Local Promotion & Global Connection: Our report of Startup Europe Week Bologna

Recognizing the important role startups play in reshaping economies, the European Commission together with Startup Europe organized a new edition of Startup Europe Week from February 6th to 10th, 2017. This event aims to encourage more fresh ideas to flourish into lucrative businesses that are mostly run by young entrepreneurs. This year, for the second time, the Future Food Institute and Aster hosted the kick-off event for Startup Europe Week in Bologna.
The event allowed startuppers and startuppers-to-be to discover local, national and international opportunities through participation in thematic discussion tables. The disruptive format of the event allowed the participants to meet with established entrepreneurs and get inspiration from their success stories in a relaxed, informal setting.
The keynote speakers focused on internationalization, often referring to successful business models from Silicon Valley and their relevance in the European context, especially on the small, local scale. Lucie Sanchez, project manager of Aster, presented the event, welcoming attendees and bringing greetings from the Golinelli Foundation, host of the event at le Serre di Aster.
The first presentation of the evening was a video contribution from Sara Roversi, the founder of the Future Food Institute. Sara made the video from San Francisco where she is leading the third leg of the Food Innovation Global Mission, the first-ever around-the-world trip to discover major food innovation hotspots with students from the Food Innovation Program.  She highlighted that Future Food is an entire ecosystem that employs food innovation as a key instrument to face the big challenges of the future, addressing the world while giving value to the local territory. This unique establishment merges education with the entrepreneurial world through research that encompasses large and small enterprises, both local and international, in addition to institutions and NGOs who subscribe to the concept that “innovation is a collaborative effort,” emphasizing the importance of communication in achieving innovation.
After that, there was another video contribution from Tiziana Lombardo, co-founder and coordinator of the Startup Europe Week project at a European level. The welcome message also highlighted the many European opportunities for innovative startuppers.
The first speaker was Antonio Perdichizzi, founder of Tree and vice president of Italia Startup. He emphasized the importance of being well-rooted in one’s own territory before considering going international and he helped highlight the tools necessary to achieve this on a regional level.
Michele Di Blasio, founder of Lacerba.io, gave an excellent presentation with several videos of interviews he conducted with iconic Italian entrepreneurs in San Francisco. The speech tackled what needs to be done to achieve internationalization.
Next was Sara Monesi from Aster, an organization that has been supporting innovative startups in Emilia Romagna for over 15 years. The presentation highlighted interesting roads to take startup ideas to the international arena and the available European policy instruments that can help startuppers concretize their ideas.
During the second part, there were “mini-pitches” to introduce the thematic discussion tables.
Chris Richmond Nzi presented his project Mygrants, a platform that gives the opportunity for migrants to highlight their individual professional skills through educational experience based on simple multiple choice quizzes, and with the help of grants and scholarships. Then came Oreste D’Ambrosio, co-founder of HK – Horticultural Knowledge and Perfrutto, a recently backed project on Mamacrowd that can create predictive harvest data based on fruit diameter. They both offered interesting examples of how innovative ideas can transform our society or just a unique way to commercialize basic products.
Simone Napolitano, program manager of Unibo Launch Pad showcased his knowledge and experience through an amazing project from the University of Bologna involving students that successfully creates innovative businesses through hard work.  
Following these very inspiring presentations, the attendees broke out into thematic discussion tables where they got further clarification from the speakers. This moment of open exchange of ideas, worldviews, and opinions is an essential feature for a vibrant and emerging business ecosystem.
At the first table, the discussion was led by Michele di Blasio and the staff from Aster and centered on the opportunities for internationalization of startups. The second table discussed the opportunities for growth within a territory, as well as exchange opportunities using the example of Launchpad and the success story of Perfrutto which were presented by Simone Napolitano and Oreste D’Ambrosio. The third table discussed the growth opportunities for socially oriented startups, using the case of MyGrants project as a model, with presentations from Antonio Perdichizzi and Chris Richmond.
The buffet offered by the Bologna-based startup Badeggs helped fuel the dynamic discussions, which led to an enriching experience for the participants on a sensory and intellectual level.
As a general observation, success in the startup scene depends on nature and nurture. While entrepreneurial success calls for people of a certain profile who possess determination, imagination and courage (just to mention a few qualities), there isn’t much that can be done in the way of success without a supportive environment. This supportive environment, or in startup jargon “ecosystem,” consists of policy tools, financing opportunities from venture capitalists or business angels, and most importantly, access to knowledge and mentoring which is crucial for any startupper to launch their business.
The kick-off event was an enriching experience that allowed for the creation of synergy and business relationships through networking, which is the foundation of any thriving ecosystem. We at the Future Food Institute look forward to Startup Europe Week 2018 for another exciting event and equally exciting participants.
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