Search Results For "Make in Italy"


Full house at the Italian Cultural Institute (ICI) of New York for the opening of the exhibition “MAKE IN ITALY – 50 YEARS OF ITALIAN BREAKTHROUGHS: FROM THE FIRST PC TO THE FIRST SPACE-BOUND ESPRESSO MACHINE”, on November 12, 2015. More than 200 people showed up.  Giorgio van Straten, writer and ICI Director (standing in the photo above), welcomed the audience and said he was happy the exhibition would be visited by hundreds of American students who learn Italian in the NY-NJ-CT schools supported by IACE (Italian American Committee on Education). They would learn that Italians are excellent not only in arts, fashion and food, but in technology too.


Joseph Sciame, President and Chair of the Italian Heritage & Culture Committee of New York (in the photo above, holding the poster), dedicated the month of October to “Italian creativity in technology”, the same theme of the exhibition. He said that celebrating Italian contributions to progress in technology was very important for the Italian-Americans like himself, feeling proud about it.


Gianluca Galletto,‎ Director of International Affairs at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (standing with blue tie in the photo above) spoke about how Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration wants to create the best business environment for tech entrepreneurs. He said that startups can grow having operations both in Italy and in NYC, and taking advantage of the best of the two worlds.


Riccardo Luna, the Italian Digital Champion (standing with a mike in the photo above) and Maria Teresa Cometto (same photo) were the curators of the exhibition and the moderators of the panel discussion at the opening. Luna remembered that on October 14, in Rome, he went to visit the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi with Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino Project, and with Giovanni De Sandre and Gastone Garziera, two of the creators of P101, “The first personal computer in the world”. It was exactly the 50th anniversary of the P101 launch in NYC. “Why remember all this? – asked Luna -. It’s important to define the identity of a community and find a mission. We must remember to the Americans what we accomplished, but also to ourselves. In order to tell us that we can make it also in the future.”


Massimo Banzi (talking in the photo above) told the story of how the Arduino Project was born in Ivrea ten years ago. It was created for students of the Interaction Design Institute, at Olivetti’s “Casa Blu” in Ivrea, as an easy tool for fast prototyping without a background in electronics and programming. Arduino is an open-source  platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. “With it, you don’t need anybody’s permission to innovate!”, said Banzi.


“Everybody in the US knows the story of Microsoft and Bill Gates, and of Apple and Steve Jobs, because America celebrates success stories. In Italy we should do it too”, said Alessandro Piol (talking on the photo above), co-founder at AlphaPrime Ventures and son of Elserino Piol, the Italian “father” of venture capital. Alessandro reminded that there are many excellent Italian engineers, educated at great universities, but too often they move abroad looking for better business opportunities.


“Olivetti is still operating, and engaged in the new digital technologies”, said Olivetti CEO Riccardo Delleani (talking in the photo on the left). In fact in the exhibition there was a new 3D printing machine made by Olivetti. And talking about 3D printing, Enrico Dini (talking in the photo on the right), aka “the man who prints houses”, promised that in 2016 he’ll print a whole house upstate New York to showcase the technology he developed with his startup D-Shape.


David Avino (talking in the photo on the left), the founder and CEO of Argotec, explained why he made the ISSpresso space-bound coffe machine with Lavazza. “It’s not a publicity stunt – he said -. Its sophisticated technology will be applied to products for everybody on Earth. And NASA is buying ISSpresso because it is a way to keep happy the astronauts, who live for months in a small room and need to relax and recharge”.

And talking about Italian coffee and food, Oscar Farinetti, the founder of Eataly, made a surprise appearance (talking in the photo on the right). Actually, he is an innovator too, because the formula of Italy’s marketplace & restaurant is totally original showcasing the best of Made in Italy.


At the end there were refreshments, courtesy of Beretta and Lavazza.

And a lot of enthusiasm for possible future initiatives in NYC about innovation by Italians.


Make in Italy locandina JPEG

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.

