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Italia Startup Visa (gov.it)
212 points by qqwet on Jan 15, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 209 comments

One piece of advice from an Italian, who was born and grew up there: It's a suicide, absolutely do NOT do this. We have the best weather, culture, food, wine, beaches, etc, you name it. But opening a business in that dysfunctional country? RUN and don't look back. Between fiscal pressure, crazy laws and compliances, the effective presumption of guilt, completely broken or unavailable infrastructure in the hand of monopolists, it's outright suicide. Companies will favor "friends" and deny you a chance even if you're competitive. Oh and we haven't touched the criminal issues at all. I was lucky not have the pleasure of such acquaintances but don't worry, if you become large enough or successful enough, they will come to you.

I'm italian myself and not a fan of how a boatload of things works in Italy, but the reference to the criminality just sounds like something straight out of the Sopranos, which it's quite far from reality in every productive region of the country.

The issues related to fiscal pressure and the perceived lack of rule of law are instead quite real (see every independent ranking about corruption or ease of doing business).

A startup visa program without a serious effort to fix these obvious issues (something that should be done beforehand) is useless.

I've read the summary of the new policies, not enough numbers and details, i hope to find the full document somewhere.

Also, intriguing the fact that you need to show that you have at least 50k in pre-existing founding to partecipate to the program, it make sense to add some filtering criteria but i'm not sure how many new startups will qualify.

> I was lucky not have the pleasure of such acquaintances but don't worry, if you become large enough or successful enough, they will come to you.

I'm Italian too, live in Italy, and I'm really sick of this ill-informed self-disparaging attitude from so many Italians. There are millions of Italians who will say "I haven't personally never been touched by this, I don't even know anybody who was personally touched by it, but I know this, because... well, just because, everybody knows it".

Are there corruption and crime in Italy? Yes, of course. But, except for some areas in the South, they are nowhere as prevalent as so many people seem to think.

Italy is ranked as more corrupt than Brazil, South Africa and Bulgaria. It has very serious problems with crime and corruption.


Don't believe in any ranking blindly, also

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be

It's a PERCEPTIONS rank.

"Very serious problems with crime" compared to what?

This is exactly the problem.

Yeah, that's perception, not actuality.

Italy's got a lot of problems. But it's not Brazil, not by a long shot.

Italy's problem is bureaucracy and outright laziness far more than corruption or crime. And the fact that you can't fire anyone.

I'm amazed that even though news about ndrangheta being very well radicated in Lombardia and other regions from the North (even as up as in Germany!), about a new kind of mafia being born right in the capital, somebody still thinks mafia is something that pertains specifically to the "South".

Please, we've even got members of the Parliament who have been convicted for mafia issues!!

I can assure you, corruption is the least of our problems in our country.

As stated by gruturo the real problems are taxes, inadequate laws, infrastructure (for example cable connection is scarce even in the bigger cities) and finally economic issues.

I was born in Italy and I love my country, but I had to move to a different country to be able to work and being payed for my work.

so taxes haven't been introduced by (corrupted) politicians, to counter balance what corrupted people were doing for way too much time?

Corruption, together with bureaucracy, is amongst the most severe problems that Italy has. The fact that now it's almost impossible to tell the difference and there a mixture of bad behaviour at any level of any position of power.

It is not the main issue right now.

It is a BIG, HUGE issue, but not the main one ruling out housing business in Italy.

The main issue right now is the myopic political view driving the economy.

In Italy corruption is not a problem, it is the only tool to solve problems with the bureaucracy.

The problem results from too many people falling for this way of thinking ... and acting accordingly.

And btw, "bureaucracy" is not a bad thing per se! See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy

[edit: added link]

"The problem results from too many people falling for this way of thinking"

And too many idiots thinking that stamps and signatures and certificates have magical powers and prevents the real ill-intentioned people from doing anything (we could say bureaucracy is the DRM for real life). Also people making use of their position as to gain personal power.

You have a point in saying that bureaucracy is not a bad thing per se, in both the original acception of the word and in some places, like in Germany it "mostly" works.

As an Italian running a business focused on Italy I can only agree: RUN. I basically begged to be able to run my online company in Italy. No way. I had to emigrate to Germany instead and I've paid taxes there for more than 10 years. Hell, I even paid for the reconstruction of Eastern Germany. Just go to some Selection Day in any Italian incubator and you'll witness how fiscal and regulatory issues are discussed more often than the business model itself. Or try to discuss a start-up idea with an italian and count the seconds before he tells you "how about taxes? how about the regulation?". It's a broken platform.

Don't you have taxes or regulations in Germany?

I'll reply with a metaphor:

- taxes or regulations in Germany are like OS x

- taxes or regulations in Italy are machine code written by monkeys in the 50s based on 2000 years old Roman code and the last monkey who knew how to read it died 10 years ago. Now there's more monkeys writing on top of it not even pretending to make it work retroactively.

If you find a bug you must guess what to do and hope for the best. You can ask for a monkey machine code expert to decipher it for you but not even he knows how to do. He's just better at guessing. If you make a mistakes due to the bugs they send the Gorillas.

[edit: formatting]

In Germany you go to a bar and say "look, I have not paid the takes that I must, and got away with it." and the next day you will have a police officer in your door.

In Italy you say the same thing and you are a hero, someone to admire and imitate.

It actually makes a lot of sense too when you see where taxes go in both countries.

I'm from Italy as well. As everyone else, I am dissatisfied with how Italy is run, but it's _disgusting_ to see how many Italians living abroad claim the right to hurl mud at Italy. I think the real challenge is to stay here, not to run away abroad.

As a proof, here we ended up talking of mafia and corruption, following common stereotypes and therefore giving a distorted idea of Italy. I think most of the people that are saying "run away" are implicitly trying to justify themselves for their decision to go away from their country and family.

Sadly, more than in culture, food and wine, Italians are the first for the most destructive self-criticism in the world. I have rarely heard a non-Italian speaking so low of his own country, as only Italians can do.

Providing facts is the best way of debunking sterotypes though. In your statement, I see only patriotism, which isn't very convincing.

Maybe you could start by explaining why Italy comes 56th (between Turkey and Belarus) in the ease of doing business rankings: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

I know all rankings can be criticised, but this one confirms everything I have read about things like rule of law and red tape in Italy.

the very same ranking ranks Italy better than Luxembourg where almost all the American large companies have their European HQ.

It also ranks Malaysia better than Switzerland. Oh, please.

As I said, all rankings are flawed, but if you drill down into the individual factors you'll find out some of the reasons for any surprising results.

Luxemburg is part of a giant tax evasion scheme. That's the only reason why some multi-nationals are doing business there. They don't need "ease of doing business" like a startup does.

I really don't know nearly enough about Malaysia to compare it to Switzerland. Apparently you do.

> I think the real challenge is to stay here, not to run away abroad.

Exactly. And that's why everybody is advising not to start a business there. Do you want extra challenges when you are doing something that is not easy already? Probably you think there is something "heroic" in it, but that's not the case for everybody.

I am an iOS developer. I left a country where I had a job I didn't like (not in iOS, but on Microsoft platforms) for a ridiculous salary, where working for yourself is a suicide. And I was one of the lucky ones. The moment I moved I got triple the salary for a job I liked and later was able to start my own business. Accounting and tax declaration here in NL is really easy, and fiscal pressure is much better. Frankly, since my life got immediately so much better outside of Italy I don't need to implicitly justify my decisions. I have plenty of explicit reason I can list.

You might find it disgusting that Italians throw mud at their own country, I find it sad to see people defending it only because it's their own country, and as such is exempted from criticism. Maybe you are the one trying to implicitly justify your decision to remain.

50% taxes for people earning less than 15000€/year ? Yes is a challenge... to survive.

I tried, I said "I'll stay here, I'll pay taxes, make money and resurrect this country", so they added +10% taxes, reduced the "low income reduction" from people earning 30 000/year (gross) to 15000/year (gross), increased the "retirement fund" costs from 24% to 29% (and will increase up to 33.7% in 3 years they said) so I ended up, in one year, from paying ~30% taxes (plus accountant, required in Italy), to ~45%, increasing to 49% in 3 years.

