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Building the Bridge Between European and American Innovation in New York

How the Big Apple, America's window to the East, is transforming itself into a point of arrival for Italian and European innovation ventures.

by Marco Addezio
New York City finds itself, as is its nature, a patchwork of a thousand industries thriving together. In the City you’ll find as many fashion and design startups, as digital health and platform technologies. True to its nature, New York City provides a platform for all European startups who seek to expand, and more often than not, this can be achieved through these startups’ own government, and the connections it has striven to achieve in recent years.

New York City, like San Francisco and Boston, finds itself comfortably at the forefront of innovation in the United States, and the world as a whole. Throughout the rapidly growing innovation ecosystem present in the city, one can find literally dozens of accelerators and incubators. These, in turn, are constantly elaborating business plans, models, product development paths, and market insights to hundreds of startups who are attempting to disrupt nearly all industries and markets out there. Competition is tough, timing is vital, hard work is everything. These are the rules of the game for startups who strive to disrupt their target markets and, as all dreamers do, to eventually change the world. Although these rules apply globally, it could be argued that the ecosystem present the United States fosters growth like none other. It’s no surprise then that so many startups from all over the world, including numerous Italian-born projects, strive to be able to grow within the NYC ecosystem, unfazed (in our cases) by the 8.600+ km that separate them from their roots.

European innovation on the other hand, although strong in very many regards particularly in countries such as Italy, France, and Germany, has found itself often tangled with bureaucratic red tape, market caps, and funding issues. It would seem that back home the conditions required to foster the innovation ecosystem are good, not great. The current situation is such that several projects who have the space to grow in their respective markets of origin, Italian or otherwise, can or rather should seek the 8.600+ km voyage to a market that, unlike their own, allows them to make the leap; to “cross the chasm” as it’s often called in the industry. It only makes sense therefore, that European countries would strive to have their own platforms to make this process as painless as possible, to syphon some of the creative energy and abundant resources found in a city such as NYC. After an experience in the Innovation Ecosystem itself, with some closer inspection, we see that to be exactly the case.

Several different nations have set up shop in major US cities with what can be defined as “soft-landing platforms”. These platforms can provide business development advice or market research at times, but essentially all of them share one goal: to introduce companies to the US market and its consumers, practices, certifications, etc. Where San Francisco’s reputation stands on the circuits of a million tech startups, and Boston’s reputation champions the life sciences and the more scientific elements of innovation – New York City finds itself, as is its nature, a patchwork of a thousand industries thriving together. In the City you’ll find as many fashion and design startups, as digital health and platform technologies. True to its nature, New York City provides a platform for all European startups who seek to expand, and more often than not, this can be achieved through these startups’ own government, and the connections it has striven to achieve in recent years.

The first line of interaction occurs at the consulates themselves. These diplomatic functions extend their influence past visa/passport responsibilities into the innovation space in various ways. A sound example of this can be found in the European Tech Night event. A tech-specific joint effort on behalf of the Italian, French and German consulates, this event was first hosted by the Consulate General of France on January 30th 2018. This event is structured around a series of speakers, followed by some pitches from upcoming startups, and closed by an hour of European-style, champagne assisted, networking – a vital last step for startups and investors alike. As Italian Consul General Francesco Genuardi emphasized, Italian creativity extends beyond the scope of food and fashion, and this event allowed some Italian startups, amongst others, to make themselves known. Startups including Authorea; a powerful writing platform for the collaborative composition of professional documents, and Internet-of-Things connectivity-based startup Fluidmesh, which aims to bring broadband connectivity to sites and environments that make reliable connections too challenging for conventional technologies.

The second, and more intensive layer of European start up consulting can be found within the pseudo-private agencies who specifically, through various methods, aim to help individual startups succeed in their industry. An example of these is the German Accelerator Inc. a company with offices in San Francisco (GA Tech), Boston (GA Life Sciences), and New York (GA Tech). With various bootcamps, which recruit German startups to come to the US and experience the market first hand through a brief period of intense workshops and training. GA Tech NY currently has 44 startups working with its’ NYC staff as well as connecting to their network of mentors, investors, and service providers. Another example is La French Tech NYC – the local chapter of a global effort to promote French entrepreneurship, startups and innovation. La French works somewhat differently to the German effort, as they hold a remarkable global competition, the prize of which consists of a trip to France to interact with one of their 41 partner incubators for a whole 12-month program. This most recent “season”, as they describe it, resulted in over 70 start-ups being selected worldwide, covering industries from eCommerce, to Biotech, to Eco-sustainability projects.

Many more companies adhere to these ideals, with their own methodical approach to the fostering of innovation, such as The Nordic Innovation House, SwissNex NYC, Startupbootcamp and more. There is some good news for Italy’s proverbial stakeholders, such as myself, which surrounds iStarter – Italian made startup incubator with offices in London, Milan, and Turin, amongst others – who has some concrete plans to extend to New York City. Italian startups, like most other European and International companies, can rely on their consulates and the collaboration that the institution holds but, it’s needless to say, a dedicated program with the goal of fostering Italian innovation would be of immense assistance.

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