How do we grow the Italian rainforest?

What is an innovation ecosystem? Why certain communities are able to develop it while other fail? And most importantly, particularly these days, how do you build an innovation ecosystem in places where it lacks?

Rainforest, from Greg Horowitt and Victor Hwang, describes perfectly how things in reality are. This great book starts with a very simple point. When building an innovation ecosystem the most important thing is not the ‘ingredients’ but the ‘recipe’.

This sounds all so true from here in Milano, Italy. We have capital, we have talent, we have a huge academia infrastracture, we have the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit of Italians, we have the incubators. We have it all. So how come this is not the Silicon Valley? The fact that we have abundance of the ingredients for a solid innovation ecosystem is a prerequisite, but it’s not enough. How do you ignite these ingredients to create the next Facebooks? How do you do it, so that it happens in a serial, consistent way? The secret to build an innovation ecosystem is how you put together capital, talent and ideas and how they interact. I fully agree and if there is only one thing I could add to this concept.

I would say it depends on the ingredients, the recipe and… the cook.

Greg Horowitt and Victor Hwang are veterans of the venture capital industry. But their firm is quite unique. At T2 Ventures they practise extreme venture capital. While doing direct investments (the first T), at T2 they help governments in building up and bootstrapping their innovation ecosystems. They practise venture capital in ‘extreme’ regions such as New Zealand, Mexico, Egypt, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Palestine.

Rainforest is a great book and a very interesting reading about the inner nature of innovation. It will not give you the recipe to build an innovation ecosystem, but the map so that anyone can build its own. I would strongly suggest the reading to all the many people, inside the government and out, which today are working on this topic in Italy. We have the ingredients (well one is very scarse, which is capital), we have a new cook – our new government – is very interested in this topic. Most importantly we have a newly fresh born generation of startups and innovators, which have emerged. It’s a first blossom, but it’s still too fragile and it could be killed just as fast as it was born by wrong governamental polices.

Now the thing to do is only to design and implement the Italian specific rainforest recipe. And watch out, because the wrong recipe and the wrong implementation will kill the newly born plants or will generate a long lasting raiforest in Italy.



6 commenti on “How do we grow the Italian rainforest?”

  1. Alessandro ha detto:

    Ciao, interesting post.
    One problem I see is that Universities are “old school”. How many University course teach how to work in teams? None! It’s probably the main issue because you can have all the ingredients as you mention but innovation comes from been able to work with a team, been a team member and been a leader.

  2. Fabrizio ha detto:


    Probaly to approach the problem at country level is to complex….easier to start to more innovative clusters (and i’ not referring to so called distretti tecnologici but to all th bottom up initiqtives that arenspread in our country..) to start from this kind of regional ecosystem lower the risk of inestor and per,it to concentrate all the resources useful to nurture the forest….what could be implemented is a concentric circles approach t,hat will involve st ep after spet other regions, nreaking all the administrative boundaries…..we have to modernize the system otherwise simply the cook will go in another country……

  3. vaso ha detto:

    when you put inside the game the Italian governement… game over

  4. […] From a couple months ago: venture capitalist Gianluca Dettori gave some thoughtful observations on the difficulties of building an Italian Rainforest: […]

  5. […]  The “Italian Rainforest” (here and here) is an effort that involves numerous key players in Italy, including Telecom Italia, Startup […]


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