And NO ONE said here the worst part. I can't believe no one mentioned.

The first year you work (not employed), you have to pay taxes for the first year and THE YEAR AFTER, yes, you have understood it: 90% taxes first year, plus accountant.

Good bye, my beloved country. There are a lot of smart people, but I have no idea how to survive there.

Indeed, I forgot that the first year you pay for the second year in advance, but is indeed true.

I'll be fully honest with you:

I considered staying. I considered doing exactly what you say: staying, working against the current, trying to change things. And then I decided not to.


Because I fully believe that Italy is doomed beyond any attempt to fix it. You should cut away pretty much 90% of the people holding any position of power in any public office. Trouble is, you can't do it by force. You must do it legally. Legally means asking them - they occupy the very same public office positions who would rule on this. Would they agree to it?

And with whom would you replace them?

The "new" guys, the fresh blood, very quickly adjust to the state of things - otherwise their career prospects (and in some extreme cases life expectancy) are cut sharply.

I really, really believe it can't be saved and therefore made a rational decision to leave and never look back.

It's a battle that can't be won, I decided not to fight it.

Yes italy is the best place to live worlwide but the dire reality of its socio-economic situation to not talk of the ridiculous Startup Visa program is a fact, especially if compared with others similar program worlwide http://en.wescribe.co/t/the-italian-startup-program-startup-...

> I have rarely heard a non-Italian speaking so low of his own country, as only Italians can do.

I'm Turkish studying Italian language and literature at uni, and I can assure you that Turks and Italians are competing a trophy in this race of self-bashing. So much so that I sometimes regret having got into studying italian culture.

Speak to someone from Greece then, they are proud of lots of things as we do but honestly, from my point of view staying in Italy isn't what I define "living".

Also I don't see those who stays there as people willing to overcome a real challenge, but like someone with no guts to move away from his/her place.

Maybe you want to ignore it, but Italy is so much heterogeneous that living here is not always being home: I'm not home. I'm in Italy but I moved away from my place years ago.

It's funny how the same thing can be seen in such different ways. I have been planning since long to go away from Italy and I will eventually go away, but I feel like it's an act of cowardice. You said just the opposite...

I second this. "I think the real challenge is to stay here, not to run away abroad". It hurts me hearing those expats talking shit about our country. I can't imagine how they change perception of Italy to everyone they get in touch with.

To those of you, stop bashing and start being the first change you want to see.

I finally moved to Germany. I tried, but could not bear it anymore. I miss my family and friends oh so badly, but staying? It would have been even worse.

Those who stay are the ones with the real courage, people say. No, I'm really sorry, but those who stay are those who have their shoulders covered (by family, maybe) and may have some long-standing interests that give them enough stability to try what they want.

But, they won't change anything. The system is rigged, you cannot take the power away from those who hold it and who are in charge of the big, important decisions. That is, unless you are ok to play their conservative and self-preserving game, actually becoming part of the skewed systems. Look at what the Movimento 5 Stelle has already become.

Recently we even tried with oligarchy - officially called the government of the professors, it was a government made of the Italian "best minds" and it was appointed directly by the President of the Republic. It may have saved us, but it didn't really kickstarted the economy back. We're now in a triple-dip recession, ask any economist and he would gladly lecture you about our very interesting case.

We're a country where a lot of people saved and still manage to save, and that has naturally turned us into a very conservative country, where every little change is seen as a menace for the status quo.

Long story short, if you want to do something with your life and you have no settled financial interested (or you can manage them from abroad) you flee and put your studies and experience to good use. Otherwise you stay and either get involved in the mess or try to stay out of it and see yourself beaten to the punch by incompetents and people that are just ok with marching aligned with the old and distorted system.

Anyway, I'm not one of those self-deprecating Italian whiners. I don't hate my country. I just think the problem lies with the biggest part of our fellow Italians. It's a problem so hard to entangle and define that giving up is really the only viable solution.

Thank you for your comment, you really express my thoughts. I'm sicking of hearing people say that, just because they're not willing to expat or because they have their shoulder covered. I wanted to live with my boyfriend, have my own house, buy me a new computer, etc... I couldn't do it in Italy. I could just work and live at home with my parents so I didn't had to pay rent and expenses. A lot of my friends does that but I'm 26 and I deserve to be independent, so I expat. Do you people think that is the simple way? I assure you that it isn't.

What does "shoulder covered" mean?

Yeah sorry, that's some Italian crawling through my English. It means "having a parachute" or maybe even "having your back covered". In other words, moving from a safe economical ground where you can easily return just in case anything goes wrong. Practically it means having rich parents or a stable financial situation because of your family's wealth.


It's an Italian way of saying that means you have someone (usually parents or relatives) who can help you get out of trouble. Literally sort of, "coat for the winter".

Expat here.

I always thought that the perception of a country in foreign eyes is due to the contact with people of said country.

I try to remember every day that the perception that my friends and collegues abroad have of Italy is due in some small part to my own actions as a representative of that country.

So please, let's try to avoid generalizing. Not all Italians abroad are mercenaries or quitters that shit on they country they were born in.

I would say that most of us aren't.

Explain me how do you pretend to change something when your clients are paying 50% of what the clients in other countries are willing to pay (if they pay, 'cause lots really like to delay payments indefinitely), while your suppliers are constantly banging your door to pay (rightly) them, and while your government 5 days a week is trying everything possible to shut your business down?

Be serious, go abroad for 3 months. Start a limited company, be a self-employed person and you'll finally understand the obnoxious bureaucratic process one needs to undergo and what kind of unimaginable amount of things one needs pay to keep his/her business running in Italy.

You won't find anyone who disagrees with you on this. This is not the point, however. Everyone in Italy is disappointed.

But if you're going abroad, there are good chances that you're one of those who can make the difference.

And if those who can make the difference go abroad, how do you pretend to change things here?

Let me only say that this: if Italy is a sinking boat, people who leave the country, they don't have guts, they're all so many Schiettino.

The captain is the one who is not supposed to leave the boat, not everyone else...

"Guts" for what? Did you notice that we stopped even having elections? Sorry, but I don't see why people should sacrifice themselves and their families just to keep this up.

I'm not Italian. My opinion of Italy is not great, but not because of ordinary Italians speaking badly of it, rather because of the likes of Berlusconi. People voted for him!? It matches my experiences there, such as being unable to buy a train ticket without the guy in the booth trying to rip me off. I eventually got fed up and when I went to a major sporting event which should have cost me €300+, I just bought an official some beers.

Dunno man, it feels like people still living in Italy are poisoned by the level of madness there is.

In other words: http://i.imgur.com/dA5IUA1.png

I'm 3rd generation of Italians that emigrated to Brazil. Regions with lots of Italian immigrants like Buenos Aires in Argentina or Sao Paulo in Brazil can resonate with every feeling in this thread.

Do not take it personally, but I cannot think of any major problem attributable to Italy to be any better in Brazil or Argentina.

So you disagree that Italian immigration politically influenced these places? Not that every Portugal and Spain former colonies are doing great, but in Latin America (with exception of Venezuela) they probably will do better than Brazil and Argentina in the near future.

I'm another Italian and I second this comment. I already run away and things in the UK are much much better. There might not be the same sun or or food. But at least things are more fair and the rules of the game are pretty clear, not just made up on the stop when it's convenient like it would happen in Italy.

Italy has currently a huge problem of smart, young people leaving the country because of this situation. Before trying to attract foreign they should be able to keep their own people.

My Italian ex-roomates/friends (Italian 30-something entrepreneurs living here in L.A.) echo many these sentiments you write. No matter how much they love their country and families they are living (and creating) here and in New York for many of the reasons you mention above.

As an expat myself, you would expect expats on average to be substantially more inclined to be critical of their home countries than others: After all we left.

Not all of us left because we were unhappy, but almost all of us left because we for one reason or other saw more opportunity elsewhere (e.g. in my case I left because getting larger financing for my startup at the time was easier in the UK). We're on average likely to be horrible misrepresentative of our countries as a whole.