IMG_1695 IMG_1322

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. 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.

IMG_1739 IMG_1740

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.

IMG_1350 IMG_1395

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

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!

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.


(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!


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.


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.

IMG_1481 IMG_1478

 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…

IMG_1484 IMG_1485

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!

IMG_1471 IMG_1472

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”.


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”.


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!

23 giugno 2014 Roma InnovAction - 1

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.


The Times They Are a-Changin’… also in Italy, thanks of a new generation of startuppers who don’t wait anymore for something/somebody else, but take their own destiny in their hands. So said Riccardo Luna – (first from right in the photo) the founder of and author of  Cambiamo tutto! Let’s change everything! The revolution of innovators” (Laterza, 2013) – yesterday at the discussion about tech communities in Italy and in New York, which took place at the Italian Cultural Institute (ICI) in New York.


The event was organized by the Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation (ISSNAF)’s co-chair Riccardo Lattanzi, who is assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine (second from left in the photo). Riccardo Viale, the director of ICI, was the moderator (third from left) and I was another panelist together with Micah Kotch, director of Innovation and entrepreneurship at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (first from left).


With an audience of 40-50 people full of researchers and professors, one hot theme was the role of universities in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. New York is trying to replicate the Stanford-Silicon Valley model – I recalled – with the creation of the Cornell NYC Tech on Roosevelt island, the most ambitious project of the Bloomberg administration, which has also triggered a healthy competition with the other academic institutions in the city: NYU-Poly is building the new Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) in Brooklyn and Columbia is building the new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering in Morningside Heights and Washington Heights.


“But the university alone cannot create an ecosystem”, warned Kotch, inviting the Italians who want to build tech communities and re-launch innovation in their country to have a very long term approach: “You need a cathedral vision. When they started building the Duomo of Milan they knew it wouldn’t be finished in one generation. You must start a project knowing it will take a very long time to be accomplished. And you should start pushing for education reform to get students excited for sciences and math from a very early stage, that is already from the elementary school. Which is, by the way, a problem in the United States too”.


Startup communities is a global phenomenon, said Kotch, so the good news is that they can grow anywhere . It’s happening in Italy – said Luna – mentioning a few important events going on these days, such as TechCrunchItaly in Rome (September 26-27) and the first European Maker Faire in Rome (October 3-6). “Some startuppers will meet government officers at Palazzo Chigi, and that will send the message that startups are officially important in Italy for policy makers too”, stressed Luna, adding a warning: “We shouldn’t waste this enthusiasm, otherwise in two years all these startuppers will be hugely disappointed and ready to leave the country”.


The success of the New York Tech community – which is the subject of our book – is studied abroad by entrepreneurs, investors, scholars, and policy makers. It happens especially in Italy, where there are a lot of brilliant young people, including great engineers from the best “Politecnici”, who cannot find funding for their business ideas nor a regular job. However also in Italy things are changing thanks to many young people who are risking and building their own startups. What’s different and what is there in common between the NYC tech community and the Italian tech communities?

We’ll talk about that Monday, 23rd September 2013 at 6:00 p.m. @ the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, 686 Park Avenue. The Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation has organized the event. The panelist are, besides Maria Teresa: Riccardo Luna, founder of and author of  Cambiamo tutto! the revolution of innovators”; Micah Kotch, Director of Innovation and entrepreneurship, Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Thanks to Riccardo Lattanzi, Ass. Professor, New York University School of Medicine and co-chair ISSNAF NY Chapter, for organizing the event!

23 September 2013 startup in NYC and in Italy - 123 September 2013 startup in NYC and in Italy - 2


PHILADELPHIA – Yesterday, April the 4th, Alessandro and I attended the XXI AISLLI Conference at the University of Pennsylvania: “Italicity. The Languages of Italy in the United States between Tradition and Innovation”. AISLLI (Associazione Internazionale per gli Studi di Lingua e Letteratura Italiana) is the only International Association of Italian Studies at the university level, a member of the International Federation for Modern Languages and Literature of the UNESCO, and it is supported by scholars and politicians all over the world. Professor Fabio Finotti organized the event putting together an interesting mix of cultural lectures and discussions about business. Language & business are strictly related, stressed Piero Bassetti, a Cornell alumni, former President of the Italian Association of Chambers of Commerce Abroad (CCIE) and currently President of the think tank Globus et Locus, besides being a member of AISLLI scientific committee.


