To learn more about BonelliErede and why we selected it to join the Marketplace, we interviewed Giulia Bianchi Frangipane, partner and member of BonelliErede’s Innovation and Digital Transformation Focus Team, and Lorenzo Foot.
From a legislative point of view, what improvements could be made for the growth of Italian start-ups?
Although Italy’s VC market has been growing steadily over the years, it is still underdeveloped compared to other European countries. To cite just a few figures, in the third quarter of 2019, VC investments in Italy totalled approx. EUR 200 m, compared to 2.6 bn in the UK, 2 bn in Germany, and 1bn in France (source: Dealroom.co, Quarterly European Venture Capital report, Q3 2019). This goes to show how much harder it is for start-ups to raise equity finance and, hence, to scale up in Italy than elsewhere in Europe. Besides the Italian VC market being a bit behind the times, which is the result of numerous factors to address another day, the current emergency will inevitably have repercussions for the start-up sector.
Against this backdrop, government initiatives to support entrepreneurship and companies in their early stage of growth become indispensable. And this is especially true when aimed at encouraging investment and attracting capital, also from abroad and thereby increasing the competitiveness of start-ups at European and international level.
The government responded to the challenge with the recently enacted Relaunch Decree (Law Decree of 19 May 2020, No. 34). It introduces a series of measures designed to strengthen public support for the incorporation and development of innovative start-ups in Italy. One example is the mechanism that allows non-EU operators that invest in start-ups to obtain a particular type of visa: the minimum investment threshold has been slashed by half to EUR 250 k. Another welcome measure is the increase in the financial endowment and the extension of the capacity of action of the “Smart&Start Italia grant”. This grant is available to companies in Southern Italy and is aimed at reducing the North–South gap, which is considerable also in the VC sector: last year, a whopping 78% of the resources invested in the PE and VC sectors concerned Northern Italy (source: AIFI, 2019, the Italian private equity, venture capital and private debt market).
How do you assist start-ups and scaleups and what are the main issues they address to your law firm?
We assist start-ups from their very outset: from incorporation and the structuring and management of the cap table, through internal relationships, to opening up their capital to investors. Our multidisciplinary team also guides start-ups through all stages of their growth: the development and integration of technologies, the choice and use of tools to protect and exploit IP, the exploitation of data, national and international business development, and the management of client and supplier relationships (simplified through the use of advanced legal tools).
With over 20 years of helping companies reach their business goals – and handling many of the most important deals in Italy’s history – start-ups can rest assured that they will receive fast, efficient and viable advice for every challenge facing them.
Admittedly, the legal framework on innovative start-ups and SMEs (innovative and otherwise) is complex and patchy. But if exploited in the right way, innovative companies can gain greater flexibility than other limited companies, especially in terms of fundraising methods and structuring of the economic and administrative rights of shareholders and investors. That is why understanding the individual needs and challenges of each and every client is so important, as that combined with our in-depth knowledge of the legislation enables us to take full advantage of the legislation to devise investment solutions tailored to the given client’s needs and desires.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, have you started initiatives or actions to support Italian business system?
At the very outset we set up a task force to give businesses immediate access to concrete help, especially in interpreting and applying the constant slew of measures being introduced. To ensure no stone is left unturned, the task force is made up of experts from all our practice areas, covering: administrative, banking and finance, bankruptcy, civil and commercial contracts, competition/antitrust, compliance, corporate, corporate crime, court proceedings, employment, healthcare and life sciences, international arbitration, privacy, shipping and transport, and tax.
We have also placed our expertise at the disposal of the authorities and have been actively involved in some of their work.
Another key area of focus is contributing to initiatives to give the needed support to the healthcare system. One such example is the Buzzi Children’s Hospital Foundation in Milan, besides joining their fundraising campaign for medical equipment for ICU, we are also helping with the coordination of the working group it set up to help with the supply of indispensable, quality health equipment. The group is forging ahead with a myriad of initiatives, which many of our professionals are putting their skills to work on, including searching for and liaising with suppliers, negotiating the purchase of the most urgently needed equipment, and supporting businesses that are willing to adapt their production lines in order to help meet demand.
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