In particular, I spent most of June in Italy.
Of the thousands stereotypes that we hear about Italy, 2 resonated particularly with me in this trip:
1: what happened to the young people? and
2: oh my God, exceptional average food quality really makes a difference.
I had the chance to visit several startups, incubators and corporations.
Among them, my visit to H-Farm was one of the highlights.
Started in Italy less than 4 years ago, H-Farm is already an outstanding success that deserves attention.
Their creativity, starting from the incubator model itself (in fact I'd call them a "company engineering" venture rather the inflated "incubator" term), from the setup of their offices (old farms in the middle of nowhere, renovated hi-tech style, in a technology-farming fusion that includes cow statues and toy-robots) is a notch above everybody else working in the startup creation field these days.
The 2 founders and good friends Riccardo Donadon and Maurizio Rossi have really pushed the envelope of farming talent to streamline new businesses born to be acquired.
The results? 3 important exits under their belt to groups like WPP and RCS (who can claim that in Italy?), a venture that can attract talent from all over the world (several hundreds employees) and the possibility of writing history with the new spur of Italian innovation in the world.
Out of their stable of 17 home-made startups, there's also Zooppa, the mythical winner of our 2008/09 BP competition, nowadays fully US based.
When you walk about their stables, among locally produced fresh organic fruit, video monitors showing international media news-war-room like and panels reminding the visitor what H-Farm stands for, you definitely have the feeling to witness something remarkably fresh in the almost-dead panorama of Italian innovation.
Riccardo and Maurizio will be facing some challenging times to come, a direct result of their success. The expansion in US and India and the steep increase of startups incubated will put undoubtedly some strains on their so-far-successful model.
But risk taking is their bread and butter, and we sincerely root for them.
Chapeau for H-Farm, fellows!