Italy counts more than 10,000 innovative startups. This is good news for the Venture Capital market, since it means that VC funds can pick and choose from a wider basket, thus increasing their portfolio quality. The growing number of start-up companies is one of the elements of a virtuous circle that is serving the Italian ecosystem, which is finally showing some strength. The number of innovative startups is registered by the Italian Registro delle Imprese, which counts 10,028 companies (11,039 also incorporating innovative SMEs) in March. Geographically, Lombardy takes the lion’s share, with 2,525 startups, followed by Lazio (1,116) and Emilia Romagna (888), which is the first ranked Southern region, just before Campania and its 783 new innovative companies.
Identikit of the Italian startups
There’s always a lot of talk about startups, but what are their characteristics? In numbers, startups produce a value close to a billion euros and have created over 12 thousand jobs. Technically, the Italian decree law 179/2012 states that “innovative startups” are unlisted limited companies that were founded less than five years ago, have an annual turnover of less than five million euros, and show some specific features of technological innovation (here’s the policy by Mise). Infocamere draws an identikit of young innovative Italian companies on a quarterly basis. In the latest one, which describes the situation at the end of 2018, the number of innovative startups was 9,758. Their overall share capital was 489,3 million euros, i.e. roughly 50.140 euros per company.
2% of innovative startups provide services to businesses (in particular, software production and IT consulting, R&D, information services). 18.6% of them operate in the manufacturing industry (machinery, computers, electronic and optical products, electrical equipment), while 3.8% is active in commerce. In some industries, the incidence of innovative startups on the total amount of new limited companies is particularly significant: 33.6% of the new companies that make computers, 34.3% of those producing softwares and 66.1% of those active in research&development are innovative startups. This last figure shows where innovation is focussing.
Startups are young, but not very en rose. Those that are owned and run mainly by women are 1,300, that is 3% of all startups: their incidence is clearly lower than the 22.2% we can observe when we take into consideration the whole universe of new limited companies. On the other hand, innovative startups with predominantly young teams (under 35) are 2,033, 20.8% of the total: more than 3% higher than the number of young teams among new but non-innovative companies.
Milan, Rome and Naples step on the innovation podium
Milan is by far the province hosting the highest number of innovative startups: by the end of September 2018 these were 1,687, 17.3% of all Italian startups. Rome ranks second with 969 innovative startups (9.9%), followed by Naples with 344 of them (3.5%) and Turin (319, 3.3%). Innovative startups created 12,818 jobs, with an average number of employees per startup of 3.2. Furthermore, each startup has on average 4.3 business partners, compared to 2.1 business partners of the other comparable new companies.
Almost half of the startups is already showing some profit and generates greater added value than the Italian average
Looking at the financial statements, Infocamere must refer to those dating back to 2017, which are only available for 60.3% of the startups that registered before the end of 2018. Their whole production amounts to € 911,775,318 and the average production per company amounts to around 155,000 euros. These numbers show a slight decline on a quarterly basis, which, however, should not surprise or worry us, since it is an entirely natural phenomenon. Infocamere explains it so: “over the last three months a large number of innovative startups with a relatively high turnover have left the special section.” The new members, which are smaller by definition, have failed to compensate. In general, by its very nature, the Business Register shows a very high turnover and its population mostly consists of micro-companies: at the end of 2018, the average age of the 186 innovative startups that reported a higher turnover than 1 million euros (for a total value of 359 million euros) was 3 years and 10 months.
The same reasons lay under the fact that 55.4% of the new innovative companies reported some losses in their financial reports (compared to 33% of non-innovative companies). Start-up companies and high-tech companies burn cash by definition. But the remaining part (44.6%) generates on average greater added value: for every spent euro, they make 38 cents, against the 28 cents created by non-innovative companies.