Are you an Italian startup planning to open an office in the United States in the next 12 months in order go global, find partners and more funding? If so you may come to New York from November 2nd to November 7th for the one-week NY Market Accelerator program organized by VentureOutNY. There is still time to apply.

Interested startups must have had already $250,000 in funding or a promising stream of revenues or a successful product on the market. During the week startups will get: introductions to esteemed venture investors and accelerator programs; workshops about visas and immigration, U.S. business formation, sales and marketing strategy, accounting, hiring, and more; networking events with 150+ members of NYC’s tech community; tours to local successful companies. On November 5th there will be the Pitch Night: Demo to an investor panel and NYC tech leaders. The cost to participate is a $1,000 fee, plus al the travel expenses (but many meals are included in the program).

The past two editions were very helpful for the feedback that the startups got from investors and other members of the NYC tech community, as I explained on StartupItalia!

Full disclosure: the book “Tech and the Cityis a required reading for startups participating in the VentureOutNY program. Actually, all NY entities that organize similar programs have adopted ours as a textbook: we are glad it’s so helpful.

Rome is not only “La Dolce Vita” and above all is not (only) the city of the decadent old characters of “The Great Beauty”. I saw it firsthand visiting the Maker Faire Rome on October 3-5. The event got 90,000 visitors, more than the Make Fare in New York that reached 75,000 visitors last September.

“Thanks to Maker Faire Rome, which this year was included in the Innovation Week, for nine days Rome was an inexhaustible source of energy for ideas full of innovation and creativity. All ideas shared one mission: to show the way to the Third Industrial Revolution and into the future, which actually has already arrived in Rome”, said the organizers, among which is my colleague and friend Riccardo Luna.

What struck me was the enthusiasm of so many young people I met in Rome. “In Rome young people are hungrier, they have less opportunities than in Milan so they must be more creative to invent their own job”. That was an explanation I got from several friends.

Let’s make!” – or “Daje facciamolo!”, in Roman dialect – is for example an association that hosts a Makers’ Lab and a co-working space, where Elio Alunno Camelia and his friends created Cube Code, an easy tool to teach kids – even 6 year old ones – how to code. They exhibited the project at the Maker Faire Rome and hopefully it will be used in Italian elementary schools.

Outside the Maker Faire, I was fortunate to have Paolo Merialdo (*) as my personal Cicerone, a great “startup guide” who introduced me to two special ecosystems, very different from each other but both very lively and interesting: Luiss EnLabs and Pi-Campus. The first one is a huge open space above Stazione Termini, in a very hectic environment; the second one occupies three luxury residential villas in the idyllic and very green EUR neighborhood.

Luiss EnLabs claims to be “the first Italian example in which venture capital, entrepreneurial system and university are linked together”. The venture capitalist is Luigi Capello, CEO and founder of LVenture Group (a participation holding listed on Borsa italiana); the university is LUISS, and then there are many startups that participate in the startup accelerator program or that have already graduated but stay in the incubator. Startups accepted in the accelerator program get 30,000 euros in cash plus 30,000 in facilities and services. The other ones can get up to 200,000 euros. “Micro-seed and seed money is not a problem, because in Italy there are a lot of angel investors”, says Capello, who is also a member of the association Italian Angels for Growth.
Among the startups currently working at Luiss EnLabs there are BaasBox, Snapback, WineOwine, Le Cicogne. One of the startups in the accelerator is FiloTrack that is designing “a small Bluetooth device that helps you find and locate what you care about”. Since the end of 2010, when Luiss EnLabs started, it has received over 1000 projects applications for the accelerator programs; it has admitted 24 startups; the LVenture Group has invested 2.8 million Euros into a portfolio of 22 startups, plus 6.6 million Euros has come from from other investors; over 200 jobs have been created. “By 2017 we want to have 59 startups in our portfolio – says Capello – and make our Startups’ Factory bigger and bigger”.