Regarding this statement:

"if you become large enough or successful enough, they will come to you"

I wonder how you can back it up with data (see also my comments below regarding stereotypes).

Being Italian as well, and having worked both in this industry and academia for a few years I can confirm: believe each of those words. We have no data, but enough experience to assert this. However if you need data,just search how bad Italy is ranked for corruption and think how difficult will it be to work in a country where bribe and not competition is the main driver when it comes to choose partners.

Are there good history books on the origin of this business culture?

It's something of a default. Rule of law is hardly a natural state; it's a boulder at the top of a hill which requires effort to get and keep it there. The real question is "how did impartial business cultures develop and how can they be transitioned to?"

The books of Hernando de Soto have some good background on doing this in Peru. A key element of it is recognising which rules are unenforceable and repealing them, so instead of a thicket of unobeyable, intermittently enforced law you get a small robust core of law that's actually enforced fairly.

This one's old, and I haven't read it, but it might be worth a look:



Of course, that's a small village in "the dark heart" of southern Italy 60 years ago, which is very, very different from a larger city in the north these days, so take it with a grain of salt: it's not going to be representative of "Italy".

I don't know, sorry. I just live the situation

I'd like to take exception with your assertion of the best food, if I may :)

I spent six months working in and around Naples (which, I know, is perhaps not entirely representative of the country, but is the third largest city in Italy) and the food was basically pizza or pasta. Often, not even particularly good pizza or pasta; I suppose when you don't have to compete with a variety of interesting foods from around the world, you can lower your standards.

Locals approved - approved! - of their local councils refusing to allow foreign restaurants. We gave up on getting a decent curry locally and we flew in someone from the UK to cook a curry for us because we just couldn't find anywhere. The attitude to food that wasn't Italian was disconcerting and depressing.

You really need to take the time to learn and appreciate the food culture in Italy, oddly we have a very diverse and broad/spread culture all over the country. I personally don't enjoy Neapolitan cuisine that much but even that it's to say very little, you can literally travel a few km away from a city and find completely different food and cuisine. If you get bored of eating stuff in Naples, that's because you are only eating the same stuff every day. Try to discover more food and more cuisine even just in the neighboring town, because I can guarantee it's going to be very different.

Maybe I'm a bit biased because I'm from Bologna in Emilia-Romagna and I would say that's among the best cuisines in the world. We brought you prosciutto, tagliatelle, ragu', tortellini, lasagna, balsamic vinegar, etc etc. :) And even here there are a lot of differences in food from town to town.

Half of what you gave as an example there is pasta, or something that goes on pasta.

Calling tortellini or lasagne "pasta" is like calling balsamic vinegar "vinegar".

The fact that you still lump pasta all together after living in Italy for some time tells me you did not have the time to experience all the variety and quirks of different types of pasta. Again, I'm very biased but there's more than just "pasta" in a pasta-based cuisine, surprising as it sounds.

A piece of advice from a non-Italian who never lived in Italy:

Don't listen too much to people who left their first world country and tries to convince themselves it was the right thing to do.

At the moment quite few Italians leave Italy: Only around 80,0000 yearly (~0.1% of the population).

For comparison, Denmark, with 1/11 the population of Italy and usually ranked one of the best places in the world to do business, experiences emigration of 45,000 per year (~1% of the population).

The immigration into Italy dwarfs the migration away from Italy.

I'm Italian too, and I came to this thread to make the same comment. Stay away. Running your business in our country, given the taxation laws and other stupid draconian regulations, it would just be crazy. In 2014 the rate of failing companies was 2 per hour. And we are not talking about just startups here, which have a high burn rate. Many companies that have managed to survive for years have been killed by changes in the regulations during the last years.

Which changes?

For example, in recent years a stupid regulation called "sector studies" have been introduced. Basically, they look at the average you should be earning in a specific field. If you report less than that amount in a tax declaration, you are assumed to be evading taxes. Practically you are assumed guilty until proven innocent, which is not as easy to do as you think.

This is without adding other systemic diseases. Having a tax check is not a desirable outcome in Italy. One anecdote from a friend: he got a tax inspection in his company (in the construction sector). After two days of checks, nothing was found. But instead of being left alone, the inspectors told him this: "we haven't found anything, but since we have been checking for two days, we have to find something". In the end they agreed on faking some irregularities on the heating system and a 500€ fine.

Yes, this is just one episode, but not really an uncommon one, unfortunately.

I left my country 5 years ago and never looked back. There are so many better places in Europe, I strongly advice not to start a company in Italy.

> "we haven't found anything, but since we have been checking for two days, we have to find something"

as crazy as it may sound, this is true and happens all the time. I've got countless similar stories from friends who went through it.

From what I have heard from my Indian friends, this is pretty much how tax inspections in India go too. Crazy.

"the best weather, culture, food, wine, beaches, etc, you name it."

Hmm. Why not go there, write some code for the broader world, start the business somewhere else?

Just to give you an example of the idiocy of our bureaucracy: paying a subscription to the Google Apps (around 3 euros per month per user) is considered like importing physical goods, therefore every 3 months we have to submit a form called 'Intrastat'. Since the bureaucracy is insane you need to pay a professional to handle the madness, so on top of the small Google fee you need to pay an additional ~50 euros every three months. On top of that, the next month you need to submit a form called F24, paying a tax on the 50 euros you just spent for nothing. Oh but the food is great.

Because you need a residence permit to stay for more than 90 days for each 6 months, and you won't generally be able to rent without it. No school for kids either, etc. And that's if you come from the first world country that has a no-visa arrangement with EU. Otherwise you will need an entry visa as well.

Is this an older regulation or is it the result of Italy being the target of more and more immigrants in recent years?

[edit: typo]

It's simple: because if you live here, you have to pay taxes here. A lot of taxes. And the Italian equivalent of IRS can just come to you and say that you don't pay enough, you're presumed guilty and you'll have to accept to pay a fine or try to prove you're innocent in court (which could take years).

Is this an older regulation or is it the result of Italy being more and more pressured by the EU to fix their household in recent years?

It's a result of rampant corruption.

The government pretty much accepts that certain categories (say, dentists) hide a lot of their profits. Instead of fixing this, they decided to just assume you are hiding ~60% of what you declare and tax you accordingly.

A few years later they decided to just create a table of what each professional from each category should earn and if you declare less than that you can expect an extremely unpleasant visit which WILL find something wrong with your business.

Law-abiding people get crushed under this weight, while tax evaders just declare even less (or even operate completely outside of the law). Good people get punished, bad people don't. Going to the authorities to report these people can be successful, or unsuccessful, or frustrating, or very unhealthy. Feel like gambling?

After 10 years of this you start wondering if you're the idiot. You can become one of the "furbi", or keep trying to work in this broken framework, or leave.

I left.

Oh and the tax code is so byzantine you need to pay a professional even if you have an extremely small and simple business. And even they make mistakes. And you get to pay for those mistakes.

No, this isn't a result of the last crisis. The government is trying to reduce the amount of black economy but it's doing it in the wrong way. There are statistics that the government uses to calculate what you should earn every year, if you declare less than that amount, you're presumed guilty and you'll have to justify that...

Ok, thanks. Crazy.

You all should just reform the Holy Roman Empire... ;-)


Well, this actually isn't so bad. The good thing about Italy is that if you live here life is pretty cheap - compared to Silicon Valley. So, you could consider Italy like "a garage" where to start your venture or even a place where you can localize your programmers while running your business somewhere else. Of course it doesn't apply to people not living here, ... so why on Earth a startup visa program? Open the gates to founders is not enough is you don't create a income tax + regulation free + labour tax + notary free zone in the country to attract talented people here. Until today we don't have it and this thread is just a proof of Italian high tech entrepreneurs discouragement.

IMHO Italy is two different countries in one. Similar to Spain.

In both countries the south has nothing to do with the north.

In both countries the south if sunny, happiness and optimism. But also non serious in all areas of life, including business, and friendship influence and favors economy, also called corruption.

