Silicon Roundabout meets Silicon Piazza

A major event in London allows Intesa Sanpaolo to mix with tech start-ups in search of investment



Oh, to be young. Well… young, tech-savvy, pioneering, innovative and based in London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’.


The area around Old Street roundabout in East London emerged as a hub for tech start-ups some years ago and has since attracted major players such as Google, Amazon, Intel, Facebook and Microsoft. So when it comes to career opportunities, or simply opportunities to find and secure financial backing, there are few better places to be based.


“It attracts a lot of younger people and right now innovators are young,” says Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association. “They think outside the box and are benefitting from being in this area where age is not a virtue. If you start with a good idea, with some dedication you can make it big, very quickly.”


It can only get better for these youthful entrepreneurs. “London has some of the best technical talent in Europe,” says Yessi Bello Perez, editor of the tech business publication UKTN. “There are accelerators, incubators and corporates who all want to get involved in the digital and tech sectors.”


In fact, “London, along with Silicon Valley, New York and Israel, has one of the most important start-up ecosystems in the world,” explains Fabio Spagnuolo, head of advertising and web department at Intesa Sanpaolo. Which is why the bank, along with 30 client start-ups, attended Unbound London. This major event is where those with the ideas, top young talent and investors mix with positive outcomes. “It’s a great opportunity to promote their businesses,” adds Spagnuolo.


“They have always been very supportive of our product.”
Benedetta Arese Lucini, co-founder of the fintech startup Oval Money

One such innovator is professional-connections hub, Codemotion. “We are building the largest developers’ community in Europe,” says chief executive and co-founder Chiara Russo. Later this year, the 11-year-old Rome-based business is starting a new round of fundraising, seeking €5m to continue its global growth. “Unbound was an incredible opportunity for us as it creates a direct link with investors. Intesa Sanpaolo, together with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, supported us a lot.”


Monica Regazzi, chief executive of Milan-based Homepal, also attended Unbound to seek potential investors. The business is an internet site to buy, sell and rent houses. “I met a number of investors at Unbound; we really want to expand outside of Italy.”


Benedetta Arese Lucini is the co-founder of the fintech startup Oval Money. With her other three co-founders she created an app that encourages people to save flexibly and on a recurring basis for the purpose of investing. The bank decided to invest in Oval because it believes a partnership can help serve a demographic of flexible workers and young people with solutions that fit their life habits. “They have always been very supportive of our product,” she says.


The figures speak for themselves. London’s tech industry employs more than 200,000 people and has grown by 46 per cent since 2010. In 2017, it attracted a record £2.5bn in venture-capital funding, doubling the previous year’s investment.


With two-thirds of all investment in Italy between 2011 and 2016 being in tech firms, it’s another reason why Unbound London presented a golden opportunity for Italian business. As the Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center’s head of international network Vincenzo Antonetti says: “For Italian start-ups, London means a door to the future.”

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