A totally different scenario surrounds Pi-Campus. “We chose this location superimposing different layers on a Google Maps: low noise, low pollution, easy parking, 5 min walk to public transport, 5 min drive to highways and 20 minute drive to both Rome airports”, explain the founders Gianluca Granero and Marco Trombetti. Gianluca and Marco are friends and serial entrepreneurs. In 2007 they created Pi-Campus as an “ideal work environment”: it’s not an open space, and it’s not an incubator nor a co-working space, they point out. “To become a Pi Campus citizen you have only three options – you can read on the website -: get hired by one of the companies already here (relatively hard); get up to 6 free desks for 6 months by getting a seed investment from Translated (hard); have a startup with a team of people smarter than the one we have here”. Who makes it, enjoys exclusive perks, including free massages twice per week, gym, fitness trainer, spinning classes, kitchen free access and 4% salary increase for quitting smoking, getting to office by bicycle and more”. That’s the Tech Dolce Vita!
The last company that Marco and Gianluca co-founded is Memopal, which makes the online backup technology used by some of the largest storage manufactures, telcos and anti-viruses in the world. Marco is also the CEO of Translated, “a leading professional translation service provider that uses artificial intelligence to make translator’s life easier and customer happier by removing unnecessary intermediation”. Two other promising companies hosted by Pi-Campus are Wanderio, “one stop website to make all reservations from doorstep to final destination”, and ClickMeter, “a click analytics tool that allows users to compare the performance and conversions of different traffic sources making them comparable”.

(*) Paolo Merialdo is a Computer Science professor at the University of Rome, and one of the organizers of InnovAction Lab, the most important startup contest for students in Italy. Every year InnovAction Lab involves more than 300 students, from all the Italian universities. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation has recognized it as the most effective experience to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Italy, one of the top-5 in the world. For the winners of the InnovAction Lab contest (two teams of 4 students) Paolo organizes a tour to learn about startup ecosystems abroad. For winners of the 2014 edition, InnovAction Lab chose New York City, that’s how I met Paolo.
Thank you Paolo for the awesome startup tour in Rome! Hope to see you again in NYC for the next InnovAction Lab mission.

New York is more and more techy & sexy!
Amazon is opening its first physical store in the city, on 34th Street, right between the flagship Macy’s store and the Empire State Building.
IBM has just announced the official opening of its Watson headquarters at 51 Astor Place to serve local startups: moreover, it will invest $100 million in startups using Watson.
And on November 6 YouTube will open its new space at the Chelsea Market. “People think of YouTube as a West Coast company, but we’re here because New York is at the intersection of many creative communities — fashion, film, big media companies and of course, Madison Avenue,” said Lance Podell, the global head of YouTube Spaces, to The New York Times.

It was the celebration of Italians who don’t whine. The Makers – those who make things on their own, who have the courage to take risks, challenging patterns and conventions — gathered together in the Parco della Musica in Rome, October 2 to 5. A movement of young inventors and dreamers, non interested in a “secure” job, was born.

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Long lines to enter the Maker Faire Rome, which had 90,000 visitors

That’s quite a change from the rallies and marches to “change the world” in 1968, when young protesters were chasing red chimeras and following bad teachers. The 90,000 young people and students who crowded the Maker Faire in Rome are active, enthusiastic, curious, positive, and above all they are individuals who use their creativity to make something that is real and useful. That is the opposite of the negative approach of political activists who believed in a “social revolution”, which turned out to be a waste of resources and hopes.

Yet, wasting resources was not inevitable. Italy has had its share of good teachers. You can see them profiled in the exhibition “Make in Italy – 50 Years of Italian innovations, from Programma 101 to the first car printed in 3D,” which is an exciting and stimulating reminder of a possible turnaround (after Rome the exhibition will travel to other Italian cities).

The idea of the exhibition started in New York, where I live, when last spring Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of its iconic Mustang’s launch: in a surprising stunt, the automaker brought the new model of the Mustang on top of the Empire State Building. Why are Americans so good at every opportunity to show off their pride in anything Made in the USA?, I thought. Why can’t we Italians do the same?

