Italy-Russia: ICE at work on launching its Startup Desk
Moscow - To put two worlds in communication Italian innovation and Russian investors which up until now have never been in touch, and create a channel for them to exchange information "to create a red carpet, capable of launching Italian startups." This explains Pier Paolo Celeste, the Director of the Moscow branch of ICE, speaking to AGI was the idea behind this summers launch of the Startup Desk. With an investment of 500,000 euros from ICE, the Italian Agency for promoting and internationalizing Italian companies abroad, the intention is to create a major presentation of innovational Italy at the next Startup Village, next June in Russias Silicon Valley, Skolkovo, just outside Moscow."The idea continues Celeste is to act as an intermediary link: we want the Russians to know that there are 16,000 thousand innovative companies in Italy whose products and ideas could be useful on the Russian market. But we also want Italian companies to know about the possibilities that exist in Russia for those with ideas and startup projects." The work to be done is clearly defined: to start with, an analysis of the political and legislative context, of Russias venture capitalist ecosystem, its business angels and the research center system within the Russian Federation. For this reason, the Startup Desk will begin in October with a newsletter in both Italian and Russian, in which to narrate success stories and interview members of the innovation ecosystem. Also, to give voice to startups who will tell of their experiences in Russia, and to hear from the people whom the ICE director calls "the engines of Italian startups", i.e. those who back new ideas with the necessary support for them to get started. The first number of the newsletter will feature an interview with Francesco Profumo, currently President of the Compagnia di San Paolo, one of the chief experts on economy and innovation in Italy. "You either have creativity or you don't, and if you do, you apply it to everything emphasizes Celeste and since we are creative craftsmen, we Italians also show it in our new companies. This is why an Italian startup plays a different role, because native genius animates it. They know this in Russia, and it makes them curious about us, not least because there is a kind of natural empathy that exists between our two countries... the problem is that at the moment we know so little about each other." Italy could be an ideal partner for Russia in the setting of the National Technology Initiative (NTI), the long-term multi-sectoral program launched by the Kremlin to ensure leadership roles for Russian companies over the next 15-20 years. In 2017, the state financed the NTI to the tune of 8.5 billion rubles (135 million euros).Previous cases of startup interaction between Russia and Italy could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but they do show the great potential for synergy between the two nations. One of the best-known examples is Buzzoole an Influencer Marketing platform active in connecting brands with their most suitable internet influencers thanks to big-data analysis which has already attracted 850,000 dollars of Russian venture capital. Meanwhile, Tau Technologies is the first and so far only Italian startup resident in Skolkovo: it produces a uniquely strong and flexible metal cable, winning contracts with the sector giant Severstal. Skolkovo is a primary point of reference for the mission of ICE. "Its a project begun under the presidency of Dmitri Medvedev and subsequently backed by Vladimir Putin", says Celeste. "It is based on the model of an American campus: here you are projected inside the Russian innovation ecosystem. It contains offices and research laboratories, and a residency costs around 700 euros per month. Foreign startups are offered preferential processes for obtaining visas and receive support in terms of communications and contacts." "Another major point of reference is the Innopolis campus, in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, but Skolkovo is indispensable, being an entirely state-run project", comments the Director of ICE.After the newsletter, the next step will be to invite a dozen companies to an international startup pitch session organized by the StartTrack platform in Moscow on December 6 and 7. Russia has equally strong demand for innovation in all sectors: "The fields one most hears about are education and all aspects of high tech, but also medicine and communications. We have found a startup that could work well for next years soccer World Cup in Russia, and startups in the field of infants and children are much in demand", continues Celeste. "In any case, as for all investors, the most important thing is to have a strong and promising idea."