I have a German friend that was so happy when he sold so many products to south Italian customers. I asked if he was sure they were going to pay...sure enough he was lucky to get paid at all(after a way longer time than compromised and after lots of problems).

Italy is a beautiful place to live, but not for work. You could get the same access to industry, business friendliness and employment that you get in North of Italy in Switzerland or Austria, but without the tax of having to continuously subsidize the south.

Well, I can't talk about about Italy because I have never been there. But I am from the south of Spain and my family is from the north of Spain and what you just said is both stupid and xenophobic.

As italian, I second this. Stay away from Italy if you want to do business.

Had to affirm this beyond an upvote - don't even think of going there.

The problem is structural, is economical, is intellectual instead of "mafia" as i wrote in my post http://en.wescribe.co/t/the-italian-startup-program-startup-...

What about the Dolce Vita?

Have you some serious FACT to show? Something you can COMPARE to French, Spain , Ireland or Germany?

You just described Spain.

And Croatia.

Is the mafia still a problem in mainland Italy? Serious question...

They got smarter and now they are in the government structures. Not everybody of course, but recent facts emerged in gov corruption that mafia and criminal organization in general were directly managing billions of euros in public infrastructure building. Those billions were paid by Italian taxpayers.

A little subtle than in the 90s, but for sure it's still present.

yup, it's widespread and has become part of the culture in many places, regardless in any part of Italy, in the south to certain extremes.

Unfortunately it is...

"We have the best weather, culture, food, wine, beaches, etc, you name it." You don't have the best army.

Do you know the thinnest book in the world? Italian heroes...

On a more positive note, the State will probably kill the company way before it's noticed by criminals.

It seems you are talking about Brazil.

@gruturo la finiamo con sta storia del buon cibo, del tempo, ecc???

I'm italian and one of the founders of an italian startup. Saying that it's hard to work here would be the understatement of the century. The fiscal pressure is insane, the laws are batshit crazy, and there is no startup culture nor respect for the IT in general. Don't get me wrong, I love my country, but founding a startup here is just madness.

As an Italian, I have to say that Italy isn't the first place where I would open a startup, but many comments here are really exaggerated. Corruption and crime, in the center and north of Italy (the most economically active part), is nowhere as prevalent as they say. Unfortunately, because of the crisis that really hit hard here, there is a very gloomy sentiment in lots of Italians.

But as a consequence of the crisis, there is a lot of talent that can be get pretty cheap for European standards, especially now that taxation for newly hired workers has been greatly reduced.

This is the most balanced comment that I have read amongst all the others. Italian people have this very bad attitude of blaming continuosly everything and everybody. This energy would be better spent elsewhere. The VISA is a good initiative. One of the many things that should be done to improve our country , but it's a plus not a minus. Let's now try to change all the other factors that impede further groth and innovation. You have at least an arrow at your arch: your vote. Study the parties' program and inform yourself before voting.

Sorry but the taxation thing about the new workers is a very messy thing. You have to hire people who is not employed and with lot of others constraints. About the Italian got startups special laws and they should have access to a 35% reduction on labour cost but you need to hire specific categories of people. Talent always has a job.

Oh come on. Some comments from “italians” here are really disgusting. I’m Italian, live in Italy and run a startup here. I know A LOT of guys who run successful businesses here (not me, yet!), who don’t have to deal with mafia, corruption and mandolinos.

Is it harder here than in some other countries? For sure. Are there issues with taxes, regulations, etc? Hell yes.


It’s not impossible to build great companies in Italy. And you will be amazed to discover there are upsides too. Technical talent is great (because universities are great, despite all the shit people usually throw at them), and REALLY cheap. Also, talent retention is easier: finding good, rewarding jobs is hard here, so if you build a great company, with a compelling vision, people just stay with you. Quality of life MATTERS: good weather, food, having fun, have an incredible impact on how people work.

Finally, there are opportunities. Since Italy, as a market, is far behind in so many areas, there’s plenty of space for startups to innovate and build businesses that have already been proven successful in other countries/markets.

So, please, stop complaining. It’s hard everywhere. Somewhere it’s harder than somewhere else. But that’s it.

> It’s not impossible to build great companies in Italy

No, of course it isn't. But at the margin, it's more difficult, so if you have the chance, you should go elsewhere: I think Italy should get its own house a bit more in order before trying to attract people from other countries. They'll come naturally if Italy is a decent place to do business. It doesn't have to be perfect, because it has so many other nice things, it just has to suck less: California, for instance, is not the best US state to do business in, in terms of bureaucracy and taxation.

I _totally_ second this comment. (disclaimer: I'm italian and I live and work in italy)

I agree that Italy has a big fiscal pressure, but aside from that, the issue with mafia and corruption that keeps appearing into this topic is misleading, it makes people think that once you have a startup, mafia will come to you, and that's absolutely not true.

I think there are only 2 main elements to keep in main when running a business in italy 1. Fiscal pressure 2. Bureaucracy

They are the only blocks people opening a startup here might really need to figure out how to handle.

You're an Italian, this is for people outside of Italy.

Culture makes a big difference. Starting a company in other places is easier, this is likely why Italy is resorting to something like this to try to bring in more startups.

Just because someone says the truths about the issues with Italian society, doesn't make them "disgusting". Reality can be harsh.

"It’s not impossible to build great companies in Italy."

Which great company was built in Italy in the last 10-20 years?

Ehh, I thought I was negative about Italy, but seeing what everyone else is saying, I'm probably the most positive person here.

The pros:

- There are some absolutely excellent open source developers who can be hired much more cheaply than the US.

- Life is excellent. Italy is a really beautiful country.

- Lots of incredibly low hanging fruits. Italy has a lot of great companies that makes excellent products the entire world wants, but have absolutely pathetic IT departments. This is also true in the public sector - several regions of Italy have amazing touristic attractions with pathetic marketing/web presence. This is probably the best reason.

The cons:

- As a corollary to the last pro (about low hanging fruits). Public sector contracts are given to people who are completely incompetent but well connected, who then sub contract it out. The technocratic/political class, especially at the local level, is almost always old, and has gotten their positions because of connections.

- Moreso than outright corruption (unless you live in the South), red tape can be a massive issue.

- This does not affect start ups, but once you grow to more than 15 employees, staff hired full time is basically impossible to fire. This is very slowly getting changed.

I don't think it makes sense to move to Italy if you want to work on the next chat/social media application, but if you have a great idea on how to use web to improve tourism/market high end goods, or you have excellent SaaS software for medium-large sized companies, you could probably do very well, and live very well too.

Basically, this is sort of an interesting (but old) summary of an interesting case study: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121969807244970447 - there were lots of resources, lots of low hanging fruits, and yet due to political squabbling, total ignorance of technology and nepotism the project was a huge waste. Given how low the bar is, it's very possible to do much better.

Small edit: There is a huge generational gap between the 50+ year olds that run the country, and the kids graduating now from University, in terms of attitude towards technology, meritocracy, and entrepreneurship.

> Public sector contracts are given to people who are completely incompetent but well connected

to be fair, I believe this to be the case about everywhere. I.e. the Oregon healthcare site fiasco[0] seems straight out of italian newspapers.

[0] http://www.wired.com/2014/03/oracle-oregon/

I can comment on this, being from Oregon and living in Italy:-)

Basically, this kind of thing happens everywhere. It just happens more in some places.

Back to this:

> - There are some absolutely excellent open source developers who can be hired much more cheaply than the US.

I can confirm this. I think a valid strategy would be to open up the main office somewhere else, and do some R&D in Italy. There are good developers who don't cost as much as elsewhere.

Yes I confirm this. I live in Italy but the company I co-founded in San Francisco runs thanks to Italian engineering talent. And that's good for starting, not so sure when you raise round A - a good one. If you have money to spend it's probably better to move everyone to California. Don't you think? However it's true that the quality of life in Italy is a lot higher than the Bay Area, but you need to stop fighting the system or be part of it if you want to have a really good life. About your "this kind of thing happens everywhere", I'm not sure you are right. At least not in the high tech hubs around the world. And again, do you think that Portland is like Italy? I've been there just a few times but my perception is completely different from the business point of view. When you are a tourist though, everything is fine pretty much everywhere.