Just 50 years ago the first “personal computer” in the world was born and it was not made by an American company, but by the very Italian Olivetti. It was the Programma101 (P101), and it was launched in New York in ’65, obtaining an extraordinary success. P101 was created by four young Italians led by Pier Giorgio Perotto, but their story is little known even in Italy (you can read it on Che Futuro ).

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In the picture: two of the  “kids” of the team lead by Pier Giorgio Perotto who – at Olivetti – created the first “personal computer” in the world, Programma 101 (on the right: Carlo De Benedetti)

The project to tell that story was made possible thanks to the Foundation Make in Italy, founded by Riccardo Luna, Carlo De Benedetti and Massimo Banzi. And in the exhibition along with the P101 there are so many other Italian fundamental contributions to the technological revolution of the past 50 years: from the first microprocessor (the “computer on a chip”) invented by Federico Faggin to the first car all printed in 3D and designed by Michele Anoé , from Sant’Anna’s cyberhand to the open source humanoid robot of the Italian Technology Institute, from the accelerometer created by Murari and Vigna to the Common Rail engine built by Fiat engineers, from the “gym in a square meter” made by hand in his garage by Nerio Alessandri (Technogym) to the “Amazon of fashion” invented by Federico Marchetti (Yoox), from the “clean” plastic produced with waste and bacteria by the former graphic designer Marco Astorri to Arduino, the open source platform of hardware and software that is used by the Makers all over the world to invent everything. IMG_1262 IMG_1602

So many stories are not meant only to celebrate the past, but to inspire the future. And judging by the energy and desire to innovate that was expressed by the protagonists of these stories during the inauguration of the exhibition – on Thursday, Oct. 2 – Italy’s future is not that bleak scenario that you can fear watching TV talk shows. “After seeing this exhibition we go home full of pride and aware that we can make it – said Alessandri -. However from these stories young people have to understand that they must have more confidence in their ideas and more courage to take risks.” Alessandri quit from his secure job when he was 22 in order to devote himself full time to the crazy mission of “get the world moving again” with its fitness machines, and he succeeded.

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Left: Technogym’s founder Nerio Alessandri witjh Riccardo Luna; right, Bio-On’s founder Marco Astorri (with Riccardo Luna)

“The stories in this exhibition teach that we should never stop trying new ways – said Anoé -. I know how to make cars, I’ve been working in the auto industry for 20 years, but I wondered how to reinvent them using the new technology of 3D printing.” So Anoé won the international competition for designing the first 3D car, which was organized by the American company Local Motors. And speaking of cars, very soon their plastic components will be made out of Astorri’s biodegradable material, the inventor revealed: “We have entered into an agreement with Magna International to produce bio-plastics for the automotive industry. We had started with a € 900 investment for a Mac, now our company Bio-on is worth 150 million euro and about to go public.”
As the exhibition travels to other Italian cities, high school students are invited to participate in the competition for “inventing the new P101″, i.e. an object capable of really “changing the world”, as has it happened for the first personal computer made in Italy.

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Left: P101 linked to Arduino. Right: il humanoid robot iCub, a star in the exhibition

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Also the Mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino (center: with a blue tie) visited Maker Faire Rome

Finally the .nyc domain is available to all New Yorkers. You can apply for your own Internet address .nyc here: http://www.ownit.nyc/

One of the first New Yorkers who took advantage of the opportunity is the NYC First Lady Chirlane for her blog http://flo.nyc/ . Chirlane explains: “ With the historic launch of .nyc, the City of New York has become one of the first cities in the world with a top-level domain, creating a unique opportunity for local businesses, organizations and residents to brand themselves online and to showcase their affiliation with New York City.”

