October is Italy Culture Month in New York. This year the Italian Heritage & Culture Committee of New York has chosen the theme “Italian Creativity – 1965 New York World’s Fair / 2015 Expo Milano – Celebrating 50 Years of Science and Technology”. Here is why.
“The first desktop computer in the world”: that is how America welcomed the launching of the new machine “Programma 101 (P 101) in New York in October 1965. A small group of “riotous” young Italian engineers lead by Pier Giorgio Perotto had created the machine at Olivetti, the Italian calculator manufacturer. At that time there were still very few computers; they were big and available to experts only. Instead, P101 could fit on a desktop and could be accessible to a simple employee. Its success was so huge that the US space agency NASA bought it and used it for its first mission to the moon (Apollo 11). Since then, Italy has continued to make significant contributions to the progress of technology. It is great history, with many Italian heroes!
In 1971, the Italian-American Federico Faggin created “Intel 4004″, the first microprocessor in the world. Faggin is one of last century’s greatest inventors , because his ” computer on a chip” sparked the digital revolution which has changed our lives. Today’s microchips are the “brain” in each of the “smart” devices we carry with us. That is why, in 2010, President Obama awarded Faggin the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the top recognition for technology innovators. In 1983, Nerio Alessandri , from Cesena in Emilia Romagna, hand built “Unica” in his garage, then started the wellness empire Technogym, the first company with Internet-embedded fitness machines . These have been used as the official training equipment at the last six Olympic games.
If FIAT , the Italian car manufacturer , was able to acquire Chrysler in 2009, it was in large part thanks to the “Common Rail”, a technology invented by Mario Ricco at the FIAT Research Center in Bari in Apulia , south of Italy, in the 90’s: it is a direct fuel injection system that lowers the emissions of polluting gases and increases performance. Since then it has been adopted by all car makers all over the world. In 2005, in Cornaredo (Milan), Benedetto Vigna, a nuclear physicist, and engineer Bruno Murari invented the accelerometer, the first of the new MEMS ( Micro – Electronic-Mechanical Systems): with the advantage of being tiny and inexpensive , they render any device or appliance “smart”, from a smartphone to a washing machine.
In the same year, in Pisa, scientist Maria Chiara Carrozza headed the creation of a new type of cybernetic prosthesis ” Cyberhand”. In Genoa, scientists Roberto Cingolani and Giorgio Metta invented the baby robot “iCub”.
In Ivrea , Piedmont, Massimo Banzi developed “Arduino”, the open source hardware and software platforms which makers all over the world have been using , thus revolutionizing manufacturing. In 2007, in Versilia , Tuscany, Enrico Dini built “D-Shape”, the first 3D printer to make very large objects, and in Minerbio (Bologna), Marco Astorri and Guy Cicognani produced the first “clean” plastic out of waste and bacteria. In 2014, the “Strati”, the first car printed entirely in 3D, was built in the USA, but had been designed in Italy by Michele Anoe . All the above mentioned Italians have in common innovation and courage, the true ingredients for the best ” Made in Italy”. And the best has yet to come!
Good news for startups! New York City ranked first in a survey of 40 global cities, in the way it utilizes technology to foster an innovative economy. Read what NYCEDC’s Blog writes:
In its first ever study of economic innovation, City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CITIE) named New York City #1 in the world for a public policy ecosystem that is supportive of startups. Placing ahead of London, Helsinki, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, New York City’s long-term investment in tech appears to have paid off. The 56-page study, sponsored by British charity Nesta, management consultancy firm Accenture, and Future Cities Catapult, analyzed 40 international cities in dimensions including “openness, infrastructure, and leadership.”
New York City’s greatest strength was its role as a strategist, developing world-class infrastructure that allows for clear, consistent development and innovation. The NYCEDC-led Applied Sciences Initiative, based at the Cornell-Tech Campus, helped carve out a physical campus that helped anchor, and demonstrated the City’s commitment to the tech sector.
“New York City prioritized innovation and entrepreneurship earlier than other comparable cities, [taking] an extremely active stance towards its start-up and tech communities over the last few years.”
The City also ranked highly as an advocate, customer, host, investor, “digital governor” (enabling citizens’ use of tech through open data programs like the BigApps competition), and “datavore” (optimizing city services and maintaining open communication with the public).