What I'm saying is that corruption is everywhere, just in very different quantities. Truth be told, I think Oregon is generally a bit less corrupt and a bit more egalitarian than California is, but that's just my impression.

> If you have money to spend it's probably better to move everyone to California. Don't you think?

Not really - it's cheaper to hire someone in Italy, so with a given amount of money, you have more runway, or can hire more people. Also, the US immigration stuff sucks pretty badly and is not easy.

> And again, do you think that Portland is like Italy

I lived there a year. It's a nice place in a lot of ways, but not where I want to be. The weather ( http://forecast.io/#/f/45.5118,-122.6756 ) is very, very tiring for someone who likes the sun. You think it's bad in northern Italy... hah! It's a little bit bigger than I happen to care for (I like the size of Padova a lot), but without all things a really big, important city has. De gustibus... though, as they say. It's worth checking out in January to see if you can handle the weather, because it's a lot cheaper than the bay area. Oregon is a beautiful place to visit in August.

Feel free to send me email if you'd like to know more about Oregon!

Don't make me wrong davidw, Italy is one of the best countries on Earth to live with your family, but from the business point of view it's a nightmare. It's cute, unbelievably cute, but sometimes it's not enough to live a happy life. R&D in Italy it's one of my dreams and remote working tools are out there to help, but in my experience it is very complicated to make it working in the long run when the company scale. You save money, but not that much. On the other hand you slow down a little bit the execution. It's just my own experience.

> once you grow to more than 15 employees, staff hired full time is basically impossible to fire.

This has been a myth for a long time now. Unless your business is heavily unionised and full of 50somethings hired back in the '80s, there are umpteen ways to fire people, some of them even paid-for by the State. Not that anyone needs to actually fire anybody: most people nowadays are just contractors from day 1 and never really "hired" in the first place.

Recent changes in employment laws were introduced so that very large firms with a long-established unionised workforce (FIAT etc) will find it easy to break the unions' back for good. They will do nothing for medium and small firms, who will just keep using the contractor model.

(Of course, if you pocketed your workers' pension contributions for years, or did similar shenanigans behind their back counting on them behind happy to just get a paycheck month-in month-out, then you can't fire them, because they will sue you and get a huge payout. But you would never do that, right?)

> This does not affect start ups, but once you grow to more than 15 employees, staff hired full time is basically impossible to fire. This is very slowly getting changed.

This just changed a lot from January 1st.

I have friends who did a startup in Rome which went after government grants and contracts for software. I got to watch as they battled nepotism, insularity, incompetence, and extraordinarily sclerotic, glacial movement on part of the government and its affiliates and contractors, both as customers and as providers of standard societal services. Taxation is unbelievably high and bureaucratic for those (like my friends) who were straight shooters and wanted to pay taxes, unlike nearly all their competition, who dodged them.

My favorite story was when they were trying to get internet service in Trastevere. They were required to start paying the phone company (TI) as if they had internet service, and then wait. For three months. Then after they called TI wondering where the service was, they were told TI had sent someone out to install the service but he couldn't find their office. TI didn't bother to call them. So they were then required to go to the back of the queue and wait for another three months, all the while paying, followed by another excuse. This went on for the better part of a year. Meanwhile they ran the whole company off of cellular data plans.

And they're still there, and why? Because Trastevere is one of the most wonderful places in the world. It's worth it to them. But it's not surprising they're in the minority: Italy has a very, very serious brain drain problem.

Russia tried to open Skolkovo, Italy tries to do this. These are nice attempts, but the best way to attract startups is to first reduce government corruption that would pressure businesses that do well.

One of my Italian friends isn't really encouraged by this. And I quote:

"I think that I close already 2 business in Italy due to the economic crisis, the fiscal pressure when I left Italy was about 65% (not it is more) and in the first year I went there the 30% of the shop in my city have closed (now it would much more)

Even without reading I can tell you that opening a business there now is a suicide. "

I fail to see the connection between opening a startup and the current crisis, honestly. Or with the closure of 30% (?) of the local shops.

Also, there are a few interesting tax incentives that are finally available. For example, a law passed last month introduced 25% and 50% tax credits (depending on the expense category) on R&D investments, including labour costs for "highly trained" (MSc or PhD) workers.

Sure, Italian bureaucracy is not straightforward for a foreigner and you'll need to speak the language, but generalisations like that quoted above are misleading exaggerations.

Italians, especially expats (I am one), tend to victimise themselves and to reason with stereotypes. The "even without reading" part sounds like that.

Sorry to disagree. I am an Italian (one who did not leave) and the situation is the same as always. Sad to say that this is a doomed country.

Couldn't agree more. If your startup sells internationally, the current crisis won't affect you.

Maybe, but you'll still be paying more taxes than you would if you were based in almost any other country. Too many useless state expenses here, and they turned into too much debt and taxes. Check how many Italians with the skill set to open a startup moved to London and Berlin in the last few years.

Looking for business in Italy may not be a smart idea now, but opening the R&D branch of your startup there could well be brilliant.

If I recall correctly they introduced some fiscal incentives for new companies so that they end up paying around 10% in taxes. But that's only as long as the founder is considered "young" or i think as long as the revenue is below a certain limit. The problem is that once the limit is surpassed, the fiscal pressure in Italy is indeed very high. I wouldn't really suggest founding there, unless it's something related to fashion/food/tourism...

I agree with your friend. Avoid Italy.

There's no good reason to open in Italy, especially when in EU you can open in many other places which are much cheaper and easier to deal with.

i doubt anyone is going to open up a bakery there. So the worse the economy the better.

now, think all the good engineers you can hire for cheap and churn out products for the US market.

Ok, but in this case shouldn't it be better to go remote and open to the whole world? BTW, I love in Italy, I have a phd and I am seeking a new job, so if you want to give R&D in Italy a try, drop me a line ;-)

A good friend participated in what I think was a pilot program for this a year ago. The Italian govn't sponsored an incubator in Trento, invited entrepreneurs from all over the world to come participate... and then promptly fumbled the visa and business paperwork so badly that a good number of participants packed up and went home early.

I can't remember the details exactly but apparently the visa troubles and business registration red tape made the whole program something of a joke

From a business point of view, STAY AWAY FROM ITALY. I'm an italian computer engineer and work as a freelance with VAT number since 5 years and i can say that there are no fiscal or burocratic simplifications and aids for startup.

There is a reason why a lot of italians preferred to create a ltd based in the UK instead of a srl in italy. There is a reason why a lot of italian entreprenuers are moving to Switzerland. There is a reason why a lot of italians base their business in Tenerife (even if i don't accept this fiscal-escamotage, i can't blame them too much).

As an example of the business complications here in italy, even if i own a computer engineer consultancy VAT type, i can't send invoices to Google to get money from GoogleAds: i need to add another VAT specification (paying money) and register my self to the chamber of commerce (again paying) and having a more complicated fiscal management (for my business consultant's joy!) just because at that point, i'm in the advertising business (really? small GoogleAds income is an advertising business?!).

In italy you can go with the same invoices (incomes and expenses) to two different business consultant and they will produce two different tax declarations! And in the case of a fiscal check, you will find that maybe none of them was right! This is ridiculous, but this is the reality of Italy because fiscal law and bureaucracy are a real mess!

Talking about startup: if you read well you will find that there are a lot of obstacles in the opening of a startup in italy: an an example you must set at least 15% of the bigger between income or expenses for R&D, you must have at least a third of the workforce as Ph. D. and you must own a patent...and they call it "innovative startup in italy[1]"...do you find it easy and comfortable? Please, if you understand italian language, go and see Report Startup Stories [2]

Last, it is true that Italy is a beautiful country and that if you own a small business located in the north, maybe you won't have too much problems with criminality, but remember that it is true that mafia has people and hands on the most important political chairs and in the richest businesses. Just think about the recent scandal regarding Rome or the mafia and 'ndrangheta penetration in milan.