Actually the availability of .nyc should have started in 2013 already, as we wrote in our book (see below). But better late than never…

From “Tech and the City” (2013):
<<The Big Apple has already beaten the California rival on at least one thing: it is the first city in the United States to be awarded its own top-level Internet domain (TLD). The new domain is “.nyc,” conquered in the summer of 2012 by the City. The administration manages it and plans, starting in 2013, to allow its use first for public and not-for-profit institutions, then for residents and local businesses, and finally for organizations that offer specific services to New York. “With the historic launch of the .nyc TLD, the City will embrace its digital future in a powerful way and bring an unprecedented level of geographic authority to the digital sphere. In addition, the City will generate revenue, help residents locate government services, encourage local businesses to thrive, market and promote tourism, and spread the dynamic image of New York City around the world,” reads the Bloomberg Administration’s Digital Roadmap of August 2012. And who knows, 2013 could also be the year in which the early graduates of CornellNYC Tech create the first “.nyc” startup that will change, for the better, our life more than Facebook or Apple did.>>

“Until yesterday, Italians thougth that globalization was evil. Instead it’s a great opportunity”, said the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi yesterday on a visit to New York. He spoke to the Italian community during an event at the Italian consulate, where he also met the Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Earlier Renzi had visited Silicon Valley meeting Italias and American leaders of the digital revolution. The consul Natalia Quintavalle told him that she had learned from “Tech and the City” that even in the New York technology startups are an important engine of growth. Now Renzi can read it by himself. The Italian Premier showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm: he wants to relaunch Italy towards the future, focusing on innovation and on the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of the Italians. Great program.

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Last weekend the Maker Faire was a lot of fun! Lots of robots, drones and crazy shows. Such as the Coke & Mentos: see here the video.

The best surprise for me was finding a group of Italian makers with their own space: “Makers Italia”. The mission from Italy was organized by the Italian Trade Commission, which is the governmental agency aimed to help Italian exports. It was the very first time that Italian makers got an official recognition: that’s a positive sign that the Renzi government pay attention to innovators and startups as the engine of growth.

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(on the left) Matteo Picariello, the Italian trade commissioner in Chicago

By the way, last weekend the Italian Prime Minister took other two important steps: first, he went to the Silicon Valley to learn how that technology ecosystem works; second, he appointed Riccardo Luna as the Italian “Digital Champion”, which is something like the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Riccardo is not only a good friend, but he is really a champion in promoting the startup and maker community in Italy (see his blogs Che Futuro and StartupItalia!). So, that’s good news: go Riccardo!

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The new Italian Digital Champion Riccardo Luna (on the right) with Massimo Banzi, ceo and co-founder of Arduino

“We selected ten companies with  the help of the Roma Makers network, it’s an experiment, we’ll see how it works”, explained to me Matteo Picariello, the Italian trade commissioner in Chicago, the office that takes care of the machinery industry. Do you know that this industry is the leader in Italian exports to the US, much ahead of fashion, wine and food? Italians are great makers and innovators indeed. As you can understand if you browse the website of the companies that came to the Faire in Queens: here.

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Marco Rizzuto, ceo of FabTotum

Fabtotum for example makes very innovative 3D printers: “multi-purpose personal fabrication devices” that use both subtractive and additive manufacturing. CRP Technology does 3D printing for companies ranging from the aerospace industry to the automotive and motorsport sectors. And Smart-I makes intelligent systems for smart cities.

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 Stewart Davis, director of operations of CRP USA

As usual, the “King” of the Faire was Massimo Banzi, the co-founder of Arduino (you know that Arduino was an Italian king, don’t you?). Massimo gave a terrific speech, explaining his new initiatives. The most amazing: the opening of an “Arduino Apartment” in Turin, were the “Internet Of Things” (IOT) will be designed “not by a bunch of white nerd engineers, but by we the people” – explains Massimo -, with the help of Arduino, which is “an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software;   intended for anyone making interactive projects.” The Arduino apt will be totally interactive: the smart appliances and pieces of furniture will be created by people living there. In fact the apt will be rented on Airbnb, and the nearby FabLab will make with 3D printer what the people ask for. The American writer Bruce Sterling, who lives in Turin, will blog once a week about the whole experiment. Isn’t it fascinating? I’m planning already to spend one week there…

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Massimo Banzi shows the new Arduino with wi-fi, developed in collaboration with Intel

Gran finale: one of the most exciting new things made with 3D printing was a whole car! The Strati, designed by the Italian designer Michele Anoé, and built by the U.S. company Local Motors. Very cool!

