November 7, 2007

Risky business

Just when you think that risk-taking, innovation and optimism had disappeared under a coat of raccomendazioni, there comes a breath of fresh air and signs of an Italy that is moving forward, free of the shackles that the raccomendazioni system imposes.

This afternoon I visited an on-line chat with entrepreneur Luigi Orsi Carbone organized under the US Embassy program, "Capturing Creativity". (mentioned also here).
Following a Bocconi business school degree and Columbia University MBA, he worked for a few years in management consulting before founding several companies in the telecommunications and internet sector between 1996 and 2001 -- Planetwork SpA ed ePlanet SpA (renamed as Retelit SpA) -- and participated in the start-up of a European hedge fund (Lansdowne Partners Ltd.). Currently he is working for another start-up, this time in the area of microcogenerazione (Heat and Power, Srl.) while also advising and serving as an "angel investor". All of this in Italy.

Quite an impressive guy.

The "chat" consisted of real-time interaction between Luigi Carbone and listeners who wrote in questions.

What struck me were the questions -- many centered on the issue of risk-taking culture.

Alessandra from Milan. "How important is the perception of bankruptcy as a penal offense(and the absence of a Chapter 11 equivalent in Italy) and did this influence your activity as an entrepreneur?

Letizia from Trento. "...Isn't it important to give incentives to the culture of risk, experimentation and failure. Isn't it part of the game? What about the difference between failure and bankruptcy (fraudulent as is often the case in Italy)?

Davide from Rome. "After your first failure, how did your re-invent your professional career?"

Paola from Bologna. "Isn't there a risk that a good idea proposed by a group of young people is stolen by the potential venture capitalist to whom they turn?

Silvia from Genova. "How much does the negative perception of temporary work influence entrepreneurship in Italy?"

Sergio from Ancona. "How do you go beyond the culture of the "posto fisso" and accept the risks involved in setting up a company?

Venanza from La Spezia. "How can we change the way to do business in Italy and spread the culture of entrepreneurial risk?

Several listeners pointed out how well Italians do when they transfer their skills in a foreign context -- there is certainly not a lack of highly qualified potential entrepreneurs. So what is missing? Besides the venture capital.

From a cross-cultural point of view, risk and trust are intimately entwined. The lack of a risk-taking culture is therefore tied to a low-trust culture. So, you have to work both sides. Young potential entrepreneurs must trust that the system will support them and carry them even when they fail, so that they can get up, try again and this time, win. Otherwise, they will look for the "posto fisso".

a domani,

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