The report found New York City’s only shortcoming to be the regulation of some of the technology it otherwise encourages. Cities around the world face the common challenge of regulating newer business models in the sharing economy. Particular praise was given to New York City’s investment in its youth, highlighting apprenticeships in the tech industry and the use of coding courses in New York City school curriculums as evidence of Mayor de Blasio’s goal of making the tech sector more inclusive and accessible.
“As New York City’s relatively young tech sector continues to grow,” the report concludes, “the City can feel confident that it is doing its bit to provide the right conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish.”
(Originally published on StartupItalia! )
Do you have an American Dream? You may come to New York and see how difficult or easy it is to pursue it, thanks to ICE’s hospitality. In fact the Italian Trade Commission has opened its doors to Italian startups willing to test the water.
It’s part of its new commitment to help Italian startups to enter the American market.
That’s good news to begin the new year with, while on the other hand the project of creating a space in New York for European startups has been stalled.
First, the good news. The Italian Trade Commission has a prestigious location in New York, a townhouse on 67th street, close to Fifth Avenue. The director Pier Paolo Celeste, who is also the coordinator of all ICE offices in the US, has just announced the launch of the bimonthly newsletter “SUV –StartUp Value”. The goal is to inform about the high-tech sector in North America.
“We will tell you the sentiment from NYC and Los Angeles, the two areas that are more involved in technology innovation – explained Mr. Celeste -. We’ll tell you which actions are the most effective in order to be heard in the cradle of startups. We’ll inform about the most important initiatives in this industry such as trade shows, conferences, job markets and so on”.
The first issue of the newsletter will be out in February: you may receive it sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also send ideas, suggestions and questions to email@example.com. And – as I wrote earlier – you may ask to be hosted for a while at ICE’s offices in New York. The space is limited but free, and some Italians have already taken advantage of this opportunity, for example the founders of Qwikword, a “new social media app” that launched its operations last October.
Now, the bad news. You may remember that in November 2013 Talent Garden was one of the 20 finalists at the H.E.L.M. (Hire + Expand in Lower Manhattan) competition. Since then Elio Narciso has been trying to find partners to open the first international co-working space in New York. Last year the idea was to work with the European American Chambers of Commerce in the United States (EACC) and create a “Euro Garden” or “The leading hub for European entrepreneurs in the US”.
Talent Garden and the EACC tried to get funding and space from the new START-UP NY program launched in 2014 by the New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: the creation of tax-free zones across the state for new and expanding businesses. But they were offered locations far away from New York City, because the program wants to stimulate economic growth in underdeveloped areas upstate NY. Besides, the program offers tax incentives, but not cash money. Actually, according to some critics, Cuomo’s startup program has not been a great success so far, that’s why “the Empire State Development Corp. quietly announced it’s delaying its promised report on START-UP NY by four months”, wrote Claudia Tenney on the New York Post.
Anyway, at this point the Euro Garden is still a dream, but not dead yet. In four weeks or so the EACC board will meet to discuss the project again and see if it is feasible with private funding.
Qwikword was founded in 2013 by Gianmarco Crismale, Fulvio Menegozzo, Matteo Pivetta, Alberto Grimaldi and Luca Monfredo, and because of its global ambitions it chose to be headquartered in New York City with satellite offices located in Italy and Hong Kong.
(Originally posted on StartupItalia!)
Italian tech entrepreneurs and all non US startups thinking of coming to New York have a new friend in the Big Apple: Gianluca Galletto, who has just been appointed Director of International Affairs at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
Gianluca was born in Taranto, 45 years ago. He’s been a New Yorker since 1998, now he lives in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and he holds both Italian and US citizenship. “This is my dream job: I can use my experience in finance and my passion for policy making, working for a public administration I believe in”, he explained to me from his office, Downtown Manhattan.
NYCEDC is a not-for- profit entity that reports directly to the Mayor’s Office and is responsible for encouraging the economic development of the city. It’s organized like a private business and is always interacting with the private sector. It has been the catalyst of initiatives such as the creation of Cornell Tech in New York. One of the divisions of NYCEDC is the Center for Economic Transformation (CET), a bridge between Government and private entrepreneurs, including those in the high-tech sector. It is CET that has helped launch 15 startup incubators across New York City’s five boroughs.