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The Strati

Two delegations from Germany & Italy plus people from many other countries including Australia, Sweden, Korea and Jordan: they were all together last night at Brooklyn Borough Hall to discuss “challenges and rewards of starting up in New York City from abroad”.

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It was a great crowd, thanks to New York International, an organization founded three years ago by Stefanie Lemcke, who is originally from Germany. “We want to help startups from all over the world to make it here – explained Stefanie -. The idea is that New York can become the global urban entrepreneurial hub”.

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Stefanie moderated a discussion where I was one of the panelists, explaining what I found out interviewing NYC entrepreneurs and investors for “Tech and the City”: the importance of the quality of life; the energy and the “animal spirit” of startups’ founders; the money, generosity and “give back” philosophy of investors, are all important reasons why people want to settle down here and why the NYC tech community is so successful.

Case in point: another panelist, Borahm Cho – who is Korean but raised in Germany – said he decided to move here from Berlin because he liked “the overlapping of all sectors and industries in NYC, the interaction among people and ideas…”. Borahm founded in NYC kitchensurfing, a network of chefs who come and cook in your home. He said he couldn’t have done it in Germany: “Berlin is ten years behind Brooklyn, Germans are not so open about new ideas”.

Indeed I was surprised to hear from the Berlin startups that Germany is not so different from Italy in terms of how conservative the business and investment environment is. That’s why they look to NYC and the US as an opportunity to grow and expand globally.

So it’s not a coincidence that the same week in NYC there were two delegations of startups, one from Germany and one from Italy. The latter was organized by InnovAction Lab: a program for university students who are interested in building a company. So far they have involved more than 700 young people and generated about 30 startups, raising 5 million euros. Every year they launch a contest and the winners go to a trip abroad to learn about local tech community. The last edition winners are SOLO and Slapped, and they are here in NYC to meet a lot of startups and investors. Their mentor Roberto Magnifico launched the invitation to Stefanie and New York International to go to Rome and start a collaboration with the Italian startups. Good luck to all of them!

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In the photo above: Roberto Magnifico (right) during the final event of InnovAction Lab 2014, in Rome

At Brooklyn Borough Hall the other two panelists were the Australian Robert Petty, founder and CEO of Sports195, and Jonathan Askin, tech law professor at the Brooklyn Law School.

Before the panel discussion there were other speakers: Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, about job opportunity for young people in the world; Albert Wenger, partner at Union Square Ventures, about disruption and innovation; Kyle Kimball, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, about how the city can help international entrepreneurs get started and succeed.

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“Making it in NYC” is the title of the discussion organized by New York International, which will take place at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 4, 6-9 pm (it’s free: register here).

I’m very excited to be one of the panelist together with Robert Petty, CEO Sports195, Australia and Borahm Cho, Co-founder Kitchensurfing, Germany. Moderator: Stefanie Lemcke, Founder New York International.

“The topic – according to the program – will focus on challenges and rewards of starting up in New York City from abroad as well as tips for international expansion and some resources that the city can provide international startups. The panel will include experts from three countries who have either started a business in NYC, or have insight into the startup / tech ecosystem in NYC. We aim to foster the exchange of experiences and expectations for 2015 both in New York City and international cities. In addition, how can cities better facilitate international startup expansion?”

A delegation of startups from Berlin and another one from Rome, organized by InnovActionLab, will attend the event.

Well, as they say, if you can make it in New York…

 

Tech is also fun and art in New York. If you don’t believe it, go and visit NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial, the exhibition that opened on July 1st at the Museum of Arts and Design (going on until October 12, 2 Columbus Circle, NYC). You can see the work of 100 makers, artisans, artists, and designers that are based in the City and were selected by a jury to represent the highest level of skill in their respective field. Some of them use technology to create their work in very interesting ways.

