Reporting from The Global Innovation Summit

San Josè, half way through the event and already we are drafting out ideas for dozens of Rainforest projects, which will be posted on YouTube. Today the most voted videos will get into a more focused part of the program. Each video is a 45 seconds pitch about a ‘family’ project (each family was a table). At each table partecipants work on a common project.

We decided as a group that our mission would have been to develop an Italian Rainforest project.

After some discussion and interaction, we decided that the first priority should have been the large talent pool of young people available in our country.

Additionally, Italian are recognized globally for their creativity, style and lifestyle. For their food, wine, cultural diversity and quality products. We are also known for being inventors. For having an entrepreneurial and likeable attitude.

We have in Italy today a all generation – millions of young Italians – unemployed and undermotivated. And they are probably the best trained and educated generation ever. Since Italy was born, 4-5 generations ago. We are also suffering a gigantic brain drain in our country these days. We identified as one of the potential biggest indicators of success of such a program would be if we could reduce or sometime even reverse this one-way flow. Which drains the best and most entrepreneurial forces.

Fernando Fabre, President of Endeavour Global explained the audience, very directly what entrepreneurship means to his organization. How this transformational force can be a fundamental instrument of economic development. And how such a problem impacts economic systems. Endeavour is today operating with it’s business model in more than 15 countries.

The latest being Greece. Just announced. It’s the first European country where Endevour lands. After having opened in most of the Southern belt of the Mediterranean sea and having covered all Latin America.

When Endeavour enters a new market, the organization typically targets to move at least 1% of it’s GDP. Fernando explained how in Greece this means there are two options. First identify and develop 30.000 new SMEs. Or. The alternative, the Endavour model: identifing and supporting 25 high impact entrepreneurs.

Can this be done? Well it does look possible to me. But it takes time and it’s a long journey. It just does not happen overnight. And you will not see the fundamental economic metrics develop much in the initial phase.

But it can be done!

Let’s try to run the metrics for Italy and assume that it is more or less somewhere 10 times bigger. That would mean a plan and a number of policies to identify 250 high-impact entrepreneurs. People that can develop 1% of Italian GDP in a reasonable number of years.

We called our project: A new peaceful Marshall plan for Italy. A project to identify the first 100 potential high-impact entrepreneurs. Put them on the spotlight, give them the tools and the support, by designing a network and a program around them. Help and support them in achieving success.

When we looked at the current context of Italy. Well, needless to say that the list of problems and issues got quickly long and overwhelming. However given that we are in a difficult contest, we quickly focused on some key cultural issues that needed to be tackled. We understood that we needed to fill some gaps. Italy has three major fractures in society. (1) Old generation/young, the big generational gap of Italy that pulls apart my grandma from my daughter. (2) Man/Women. It’s a ‘man-driven’ society. (3) Nord/South fundamental cultural and contextual diversity.

Additionally Italians are not very good at celebrating their heros. Unless they are soccer players of course. And the meaning itself of entrepreneurship, has its own flavour, in a country where the economic infrastructure is build around families and family driven businesses through generations.

We decided as a group that if we wanted to set the right nest – to resolve the chicken and egg problem – we then needed to address some of these cultural issues. The program should target the startup community and the Universities.

Key components of the project so far are:

– 100 leaders under 40. The target.

– Mentor network. It should include relevant ‘family’ entrepreneurs (Benetton came up as a name), startup heroes (I proposed Vito Lomele as a new generation example). Italians abroad (the Italian diaspora) that want to reconnect and support entrepreneurs in their location. ‘Friends of Italy’ that come from different organizations and geographies. All of these people, once identified could act as a network of keystones, instrumental to endorse, mentor and act as a support network for selected entrepreneurs.

We discussed quite some time about which industry focus should we try to address. There was a very intriguing intersection between our typically Italian abilities and some technology trends. Italians lead in creative industries (fashion, design, culture, architecture), lifestyle industries (food, wine, travel) and the strong network of industrial clusters. (Italy provides a lot of equipment and technologies to countries such as Germany). When we discussed these ecosystems, we all agreed as this could be a solid asset to build upon. Innovation here could have major impact, since the ‘Facebooks’ in fashion, typically live in Milano, Firenze and Rome.

Several times open source and specifically open source hardware popped up at the Summit. I fundamentally agree with Massimo Banzi, which everybody pretty much at our table knew. Personal fabrication, open source hardware couple with digitalization and ecommerce are transformational scenarios. This stuff is here to stay. Was born, largely invented and developed in Italy (Arduino is proudly Made in Italy. From Ivrea with love, to be precise).

Links perfectly with the Italian leadership in the creative industry.

And can put to work million of Italian creatives, engineers, designers, communicators, inventors. Entrepreneurs. That can build companies that can thrive online and sell globally their super cool digitally hacked products.

But nobody can say this better than Massimo himself.

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