startup visa with evaluation in 30 days (minimum of €50,000 capital).
These reforms and a changing attitude from some of the larger multinationals (telco giant Telecom Italia has announced €4.5m in seed investment) is a growing trend that’s slowly making it easier for startups to acquire funding. This applies not only during the early stages, but throughout the first few years where many have previously been held back from scaling their operations.
According to the online database at startup.registroimprese.it, there are now more than 3,500 high-tech startups registered throughout Italy, employing over 15,000 people. In a country that has suffered from high unemployment, particularly among those under 25, there are signs that things are finally moving in the right direction. While there may be some way to go until the startup scene in Italy is on a par with the UK, Germany and France, for businesses in certain industries, it may just be the best option to be ‘Made in Italy’.