«Since its founding, the Museum of Arts and Design has championed the way that artists and designers transform the world around us, using both traditional and cutting-edge creative processes – explains MAD’s new director Glenn Adamson -. This exhibition reflects this core mission across the full range of crafted production, and establishes a new paradigm of 21st-century making as an engine for creative industry». Here you are some of the works that impressed me more.

On the 4th floor there is the wearable technology by Aisen Caro Chacin, who has been featured as an “Inventor in Future Tech” by Discovery Channel. «She is also a bucket of ideas open to merge and exchange with other buckets… to create cooperative work», says her website. Now she focuses on Human Computer Interaction HCI, designing new interfaces for information display. For example “Play-A-Grill” is a mouthpiece that allows the wearer experience sound through the jawbone and skull instead of the ears, and “Echolocation Headphones” allow the wearer to determine space through parametric sound, like a bat.

Aisen Caro Chacin with her wearable technology

Aisen Caro Chacin with her wearable technology

On the 5th floor you’ll admire “Echo Hat” by H E I D I L E E. “It’s made with 3D printing by Shapeways”, tells me the artist Heidi Lee, who is wearing a smaller red version of the hat. Shapeways has the largest 3D printing manufacturing facility in NYC, called the “Factory of the Future,” in Long Island City, Queens.

Heidi Lee or H E I D I L E E with one of her 3D printed hat

Heidi Lee or H E I D I L E E with one of her 3D printed hat

“Synth Spin Table” is a turntable-based synthesizer, one of the many possible applications of littleBits, which is “the most versatile way to learn and prototype with electronics”. In other words it’s a sort of Lego teaching about the basics of electronics. Each bit has a specific  function – light, sound, sensors, activators, motors, etc. – and modules snap together to make larger circuits.

“Synth Spin Table” by littleBits

“Synth Spin Table” by littleBits

The Italian Federico Zannier is one of the team of engineers and designers who created in New York “Power Clip prototype 2.0”. The others are Robin Reid, Phil Groman, and Surya Mattu. The PowerClip is a device that gives first responders immediate access to power in the wake of an emergency, such as Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The compact unit provides an efficient and inexpensive power source to charge appliances through USB from a car battery. “It is included in the Biennial – reads the catalogue – not only to signal respect for the work of skilled prototypers, but also because it exemplifies the empowering dimension of new design”.

“Power Clip prototype 2.0”

“Power Clip prototype 2.0”

The Italian featured in the exhibition is much more famous: the architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, who since 1980 has been living and working in New York, in his Soho studio. He’s known for embracing new and unexpected materials in his designs: here you see a sort of “liquid” screen made of resin, “Ritratto di quello che non guarda (o almeno così sembra…)” or “Portrait of the one who doesn’t look (or at least it doesn’t seems so…)”.

Gaetano Pesce’s “Ritratto di quello che non guarda  (o almeno così sembra…)”

Gaetano Pesce’s “Ritratto di quello che non guarda (o almeno così sembra…)”

Finally, I got attracted by “The DeptKit”: an open-source software and hardware, which allows filmmakers to augment video with data 3D scanned from a depth-sensing camera. It’s and ongoing project by the developer James George, the experimental photographer Alexander Porter, and the documentarian Jonathan Minard. “The DepthKit invites you to imagine the future of filmmaking – reads its website -. Repurposing the depth sensing camera from the Microsoft Kinect or Asus Xtion Pro as an accessory to your HD DSLR camera, the open source hardware and software captures and visualizes the world as mesmerizing wireframe forms. A CGI and video hybrid, the data can be rephotographed from any angle in post.” I played with it for a while, and here is the result:

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Tips: MAD has a museum store with made in NYC objects, including wonderful jewels (http://thestore.madmuseum.org/ ); and of the top floor there is Robert restaurant with stunning views and live jazz on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Fridays (http://robertnyc.com/ ).

NB: Originally published on StartupItalia!