Alessandro and I were invited to talk about “Tech and the City”, which is meant also to be a bridge between the US and Italy. It was the occasion for us to recap our Italian book tour, which went from March 13 to 27 and was really interesting. Here is what we told the audience.


 “Thanks to our creative and multicultural spirit, which is rooted in Italian history, we can be very successful in the digital economy”.  That’s what a very enthusiastic young entrepreneur – Massimiliano Brigonzi, 21 year old – said in Novara where we held one of the events of our book tour in Italy last month.

We had meetings in Milan, Venice, Rome, Cagliari, Turin and Lugano, besides Novara, and we discovered that tech startups are becoming sexy and trendy also in Italy. Where a new generation of  “neo-peoples” – at ease in the global world – is growing and represents a ray of hope to get out of the long lasting economic crisis.

The digital economy offers huge opportunities to glocal businesses. A good example is one of the most successful startups in New York that we profiled  in “Tech and the City”: Etsy, which is an online marketplace where artisans and craftsmen can display their own hand made creations, in their own virtual shops, and sell them. Etsy is based in Brooklyn and is used by over 800,000 artisans in 150 countries, Italy included. So a young artist who makes jewels or clothes or furniture in Italy can directly reach any customer anywhere in the world, without the any intermediation. Etsy was founded in 2005 by Robert Kalin, a penniless 24- year-old with a passion for do-it-yourself  and the problem of finding the right online site where he could sell his wares. His philosophy, carried on by the current CEO of Etsy Chad Dickerson, is about  “human scale economies” and a different model of economic growth, based on small businesses around the world that build local, living economies. It’s the peer-to-peer economy, according to the creator of Meetup Scott Heiferman; and it works, because since 2009 the company has been profitable, with prominent venture capitalists backing it and making it worth 600 million dollars. It’s interesting to notice that Etsy’s headquarters  in Brooklyn – where only things produced by its own artisans are on display – were designed by a young Italian designer, Sara Matiz, who is based in New York and has created also our book cover.

A startup like Etsy could be built in Italy too. In fact one recurrent theme of the discussions in our book tour was how Italian cities can learn to leverage their own skills and tradition to grow as well as the City of New York did.

In Milan for example the Dean of Politecnico Giovanni Azzone stressed the similarities between the Italian capital of fashion, design, media, advertising and finance, and New York. He reminded that Milan has been already reinventing itself from being an industrial city and can do more, by combining technology and innovation on one hand and design and culture on the other hand.  In Milan there are already a few initiatives that foster startups and that have high ambitions: the accelerator, incubator & venture capital firm Digital Magics, which is going to be listed at the Italian stock exchange; CoworkingLogin and Talent Garden, two co-working spaces that we have visited, meeting with young people who have the same enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit that you can see in similar spaces in NYC.

Talent garden in fact has the ambition to set up its own campus in Manhattan. It was founded in Brescia in 2011, and it already has a presence in Bergamo, Padua, and Turin, besides Milan. “Our dream is to launch a Talent Garden ecosystem in every city in the world, an idea based on the Silicon Valley example,” you can read on their website. “We hope to build a big community of minds, a vast network of shared resources where every single member has the best possible opportunities to develop ideas and projects, independently of where in the world they may be from. Talented people should be able to collaborate with one another and interface with businesses, entrepreneurs and the media anywhere in the world as well as in their own country.”  It’s the same principle of exchange of ideas and collaboration among technological communities in various countries that inspires General Assembly, the largest “school- incubator-co-working space” in NYC.