[1] http://startup.registroimprese.it/ [2] http://www.report.rai.it/dl/Report/puntata/ContentItem-a31ab...

regarding the requirements, you read wrong: you need Ph.D.s OR patents OR to spend at least 15% in R&D. And the third option is really really easy to achieve.

Also, patents OR a deposit of a relevant source code to the author registry (SIAE). this is really easy to achieve at almost no cost at all.

You are right, it's an OR condition

I am italian, running a start up in italy. Its a beautiful country, fascinating, great art, food, weather. IMHO definitely and unfortunately not a good eco system for a start up to grow in.

I really appreciate the Italia Startup Visa effort, but here's the facts...


Italy environment is toxic for a startup.

Italy is a MandarinCracy.

It is a country, not ruled by politicians, but by self serving high level officials. They oversee 4 million strong public workforce, and have created the most complex set of rules & regulations and to justify they own existence along with the highest taxation (80%) on the world to pay for them.


Italy Freelance workforce is great for a startup.

They have a huge freelancers Workforce, (designers and Developers) with the same talent found in the Silicon Valley at the fraction of the cost. ($28K to $40K year salary). They are called "popolo delle partite iva" and are de facto a second level citizen. They do not have the same privileges as the rest of the 50+ workforce. Still.. they will work hard and passion for any project with great critical thinking.

My final advice:

Create a business somewhere else (UK or US) and setup a small R&D development team in Italy

I don't understand why people like to bash on their own country. 80%? Not certainly for everyone.

As a freelance I pay 5% until I reach an higher level of income and I'll be able to pay more taxes. On top of this there's 21% for retirement contributions.

Is there any other country where a lower amount of taxes is paid?

You stupid idiot. You're describing "regime dei minimi" as if it was a regular taxation for freelancers, but it's definitely not.

"Regime dei minimi" is a taxation level available only if you bill not more than 30'000 €/year. Note this is not net income, but gross income.

So you go down to 22'000€ after taxes (21% + 5%) and then you have to take away your own costs, and then you can keep some money for yourself. Also, if you live in a big city (let's say Rome or Milan) that is definitely not going to be enough to live a peaceful life and raise a family.

Oh, but that's a secondary problem: the first one is finding clients that are actually going to pay you in full.

If anything goes wrong laws take ages and the cost of lawyers and time spent in court vastly overcomes what you're losing.

Your calculations are correct, but please remove the name-calling. It takes away a lot from the quality of the discussion.

I read it with a thick Italian accent, it made it more funny than offensive :)

edelweiss22 I am not bashing I'm stating the obvious.

If you are a company in Italy you pay high taxes and you are less competitive.

If you are a freelancer in Italy you are more competitive than other countries

That's the point of my post:

Incorporate your startup elsewhere and hire in Italy

> Is there any other country where a lower amount of taxes is paid?

There are plenty of them.

I agree, unfortunately. R&D in Italy makes sense at least in the start-up phase, probably more harder in the scale-up phase.

Wow, I would never have expected such level of pessimism and negativity from my compatriots. There are many things to improve here and this new effort could be a little step in that direction. Surely many other things must be done and our bad political class has not helped at all.

I've have co-founded a couple of startups here (one http://www.eidosmedia.com has had a very good success worldwide; another one http://catflow.it is gaining momentum) and I continue to have a great optimism for what can be done in this country, maintaining a good lifestyle.

Fiscal pressure, crazy laws? Yes. Is it a suicide working here? Absolutely not.

As an Italian expat, I do welcome the attempt; I just wonder who would actually apply for one.

If you're in the US, your ecosystem is so much more startup-friendly, there is no point moving anywhere else -- opening a cheap R&D is probably the only reason I can think of, but if you're going for costs savings in that area, wouldn't you get a better deal in Eastern Europe?

If you are in Europe, you don't need a VISA to move to Italy.

The only people who would lust after this, IMHO, are:

1. South-Americans who can't or won't get into the United States;

2. Middle-Easters who can't or won't get into Gulf countries or Israel;

3. the kids of first-generation immigrants in Italy who can't get citizenship (because Italian immigration laws are stupid).

Are these constituencies large enough to create a significant ecosystem? I don't know. They will certainly face huge problems with casual racism in the business sector, if they try to sell in the Italian market. And venture finance for unconnected businesses in Italy is non-existent; the culture is very risk-averse, and capital is too sparsely distributed to make venturing palatable to the average investor.

But hey, good luck. At least they're trying something, I guess.

Very. Well. Said.

If you want to tap into the pool of talented italian engineers you could also open up a shop at the border to Italy in Switzerland and employ cross-border commuter from northern Italy. You would have to pay them more than if you would open up your shop in Italy, but you would avoid these kafkaeske system called Italy and enjoy all the advanteges of Switzerland.

Then why not just stay fully in Switzerland?

..because you'd have to pay 3x to get swiss to work for you, while italians might jump the border for a lot less than what they'd deserve.

Don't forget you need to pay 4x (or more) for rent of any office space (or housing space) in Switzerland compared to the other side of the border.

This explains why lots of businesses that migrated from italy to switzerland in search of an "el dorado" closed shop after a short timespan, realizing business is hard everywhere.

Driving through it or being there for a holiday is not a problem as they are a member of Schengen but to obtain a Work Visa for Switzerland is another step of paperwork. People holding EU Passports still need to apply for a Work Visa.

Because "If you want to tap into the pool of talented italian " you will get them at a better price at the italian border than somewhere else in Switzerland. Most Italians do not want to leave Italy.

didn't switzerland clamp down on commuters some months ago?

Not really. Not yet, at least.

Beside all the good of the weather, food, beaches, history, art, women, etc. we all know Italy is a living dead. Europe is a living dead and everything.99% of Successful Italian startups get seeded here and then relocate to uk or us to get series A and better taxes and legal system. But engineering workforce is cheap and very talented.

But there's something that really kills it. It's us Italians. We just love to complain. Yes It's a shit, they are stealing our money and tying our hands, but it's sufficient to ready these comments to understand that the problem is us.

Winners find solutions. Losers find excuses.

I'm proud of being Italian. We are people of love, not people of freedom. I have almost married an american girl and lived and worked there on and off for two years. We have to fight for our country and for our Europe.

Besides that, everything we know will be disrupted and what will be left is just our memories.

I work at an accelerator (registered incubator) I'll be happy to chat with you who want to know more about here.


ctrl-F "coffee" --> 0 results.

Come on, no mention of the superior quality of coffee we enjoy here? And you call yourselves hackers?

Picture me disappointed.

true that, best coffee in the world [jealous]

As as an Italian expat:

Startups in Italy. Yeah sure. Go on. Lol.


Italian here. I've been employed, a freelance and also been an employer (had an ecommerce ltd).

My experience is that Italy is not a fertile place for both employers and employees because of tax pressure, corruption, lack of skilled workers and low salaries.

There's no reason for an EU citizen to choose Italy as there's more chances to succeed in other countries.

Popular companies have moved or planning to move away (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/11...).

YAI (yet another italian), born and raised here, I've been through most of the 'typical' italian IT jobs in my career: IT support, Developer, Consultant, both as employee and self employed, I just want to echo everybody's comment to STAY AWAY from Italy for anything that is related to IT, the country simply don't care and your business venture will likely fail (fiscal pressure, corruption, toxic laws... you name it).

My advice is to rake up as many talented folks as possible (we have no shortage of them) and bring them somewhere else with a decent pay (something that is just impossible to get here).

Nice try Italian government. But hey dude, don't do it. We are a sinking ship.

Wouldn't this be a great way for non-EU citizens to get a residence-permit within the EU? Then, one could move and work in more lucrative places, like Switzerland. (Full disclosure: I am interested in tech-recruiting in Switzerland - see https://medium.com/@techrecruiting.ch/eight-reasons-why-i-mo...)

You'll want to check out:

Dutch American Friendship Treaty (if you can self-employ and are from the US this could be your best option)

Blue Card (If you can get a job in Germany)

Irish Startup Visa (http://www.pond-crosser.com/uk-and-ireland/republic-ireland/...)