Its role is to assist all the stakeholders, including the building managers and the operators who want to manage an incubator: it gives some public money only to facilitate the startup phase, while responsibility for the functioning of the incubator, and its profit and loss, is up to the private partners, which the CET continues to monitor as long as it is needed.
EDC’s mission is inclusive growth
Gianluca’s office, with a staff of four people, is part of CET. He oversees the international programs that support the three pillar strategy of NYCEDC: physical transformation, industry transformation through innovation and entrepreneurship, income mobility and reduction of income inequality. Gianluca stresses that under Mayor de Blasio NYC «EDC’s mission is “inclusive growth”.
New York attracts the best talents from all over the world already, but it’s never enough according to Gianluca: global competition is growing too, and other cities such as London, Dubai, Hong Kong are competing to become international hubs for innovation and for the tech industry. “My task will be to leverage NYC brand to attract even more talents, startups, direct investments from abroad,” goes on Gianluca.
Right now Gianluca is elaborating his strategic plan and thinking of new ideas. One is to find new ways to involve also non American partners in creating incubators. Another one is to increase the size and depth of “World to NYC” programs, which are currently two per year. He wants to combine them into one much larger program per year with a multi-sector focus. He’s also thinking of organizing educational and training programs such as exchanges of students, young entrepreneurs and civil servants between NYC and non US cities. In fact Gianluca believes that civil servants should go and learn from other experiences, and NYC should exchange best practices with other cities.
Keeping the NYC’s tech industry growing
Gianluca’s intention is to work closely with other NYC agencies, including the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, which operates from the United Nations headquarters and takes care of relationships with other countries’ representatives; and NYC & Company, the City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization. He’ll work also with the Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State’s chief economic development agency, which has just launched the START-UP NY initiative to create tax free communities for new and expanding businesses on SUNY and other university campuses across the state.
Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is a tech entrepreneur himself, played a great role in fostering the city’s tech industry in order to re-launch the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. After him, the city’s startup community didn’t know what to expect from the new Mayor. “De Blasio is very committed to keeping the city’s tech industry growing – says Gianluca -. He has just appointed the first ever Chief Technology Officer of the City, Minerva Tantoco, a veteran of the tech industry who has worked with both startups and large enterprises over the last 25 years, and we have just launched the new website Digital.nyc”. The latter is “The Hub for tech and startup” or “the result of a partnership between NYCEDC and NYC-based Gust to create a one-stop-shop for all things tech in New York City” (as you can read here).
Gianluca came to the US in 1996 to study international Economics at Yale with a Fulbright scholarship. Previously he had studied Economics, Business and Law at Università Bocconi in Milan. From 1993 to 1996 he worked in Brussels, Belgium, for the European Commission and private clients.
At Yale Gianluca found a great mentor, Professor Emeritus of Political Science & Management Joseph LaPalombara and that changed his vision of the world: that’s why he decided he wanted to stay in the US and to live in NYC. After graduating at Yale in ’98, Gianluca got a job in New York at the global credit asset manager Muzinich & Co, where he worked until 2009. Then he set up his consulting firm and from 2011 until he joined NYC EDC, Gianluca was also the co-lead/Senior Advisor of Italian Business & Investment Initiative (IB&II), an organization that is “committed to promoting Italy’s start-ups & small and medium size enterprises” and that is a partner of Mind the Bridge.
Gianluca’s passion has always been politics and policy. He met Bill de Blasio while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2000, when she was running for senator. When Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor, Gianluca thought it was his occasion to contribute to the new administration, putting to work his international experience in business. Now his dream has come true.
Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Alley in New York are not the only tech ecosystems in America where an Italian entrepreneur can find exciting opportunities to grow. It depends on the kind of business you are into. That’s the lesson learned by Davide Rossi, a 38-years-old Italian mechanical engineer from Badia Polesine, a small town close to Rovigo. Last March Rossi moved his startup FitBark from New York to Kansas City, Missouri, where he feels “at home”. FitBark was recently mentioned by the WSJ as one of the emerging startups in the new business of fitness tracking for dogs. This is his story.
After working in the family business (model racing cars) and in the oil industry in Qatar and India, Rossi earned an MBA at MIT in 2010 and decided to remain in the United States. “In Italy it’s so difficult to start a new business – says Rossi -. A friend of mine invested 40,000 Euros in a bar in my home town and after nine months he had not got a license to operate yet. So he poured gasoline on himself and threatened to set himself on fire outside the town hall. In this way he got the license in 14 days”.