Alessandro and I have interviewed in New York one of the partners of Talent garden, Elio Narciso, Internet entrepreneur and angel investor who, since 2004, has been shuttling between Italy and the United States after having earned an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of management. One of Narciso’s latest creations, Yoodeal, operates between New York and Milan: it’s an online personal shopping service created in March 2011 and currently launched in Italy and Spain, but soon to be launched in other markets. Narciso’s business model is the same already proved successful for many Israeli entrepreneurs: using resident European talent for the engineering and technological staff, keeping it in Europe because there it’s cheaper and more loyal, while setting up the sales and marketing team in NY, looking for customers and capital funding in America. In other words Narciso is the typical new kind of Italian or Italic entrepreneur who can thrive going back and forth different markets and cultures, taking advantage of the best of them.

In our Italian book tour we saw other experiments of  building a global presence with Italian roots. One is in Venice, which is not at all a dying city: in its heart the Ca’ Foscari university is developing an Innovation center and is transforming its operating way towards a dynamic and global cultural hub, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of its dean Carlo Carraro. For example ca’ Foscari is going to launch a new master focused on technology startups in collaboration with the H-Farm, the “human farm” that grows tech talent in the countryside, 30 minutes from Venice. It was created by Riccardo Donadon  in 2005 and it hosts now 300 startuppers at different stages, from teams at the very early steps of a business idea to well established digital companies that work for famous Italian brands like the fashion firm Diesel, whose owner Renzo Rosso is also an investor in H-Farm. In May 2008 Donadon opened a second epicenter in Seattle, WA, USA amend he’s planning to open a third one in Mumbai, India.

In Novara the above mentioned Massimiliano works in an incubator (3N) that is linked to the faculty of Economy at the University of Piemonte Orientale. His company HintClub (a new kind of social network) was inspired by a trip to Silicon Valley, but he stressed that he chose to build it in a small community like Novara because he likes living there and it’s possible thanks to the new technologies.  3N is hosted by a foundation, Novara Sviluppo, together with other high-tech companies that are not only Italian but also from the US, Japan and Spain.

In Cagliari Renato Soru is revamping  his company, Tiscali, the first Internet provider in Italy. He’s launching new services such as an original search engine, iStella, which shares documents and content that so far had not been available online. During our book’s event Soru announced also the launch of an Open Campus within Tiscali for young people who are thinking of building a startup and need a space to share ideas and interact with other professionals and mentors.

In Rome, the new museum MAXXI can also open a new space to host meetups for creative young people coming from different fields and willing to operate and start new initiatives. So said Giovanna Melandri, the president of MAXXI, while talking about what Italy can take from the NY tech community.

What’s missing in Italy compared to New York – we learned from our book tour – is not only a government that supports entrepreneurs like Mayor Bloomberg has done in NYC. It’s also a better cooperation and a spirit of community among the many different protagonists of the tech scene. Many people we met observed that in Italy there is a sort of anarchic spirit prevailing, with more energies spent in rivalries and fighting than in building something together. Maybe that’s why the country is in such a mess also at the institutional and political level. Instead one lesson of “Tech and the City” is that you can have both a fierce competition on the free market – for clients, funds, talent – and a great collaboration to make the whole market grow and get more opportunities for everybody.


Did you know the first personal computer was invented by an Italian? As well as the first microchip and many other breakthroughs in technology. You will find out this and much more, when you visit the new exhibition “MAKE IN ITALY – 50 YEARS OF ITALIAN BREAKTHROUGHS: FROM THE FIRST PC TO THE FIRST SPACE-BOUND ESPRESSO MACHINE”, open at the Italian Cultural Institute (ICI) in New York from November 13 to November 25, Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm.