Disclaimer - I put up pond-crosser a while ago to keep track of some of these things.

Switzerland is lovely but their population recently voted to restrict free movement of workers with the EU so maybe not ideal.

> Switzerland is lovely but their population recently voted to restrict free movement of workers with the EU so maybe not ideal.

No we haven't :) What was voted on was that the gov. should be able to cap the number of immigrants per year if necessary. That has neither been done yet, nor will anything change in practice because the EU puts too much pressure on this.

Isn't "cap the number of immigrants" a restriction of free movement of workers with the EU?

The Swiss Franc just increased in value by 15%; so I got a nice salary raise as I transfer my money regularly from CHF to EUR. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/102340182)

I'm looking for a way to do this too. I'm a solo developer working for myself, and I'd like to live in Europe for more than 3 months at a time as per the Schengen agreement. Unfortunately, most residency requirements involve finding a job in the host country. DAFT can make this work, but it reportedly costs thousands of dollars in filing and other bureaucratic fees. Wonder if this would do the trick?

It wouldn't work. I am an American who has lived and worked in Switzerland for 8 year previously. I currently have a working visa for France and the Czech Republic, both Schengen, but (essentially) can't work in Switzerland.

(1) Couldn't you offer services to Swiss companies?

(2) Couldn't you get an Italian passport? (As an EU-citizen, you can work in Switzerland without hassle).

(1) Not on-site

(2) I'm in France and yes, in another year I can get a French passport and work there without hassle.

A residence permit in a Schengen country only allows you to live in that country (although you can visit the rest for 90 days out of every 180).

Could you elaborate on that? Switzerland is not part of the EU, so how would that help?

It's not part of the EU but it is part of the Schengen Area.


This allows you to travel to Switzerland. Working there is an entirely different thing.

As an American living in Italy, here's my perspective:

Italy is a wonderful place, but not a very well run country. Food, geography, history... it's fractally beautiful in that the big, amazing things are worth seeing, but you can also go to some small town and find something fascinating. It's just bursting with great places. The people are mostly a plus too, I have good friends here, and know a lot of smart hackers. When I moved here from San Francisco a number of years ago, I still had plenty of people to talk tech with. Here in northern Italy, people work fairly hard (and I'm sure there are people in the south who do as well), and don't command high salaries for their efforts. In some parts of Italy, corruption is a big problem, but it's not something I have seen much of on a day-to-day level. Of course I don't work in a field where I would, either.

The down side: bureaucracy is a nightmare, taxes are high, and a lot of people are leaving, because they can get more money elsewhere. It's no longer as cheap to live here as it once was, either. The long and the short of it is: no, I would not really consider opening a business here a good idea, although I would consider opening an R&D center to benefit from high quality workers at relatively cheap prices.

Italy is ranked quite badly here for a reason: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

Italians: it is possible to change, if you work at it. I was able to help accomplish a small change myself, despite not being from here, and not having money or connections: http://www.governo.it/Notizie/Presidenza/dettaglio.asp?d=690... . So, things are not good, but if you're willing to invest some time and effort, they can be improved, a little bit at a time.

Part of the problem, IMO, is the idea that the government should 'guide' things. "Startups are good!" right? So they create a government definition of what an "innovative startup" is, and give those companies some benefits. This means more public employees to look after it, more hoops to jump through, more people trying to make a company that the bureaucrats have incentivized, rather than a company that simply does what it does. Even my own small contribution got watered down in that way: rather than simplifying SRL's (the Italian equivalent of an LLC) for everyone, they created a new category.

That's the wrong approach: what they absolutely need to do is simplify the bureaucracy, and secondly, lower taxes. First and foremost, the number and complexity of them. Paying a lot of taxes is not so bad if it's simple, straightforward, and does not take a lot of time, and you receive something for them. But all the little one-off taxes and the complexity of dealing with others is terrible.

This is all stuff economists and others have been saying for years.

As I mentioned elsewhere: Italy doesn't need to be the best place to do business. It's got lots of good things going for it. It just has to start sucking less.

If you're interested in more of 'my take on things', I write about life in Italy here: http://blog.therealitaly.com/

# Sorry LONG comment and need to go to work, little to no time to read again and fix errors. Be kind.

I'm yet another italian (expat to London) and let me state a few things which are not listed on that landing page but that you should consider before applying:

I've worked for a few months in a "startup" inside a major italian incubator (Working Capital). I was developer #1 of the company, and here are a few things I want to tell you about incubators in Italy: 1) The level of mentorship provided is close to zero. Their main role is "office" surveillance. They will contribute with ZERO competence to your startup as they have no valuable experience. 2) There are two kind of companies inside incubators: those "with connections" and those without. Companies without connections were accepted just so that the incubator has some numbers to show off. Those with connections (which is most likely due to the parents of the founders being friend with some excutive in the incubator partners) will receive enough support, will behave without a code of conduct, will make it through the whole process without a flaw while If your company will be on the "no connections" side expect (and I will state this again) to be simply abandoned. 3) Investors, pitches and demo days: they mostly are a bunch of executives from partnering companies who have close to zero experience in investing and who gives zero shit about startups. Again, they will just hangout events because of political connections with incubators and as soon as pitches are over they will leave the presentation flying. Execting any kind of feedback nor real investment is just nonsense. I never saw ANY company in an incubator getting anything from official investors. This is still true if you are a random startup without connection. If you are one with connections, you won't attend demo-day, you won't be doing spitches and you'll be funded anyway. 4) In general the startups level is mediocre to say the best. As the selection process is quite random (remember: you are there so that they can say they are an incubator and get money from the public administration) most of the ideas are just completely random and founder have ZERO technical background. In the incubator I used to work, I was the only developer (and we are talking about 40+ people in the room). Believe it or not. 5) Getting investments won't be easy. Which doesn't mean that if you work hard enough you can still achieve results. It means that nobody wants to invest, there's no investments culture on the investor side and no support from so-called incubators. I saw probably 1-2 companies getting any sort of funding and they took years of "working for free" to get a 250k investment.

So, this is pretty much what you should expect when bootstrapping a company in Italy inside an incubator. Of course this is bureaucratic and tax-related problems aside (which are quite difficult to sort: you should expect to throw tens of thousands of euros to get your company officially started and keep your books in order. These costs will probably exceed any funding you'll get).

A few more things to consider: 1) The italian culture is business-adverse. Average People aim in life is to find a stable job in a big-size company/public administration until pension. As a startupper you'll be mostly seen as a young unemployed wasting his time. 2) If you are REALLY talented and lucky, you build up the "right connections", get yourself funded and open a profitable company you will likely have to deal with mafia (as someone already mentioned). First hand experience: my uncle bootstrapped a profitable fish-import company. Mafia knocked, asked them to acquire the business paying close-to-zero. At the beginning my uncle refused: His car and house catched fire. Of course institutions did nothing about this. He sold the company and left the country. No jokes here.

So, I could probably go on but I hope you got the point :) Should you apply? It depends I guess from where you are right now. If you want to launch a business in Europe and don't know where to start: then maybe you could apply to be accepted in Italy BUT then you need to have a plan to move either to London or to Berlin. If you think to move to Italy and find a healthy business-oriented environment: you are SO wrong.

Good luck!

Quite true man!

I'd like to ask to all these complaining italians that are telling people to stay away from their home country: how many of you are still in Italy and what are you doing to change things?

I don't think that throwing shit (true or not) and scaring international talents from coming to Italy opening their own startup is a good way to help.

Disclaimer: I'm Italian, living and running my company in NL since 3 years.

well it depends what are you working on. It's not a complete hell but it's true Italy is not so business friendly as it pretends to be, especially when it comes to bureaucracy, laws, services. Things are changing, true, and the situation is far better than it was just 3 years ago. The truth: still a lot has to be done yet. But you may find lots of talented developers, skilled people, educated scientists and here living costs and salaries are cheaper than in other countries. In Milan and other cities in the north some local ecosystems are arising. Think of your business, of your target customers, of your needs. Then it might be worth a try. Just do not expect any help by the government or public administration. Source: I am italian, and I live in Milan, I am both a consultant helping small businesses and entrepreneur.

