2016 has been a good year. I bet you haven’t heard that sentence very often, but allow me to explain. 2016 has been a good year – great, actually – for Italian startups, with a massive increase in investments, and the trend seems unlikely to stop for the foreseeable future. In fact, analysts believe it has not peaked yet. The overall investment in Italian startups for 2016 has amounted to 217 Million Euros. That includes all forms of investment, from equity and venture capital to institutions and although not all kinds of investment have increased at the same rate, some have achieved remarkable results compared to 2015 (equity capital alone has grown by an impressive 24%). The majority of the new Italian startups that have benefited from investments and generally blossomed over the past year operate in the field of digital technology, but biotechnology and clean energy startups seem to be on the rise. Among the Italian startups that have excelled in 2016, we identified 5 that we suggest you keep an eye on in 2017.
1. Employerland: the gamification of HR
This Roman startup has an ambitious vision: applying the principles of gamification to the process of recruiting. It is, by all intents and purposes, a social game, created to connect young and talented professionals to companies that are looking for new talent. How does a contestant get noticed? They get to enter challenges and complete tests to prove their skills and awareness of the brand they would like to work with. Several major brands have already started using the app for their recruiting campaign, including Unilever, Microsoft, Bosch, Whirlpool, Tiger, Leroy Merlin, Bata and the Italian State Television (RAI). Although the platform is currently only available in Italian, we are looking with interest at future developments and possible expansion to new territories.
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2. Buzzoole: crowdsourcing social media influence in a smart and easy way
The idea behind Buzzoole, the self-styled “first ever IEO (Influence Engine Optimization)” is brilliantly simple: brands need influencers to hype their campaigns and hype can be achieved by offering incentives in the forms of discounts and gift cards. Buzzole aims to connect brands and influencers in a straightforward and uncomplicated way, by allowing brands to set campaign goals and influencers (i.e. social media users) to participate in them by posting about a certain topic at a certain time, thereby creating the required hype, helping the brand trend on social media and acquiring gifts and benefits as a reward. In order to prevent the system from being abused, Buzzole also classifies influencers by area of expertise, so that an article posted by someone who is knowledgeable in a certain field has, reasonably, a higher value than a comment or a generic post by a user who is not an expert on that particular matter. This startup is a perfect example of how a service or a product can be created to meet an existing need, since influencer marketing has been growing for over a decade now and it is still lacking in organization and coordination, compared to other marketing fields.
3. Sardex: the power of local change (and the Bitcoin of Italian startups)
Sardex is a unique experiment, whose very nature prevents it from being replicated elsewhere, but whose principle is interesting enough that we expect a few similar startups to succeed in the future. Sardex is a virtual currency that is – shamelessly paraphrasing Douglas Adams – almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Bitcoin. The main difference, of course, lies in the fact that bitcoin is potentially global, whereas Sardex is strictly confined to Sardinia, as it was created as a tool for the empowerment of local businesses. Sardex created a parallel and mostly self-sufficient market, with the goal of relieving the financial pressure on local SMBs and fostering solidarity and community spirit . The system is based on credits, that can be used to purchase goods and services exclusively within the network of Sardex affiliates, with the understanding that being able to foot at least some of a business’ bills using virtual currency should help affiliates save up on real currency and help them withstand the ongoing financial crisis and credit crunch. In order to keep the system viable, each affiliate must have a zero sum Sardex balance and is only allowed to accept as many credits as they intend to spend.
4. 4Gifters, the shopping evolution
Ever heard of social e-gifting? Probably not, because 4Gifter is the first platform of its kind. This is more than a mere e-commerce platform: first because it revolves entirely around the idea of gift giving and second because it is currently focusing on the luxury compartment, with an eye on charities and worthy causes. Buying someone a gift on 4Gifters can involve the recipient picking up their gift in a shop, with the option of accepting it or opting for something else of equal value. Alternatively, the gift can be shipped directly to the recipient’s address, much like on any other e-commerce site. Users can also create their personal wishlist and invite friends to give them gifts. With each payment, the purchaser is offered the option of donating to a supported charity. The obvious advantage for businesses is connected to the “in-shop-experience” being offered to the recipients of gifts: a walk-in customer, even one whose main purchase has already been paid for, presents more and better opportunities for upselling than an online one. The app currently works with shops and brands in several countries and with shops in Milan, Rome, New York and London.Launching your startup in Italy? We'll help you find the perfect location!