The opening is on November 12, at 6 pm, with the participation of many prestigious speakers: Giorgio van Straten, writer and ICI Director; Joseph Sciame, President and Chair of the Italian Heritage & Culture Committee of New York, which dedicated the month of October to “Italian creativity in technology”; Alessandro Piol, co-founder at AlphaPrime Ventures and son of Elserino Piol, the Italian “father” of venture capital; Massimo Banzi,  David Avino, Riccardo Delleani, protagonists of three of the innovations showcased in the exhibition. The panel discussion “What’s next for Italian creativity in technology?” will be moderated by Maria Teresa Cometto and Riccardo Luna, The Italian Digital Champion.

P101, the “first desktop computer”

The exhibition takes its cue from 1965, when a prototype of the Olivetti Programma 101 (P101), was presented at the World’s Fair in New York. “The first desktop computer in the world”: this is in fact how America welcomed the launch of P101 in New York in October 1965. A small group of “crazy” young Italian engineers led by Pier Giorgio Perotto created that machine at Olivetti, the Ivrea company then famous for its mechanical typewriters. In the ’60s computers were few, gigantic and available only for experts. Instead P101 could fit on a desktop, was friendly, and it could be used by a secretary; its success was so huge, that the US space agency NASA bought it and used it for the first mission to the moon. The P101 will be on display together with four other objects.

The second is Intel 4004: the first commercially available microprocessor in the history of computing, “a computer on a chip”. It was developed by Federico Faggin, a physicist who in 1968 went to Silicon Valley to work at Fairchild Semiconductor. There, Faggin invented the Silicon Gate Technology (SGT), which was crucial for the manufacturing of smaller, more reliable logic circuits. In 1970 Faggin was hired by Intel to build a new family of microchips. The idea was that the CPU (central processing unit) could be built on a single chip. Faggin not only used his SGT technology to create the microchip, but also designed the necessary methodology: a random logic, very different from the logic used for a memory card. Today microprocessors are used in everything, from the smallest embedded systems and smartphones to the largest supercomputers.

The third object is Arduino, an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn them into outputs – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. Its philosophy takes inspiration from the P101: easy to use and with a nice design – so nice, that in 2014 Arduino was introduced into MoMA’s collection. It was created in 2005 by Massimo Banzi, and four partners, for students of the Interaction Design Institute, at Olivetti’s “Casa Blu” in Ivrea, as an easy tool for fast prototyping without a background in electronics and programming. Now Arduino is used by a worldwide community of Makers: students, hobbyists, artists, programmers, and professionals.

Then there is ISSpresso, the first ever system for brewing espresso in the extreme conditions of outer space, created by two Turin-based companies, Argotec and Lavazza. The first “made-for-space coffee” was tasted on May 3, 2015, by Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), on the International Space Station (ISS). David Avino founded Argotec in 2008, an engineering and aerospace software company, specializing in astronauts’ training. Argotec research on nutritional food for astronauts, has led to the creation of healthy and tasty products now available for all. “The space-bound coffee machine idea came as the space meal’s natural conclusion”, explained Avino. The logical partner could only be Lavazza, because innovation and research have been a cornerstone of its history since Luigi Lavazza founded the company in 1895.

Cristoforetti 1

The astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti sipping Lavazza coffeeon the International Space Station

Finally, there is a new product from the Canavese, the so called “Silicon Valley of Italy”. It is the area around Ivrea, the city where Olivetti was founded in 1908 and still has its headquarters. Times have changed, but the Olivetti DNA and its legacy in terms of technological skills and entrepreneurial spirit are very much alive. Today in the Canavese there are hundreds of entrepreneurs, excelling in industries such as mechatronics and IT. It is an ecosystem that the new Olivetti (now part of TIM group) wants to leverage to launch its first 3D printer, aimed at small and medium-sized companies that need a faster and cheaper way to develop new products. The machine will be 100% made in the Ivrea area, and will use Arduino.

So, the exhibition is not only a celebration of a glorious past, but it wants to show that Italian creativity continues to combine tech innovation and cool style, and it is a means to open a discussion about Italy’s potential to grow thanks to its “brains” and entrepreneurial spirit.

(previously published on We the Italians )