This is my post in italian on the scandalous Italia Startup Visa, i am going to translate in english soon http://antoniomanno.blogspot.com/2015/01/startup-chile-contr...

I would argue that most countries just make really half assed attempts at creating an international startup environment and this is one of them.

Mostly there are very few investors locally, visas are difficult to obtain, the laws aren't really business friendly at all and not suitable for investors etc.

Oh, sidenote: probably the biggest italian company, FIAT, recently moved (fiscally speaking) out of Italy, towards states with lower fiscal pressure (Netherlands, if I recall correctly).

And FIAT was/is big and competent enough to handle all of the sh*t italian laws impose.

Just saying.

Here we can see italians still don't get we went through globalization yet. If you open a startup in Italy it doesn't mean you need to rely on the italian market to survive. You can create value at a cheap price and then sell somewhere else.

Also: ever heard of russian/chinese/japanese/american mafias? "People with connections" have more chances everywhere.

Other countries beware of italians with the mindset shown here. I've met them abroad and they all tell the same story which they don't know anything about.

Italy doesn't have the best weather, doesn't have the best food, doesn't have the best people, and so on. It has some good things and some bad things like everywhere else. _DO_ something about the bad things instead of lamenting that you can't get the good things after you left.

Bullshit. Sorry but this is rhetoric and you clearly never went through the amazing experience of bootstrapping a company in Italy.

Italy is just entrepreneurs hell on earth, and it's a very practical statement.

1) Open a company: minimum of 4k spent on papers (of course, thanks to notars and accountants) 2) First year: face insane taxes. Pay for your pension, pay for your IRAP/IRPEF. Anticipate 50% of what is dued next year due to "projections" the gov do on how much you'll make. 3) iterate first year

On a 30k eurs revenue, with the "Young entrepreneurs formula" (where you are supposed to pay much less than usual limited companies) you'll end up paying up to 17k in taxes. I let you doing the math. And this happened to ME, not to some random friend of a friend.

I suggest you better watch this documentary "Run away or Stay" http://www.madeoflimestone.com/mofl-vimeo/


If I remember correctly, Peldi Guilizzoni (Balsamiq) highly discourages against starting a company in Italy. Something about how taxes are collected...

I do? I don't remember saying that.

I don't really want to get into this debate, but I've been running Balsamiq from Italy since 2008, and it's been just fine. Then again, YMMV...we're just a little mom-and-pop software shop, not a "startup" in the paulg sense of the word.

I think it was related to Italy prematurely collecting the coming years' taxes.

I've watched and read so much of your stuff I can't even find which one it was in.

"Italy tax collectors took millions for parties, yachts" http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2012/10/03/20255286.html

I don't recall the specific, but could be the fact that basically there are taxes even if you don't make a profit, which for newly founded companies would be a relatively bigger issue than for established ones.

(I think there is a dispensation for that as of a couple years ago if the founders are below 35 years)

You're referring to the IRAP tax that used to have this weird effect in some cases, but that's mostly fixed since FY15 with the new laws. There have been an outstanding number of changes in labor and fiscal laws in 2014; they don't fully fix 50 years of anti-entrepreneur culture of course, but they are good steps in the right directions.

Hey, good luck finding a decent internet connection outside of the main cities. My parents live an hour from Milan and they get 3G at best.

It's not like in other nations there's great internet in the countryside.

...and having worked remotely with people from Southern California for the last couple of years, it looks like they're in a generally worse state than us (northern Italians), at least from a network stability perspective

I live in a very small town 40Km from Milan and I get 20Mb/s ADSL: http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4061090445

Lombardy is not Italy, you know. Come down here in Catanzaro (where i'm from) and let's talk about this again.

Plus they "forgot" to tell you in that site that taxation is around 55% here in Italy. STAY AWAY!

Italians always crying but they live better than others

Forget the corruption, crazy laws, favouritism and racketeering. The biggest problem you'll face doing business in Italy is the wide-spread, deep-rooted "it can wait" mentality that is really prevalent. No one can be bothered with anything. Be prepared to wait for months and months for trivial tasks that can be completed in 30 minutes. Be prepared for people to cancel meetings at the last minute, then set a new date and time just to miss that one too - repeat ad nauseam. Don't even try to explain the concept of a "deadline" to an Italian.

The worst part is you can't even hate them for this, because they're so friendly and likeable!

Other than that, it's a lovely country. Make your wealth elsewhere and go enjoy what Italy has to offer.

Italy is a great country to live in and I'm not trying to discourage you, but keep in mind that from every €100 you make, at least €66 go to the state.

To put this in terms of time and assuming you're a workaholic who doesn't take vacations, in a year you work 8 months for the state and 4 months for yourself.

And then there's the problem of the state being a jerk and making you pay VAT one year in advance or taxing you based on estimates done with market studies instead of the much smaller revenue you declare.

Something like: "the average company/self-employed individual in your business made €30K this year while you declare only €10K. We're gonna assume you're lying to us and tax you for the market average, mkay? Oh, and we'll need the 22% VAT on the €30K we think you'll do next year right now."


It's not like they'd have to settle in Naples.

Many people dream of living in Italy but jobs being short, this may be an alternative where you make your own job --and of course, the expectation if you create more jobs and value for Italians.

[addendum]Besides, most likely Italy would be your 'base' and Europe, NAmerica, etc your market --so the poor state of the Italian economy may not enter much into the equation about viability due to local economic climate.

Ndrangheta is not in Naples, organized crimes has different names in different parts of the southern Italy. That unfortunately doesn't change the fact that we have organized crime in Naples (Camorra). And I'm sorry and sad to say it but northern Italy has been reached by organized crime a long time ago (they have different businesses, they work in different ways, but they are there).

Disclaimer: I'm Italian, and I'm from Naples.

Point taken and thanks for the correction. I would have to ask however, would mafia tentacles reach into software based businesses if it's basically a development office?

It is expected they'd do, people collectively seem to believe they'd do, but concretely there hasn't been any large public case. (keyword: public)

Speaking of unemployment. I stumbled upon this animation of unemployment rates in europe some days ago:


The difference between northern and southern Italy is staggering, it's like they're two entirely different countries...

I couldn't stop looking at the migration of workers from the eastern countries to the western.

Yes, and that's also true regarding organized crime and corruption.

Organized crime has nothing to do with the issues of opening a startup in Italy! What is missing is an ecosystem for startups: no VCs, fair amount of bureaucracy and challenging employment laws. However, you get great engineers, passionate, inventive and hard working for a pricing that is competitive with India. (Sad but true).

I agre with what you say except for the salary comparison with India. Even though salary are low in Italy compared to various other countries, in IT too, according to payscale[1] the average salary of a developer is 340k Rupie per year, that is around 4.7k Euro. The average salary in Italy for IT should be at least 25k-30k Euro. But to be fair it would be interesting to compare it to cost of living, because as Italian I know for sure that IT guys are not paid better than others in Italy, while I have no info about India (it could be that they are pay not too much, but really well compared to other workers and local cost of living).

Having said that, I agree with many others saying that it's not a great idea to go to Italy for startups.. things are moving and are improving compared to 5 or 10 years ago but in no way comparable to other places in UE (let's compare for example Berlin, London or Paris with Milan or Rome...)

[1] http://www.payscale.com/research/IN/Job=Software_Developer/S...

Yeah sure. Go open a startup company in Naples, wait for someone to ask you for /pizzo/ and let's talk again about this.

You know how much is the protection tax in zones controlled by organized crime? 3% of your profit.

You know how much the state takes from your (revenue - expenses)? At least 66%.

Yup, and those two sum up.

It's not State XOR Mafia. It's state AND Mafia. As if state alone was not enough.

Of course they sum up. My point is that there's a much bigger problem in the cost of doing business than the protection tax. About 22 times bigger.

Wait, why is that sad? Good for India. They actually have some great developers, despite the best leaving for the US.

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