In 2012 Rossi settled down in New York City, working with Deutsche Bank in the fin-tech division and also consulting for a California-based software company. Initially Rossi wanted to stay in NYC because he found it easier to build a network of contacts in Silicon Alley. Passionate about the Internet of things, he was studying a product in this field and he ended up with the idea of a health and activity tracker for dogs. “I thought that if a technology is useful to humans to get healthier, it’s even more useful to creatures that don’t speak and stay alone for long stretches of time, our dogs”, explains Rossi, who owns a furry Yorkshire, Freud.
That’s how FitBark was born: it’s “the world’s tiniest wireless activity tracker” for dogs of any size, made in the shape of a tiny dog-bone, reads its website. It collects physical activity and rest levels 24/7”, sending all data to the dogs’ owners on their iPhones or Android smartphones and also to their vets, in order to monitor dogs’ long-term health trends.
The failure before the success
In April 2013 Rossi launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for FitBark, but the first attempt failed. What did he learn from that? “The campaign was poorly organized, we didn’t understand that on a platform like Kickstarter, where you have max 60 days to reach your goal, the very first days are crucial to get support and attract the attention of backers – says Rossi -. Above all, the pricing was wrong. We asked for a monthly fee to use FitBark, and that’s not the right choice for a new device”.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again. So Rossi re-launched the FitBark campaign a few months later, in July, and this time he succeeded: he raised over $80,000 or 231% of his goal. “We orchestrated all our efforts to get as many backers as possible the first day: that’s the way to be profiled as a popular project by Kickstarter and get more visibility – explains Rossi -. We also changed the pricing: now Fitbark costs $99 upfront with no other fees”.
Notwithstanding that success, Rossi wasn’t able to build a strong network of contacts with investors in New York. Luckily, the NYC branch of TechStars told him that he could apply to the TechStars program in Kansas City, which was a better fit for his business. “It was not easy to get into TechStars, they are more selective than an Ivy League school,” says Rossi.
Kansas City, the Silicon Valley for animal health
TechStars is an accelerator and incubator that provides seed money and three months of intense mentorship: at the end, startups present their business to potential investors. The program has multiple locations: in Kansas City it’s sponsored by the mobile operator Sprint and focuses on “mobile health”. “We moved there in March 2014 and discovered that Kansas City is a sort of Silicon Valley for animal health – explains Rossi -. Here there are more than 300 companies in the food and pharmaceutical industry for animals, representing 56% of global revenues in this business. We sell our product to consumers, but it’s those companies that are interested in the data we collect about dogs’ health”.
In Kansas City Rossi has been able to refine his strategy towards consumers, find investors (one round of seed money raised among angels but not disclosed) and sign partnerships with corporations. “TechStarts has been very important for introducing us to investors – points out Rossi -, but the whole city played a big role too, rooting for us to succeed”.
“Our potential customers are people who spend $20-80 a day in daycare and dog walkers for their pets, or spend thousands of dollars for their dogs’ health problems, or use fitness trackers for themselves – goes on Rossi -. On the other hand we can give the data we collect about dogs’ health to companies that do research to develop new drugs and food for dogs: they can monitor the effects of their products on dogs wearing FitBark”.
FitBark is still in private beta but Rossi expects to ship the first batch of devices soon, starting in the US and Canada. “We have already orders from 45 countries including Italy – says Rossi -. The device is made in USA, by a manufacturer in the Nord East. It’s important for us being close to the factory in this initial phase.”
Together with Rossi in Kansas City there is his sister Sara, in charge of marketing. In all it’s a team of eight people, half based out of the US. “Of course I miss New York – admits Rossi -. But also Kansas City has a vibrant and growing startup ecosystem. AOL founder Steve Case has spent a few days here, recently, to talk with the community. The Kaufmann Foundation, focused on entrepreneurship, is based here. Google Fiber started here connecting houses to high-speed Internet. And we were very happy that the Italian Ambassador to the U.S., Claudio Bisogniero, was in town on November 17 meeting the Italian-American community, including businessmen like us”.
Note: this story appeared first on StartupItalia!
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 City” is 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.
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 ).
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.
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.
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.
Left: P101 linked to Arduino. Right: il humanoid robot iCub, a star in the exhibition
Also the Mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino (center: with a blue tie) visited Maker Faire Rome