On April 18, 2008 Andrea Gumina led a delegation of Italian angel investors and professionals to Silicon Valley. BAIA had the pleasure to meet with Andrea and the other visitors and exchange some ideas. I asked Andrea a few questions after he returned to Italy. Here is the complete interview.
Andrea, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Well, basically I am an Economist of Innovation. After a degree in Economics at Luiss Guido Carli, I started working on e-Government: in the beginning at the Italian Cabinet Office, then at my Department. After a MA in Ethics, in 2006 I earned a Ph.D. in History of Economic Development and then started working at several projects in the area of Angel and Start-Up Capital. Among them, Start-Up Meetings, a joint-program setup with the Roman Committee of the Italian Young Entrepreneurs and Luiss Alumni Association, gave life to renewed focus on investments on knowledge-based enterprise. Besides this, after having funded (and left) two companies, actually I’m also CEO at NexttLab, an academic spin-off working as a consultancy and as a developer of cutting-edge ICT-enabled organizational tools.
What prompted your recent April 2008 trip to Silicon Valley?
Since I met Richard Boly of the US Embassy in Rome, in March 2007, and he introduced me – and my colleagues – Ambassador Spogli’s P4G, we tried to setup several common initiatives. In September, I worked with Richard to promote a trip at Kauffman and Marquette, in order to understand how angel investing worked in US: coming back, some of the participants promoted Italian Angels for Growth. Then, it came January study tour in Silicon Valley – that I missed, due to my Honey Moon. After several months, April 2008 trip in Silicon Valley (and then in New York and Boston), was aimed at making some qualified Italian investors meet potential US partners, in order to start co-investment in Italian-US based companies. We think it’s not just a matter of business: it’s also our way to help our Country to change instead of wasting talent and competitiveness.
What did you find most interesting during your trip in relation to your early stage investing objectives?
Silicon Valley opened our mind with several brand new ideas: first of all, we fully understood what Ambassador Spogli means with “ecosystem”, and we found out that it is so unique, that it will be very difficult to replicate it abroad. Besides this, one the greatest success of our mission has been to successfully test our co-investment model. We find out how interesting is for US investors to foster qualified linkages with Italian ones, and we also confirmed our idea about how much room is there for global start-ups, operating in hi-tech context. Definitely, having understood that “we can do that” represent the most amazing follow-up of our trip.
What future plans do you have now?
As I told you, now we are ready to start our Seed / Venture Fund operating for high-potential Italian companies who wish to be co-invested by Italian and US operators. Furthermore, as we deeply think that “global entrepreneurship” represents an important challenge for our Country, we are going to promote, together with other key people and institutions, a not-for-profit Foundation which will act as a hub for the innovation process’ stakeholders. We started a negotiation with some Italian- and US-based lobbying, educational, entrepreneurial and institutional groups, and I very optimistic about this operation. Finally, I’m setting up my next company, which will be thought to be based in Italy and Silicon Valley.
Tell us how/if BAIA helped and how the BAIA Network could be of greater value to Italian entrepreneurs and investors.
BAIA represents an interesting and very valuable Network of qualified people: I guess there is a significant chance for us to collaborate in order to foster linkages among professionals, investors and “global-born” start-ups. We surely look for having you joining the Board of our Foundation, because we believe it will add greater value to the projects we are designing. Helping us in understanding how US businesses go and move will certainly be of some help for fostering our new ventures’ perspectives.
I would like to thank Andrea Gumina for the taking the time to share this information. May others follow his example and lead! If any reader wishes to open a dialog on these issues, you are encouraged to also visit the BAIA Link and open a forum there.