On Friday, October 20, was held at Villa Guastavillani the second edition of the StartUp Ecosystem Day, the initiative of Bologna Business School dedicated to the sharing of new projects and ideas between startups, institutional investors, managers, business angels, entrepreneurs and BBS students – over 100 students from 40 countries, including the alumni of the Global MBA and the BBS Executive Masters.
The StartUp Ecosystem Day 2017 took place under the sign of Italian excellence, opening a fruitful debate between more than 55 startups and research groups, 30 investors, over 250 participants and 3 exceptional attendances: Riccardo Fini, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurship and innovation of Bologna Business School, Luca Giordano, Territorial Coordinator of Intesa Sanpaolo and Fabio Poli, Young Entrepreneurs President of CNA Bologna.
“The presence of so many students from all over the world, together with managers and entrepreneurs who are really interested in evaluating new projects and ideas on which to invest for the future of the country, makes us very proud,” says Prof. Riccardo Fini, creator of the event. “We believe it is vital to strengthen the business ecosystem, not just in Italy, according to a growth and internationalization strategy that has led our School to excel and always keep an eye on everything that, by promoting change, leads to innovation and progress.”
There are not just the investments, historically the biggest rock to overcome, to slow down the startups in their growth and development path. Incubators, calls, institutions, networks of investors and business angels, are increasingly supporting the most promising ideas. The focus is shifting over to cultural aspects, which often act as an inhibitor to the creation of synergies between startups and the surrounding environment.
“At an institutional level, we have noticed that for the Public Sector it is difficult to understand new models of innovation, especially in the social field. It would need a cultural change to recognize that there are other value elements that allow you to be innovative, the digital is just a medium. Kilowatt, for example, has developed a kindergarten for freelance moms, which is now recognized by the City Council. In addition, we aim to become one of the first bossless companies in Italy and accompany other realities in this journey. Change and progress have so many possible faces,” says Anna Romani, who participates in the StartUp Ecosystem Day as the Project Manager of Kilowatt, an accelerator of ideas of high social and environmental value.
Finding the right interlocutors, but also capable and passionate contributors. Paolo Macchiagodena, founder of Utopic, an innovative startup that aims to promote Italian artistic and historical heritage through a mobile app, says: “It’s hard to find the right skills and people who can somehow share your approach to the business. We have noticed shortcomings from the point of view of competences, especially regarding soft skills, which we find fundamental. Startups depend on the team’s passion and its total involvement in the project.”
The innovation presented during the StartUp Ecosystem Day touches on very different service and product types, some with a market still in the embryonic stage. This is the case of By-entO, a start-up of the Piacenza territory that breeds various insects through a franchise-based production and commercial network to obtain molecules of agronomic, chemical and industrial interest. Irina Vetere, Co-founder and Director of the company, tells participants how insects will ‘nourish’ the needs of the future, and adds: “There is a risk that the Startup system will end up creating a circle aimed at itself. It’s important to invest in startups and products that can really change the system, even with direct funding from incubators and involved institutions. This would allow for startups that lie ahead of a long process of research and development, as in our case, to bring their ideas into the market and make the difference.”
It is the desire to bring a positive change, to improve the world we live in, that can be felt among the startups who are committed to transfer their enthusiasm to the curious participants stopping by their desks.
What turns a good idea into a successful startup? “The criticality lies in the ability to execute, to follow the ideas. To a stage of initial enthusiasm, follows almost always a problematic phase where becomes evident who can make it and who cannot. The difference, in my opinion, is the first customer that gives the chance to really ignite the engine, to challenge the idea of the startup. At that point it is possible to understand if the product really works and if the team is capable of carrying it forward,” says Piergiorgio Iacobelli, Incubator Manager at JCube, the innovation hub of the Maccaferri Group in Bologna.
Companies, while being an indispensable component of the startups’ development process, struggle to give them the trust to create joint projects or collaborations. But the benefits of a common path are many. In cases such as Else Corp‘s innovative startup, a pending multi-patent Cloud Saas Platform which supports mass customization of products that can be integrated with the sales processes of any brand or retailer, the collaboration with companies is fundamental. “We now have prototypes and some of our products on the market. At the moment, the goal is to reach as many brands as possible with our platform and our systems, in order to change, someday, how fashion brands produce and sell their products. It’s not just about spreading up virtual fitting and 3D, but especially helping companies in production as our system connects to the production process and optimizes it,” said Tairah Colah, Research Manager at Else-Corp.
Among those who have been able to listen and trust startups we find Banca Intesa Sanpaolo. Eng. Luca Giordano, Head of Territorial Coordination of Intesa Sanpaolo of the Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo and Molise Regional Administration, present at the StartUp Ecosystem Day as an investor, explains the intense activity carried out alongside startups: “Many of the innovations we bring to our customers come right from startups. In the last few years we have brought very strong innovations in terms of service, which have not been developed within Intesa Sanpaolo, but we have identified them and then developed together with external startups. For us, they are a very interesting and demanding client area, but also a source of great satisfaction. In startups, we evaluate different aspects, including the quality of the project, which goes together with the quality of the team, the concreteness of the business plan and of the product to be developed.”
Having a clear idea right from the beginning is an essential feature to achieve success. “Some successful startup examples, that we have been fortunate to meet and help in the initial stages, have had a really distinctive feature that can be a technology or business idea around which the whole project has developed. When this seed has no strong distinctiveness, startup can have a very complicated life,” adds Giordano.
Innovation in the technology and digital industry, but also in the social and food, the need for cultural transformation internal to institutions and companies, collaboration and sharing in project, demand for trust and managerial support to the startups. These and others are the themes that emerged during debates and exchanges between the startups and the other participants.
An audience, the one to which have turned the young entrepreneurs with their ideas, which has led to contrasting but complementary points of view and cross-disciplinary discussions. According to the actors of StartUp Ecosystem Day 2017, the added value of the event is to be found mainly in its multiculturalism. Students from various countries around the world have enriched the meeting not only with their skills and experience in the field of management, finance, and marketing, but above all with a different view of the issues outlined, given by their culture and country of origin.
Among the start-ups present at Villa Guastavillani, the ambitious Bettery project received the StartCup 2017 Bologna Award, withdrawn by Francesca Soavi and Francesca De Giorgio, respectively researcher and post-doc of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bologna. After over eight years of intense study, NESSOX, the rechargeable liquid-based oxygen and lithium battery, five times more powerful than the average, has been patented together with the University of Bologna.
In confirmation of the excellence that the synergies and competences present on the territory of Bologna are capable of developing and bringing on the market, for the benefit of us all.