So, you have a great idea and you have decided that Italy is the best place to turn it into a startup. You picked the perfect place to move to and you have already solved the “small town vs big city” dilemma. Well done! What should you do now? This is a practical guide to opening a startup in Italy. We will get you through the first steps to converting your stroke of genius into a viable enterprise. At every stage, it is essential to keep in mind that a successful startup needs to be innovative and dynamic, but also have a solid framework and at least some initial capital. Here’s what you need to know.
What is considered “innovative”?
We call an enterprise innovative when it adds something new to the market. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the product itself or the whole idea is entirely unheard of (such breakthroughs are in fact extremely rare). The element of “innovation” is not necessarily to be found in the product: it could be in the process, the technique or the way in which the project is made sustainable. Innovation brings added value to one or more stages of the productive cycle. While innovation is a goal most enterprises should strive towards, it proves essential in a startup environment. So far, we have the conceptual definition of innovation. In order to qualify as a startup in Italy, however, a company must meet precise requirements in this respect. For instance, 15% or more of the total productions costs must be invested in research & development.
How to register your startup
Your startup will need to be registered, just like any other enterprise in Italy. This means you will have to decide what kind of company you want to start and make sure you complete the required procedures. Since 2016, limited companies are no longer required to be registered before a notary, but this doesn’t mean that the online registration process is easy or that it can be undertaken lightly. While procedures have been simplified, they still require a lot of detailed and complex information on every aspect of the company’s activity. It is always advisable, even to founders that decide to dispense with notary services, to hire an accountant with previous startup experience.
You might not need a notary, but your startup will need a lawyer, to draft viable contracts for your team and to help you negotiate conditions with potential investors. If your startup deals in the kind of technology that may need to be patented, a lawyer will also help you defend your intellectual property and advise you on how to declare any income that might derive from specific patents.
Part of the recent restructuring of Italian bureaucracy was meant to make it easier for startups to access bank loans, but banks and startuppers are still understandably weary of each other. Banks are reluctant to grant loans to startups, because of their high failure rate, and startuppers are not necessarily happy with the high interest rates that most banks currently offer. While bootstrapping might be a viable option in the early stages of a startup’s activity, it will not necessarily be enough for the enterprise to scale up. This is the time to go looking for angel investors, venture capital or accelerators/incubators.