The heir of the billionaire Italian family behind fashion brand United Colours of Benetton, Alessandro Benetton, is making his first move into tech investing with the launch of a new VC firm, 2100 Ventures.
Benetton is the main LP of the new €30m fund, for which fundraising has closed, alongside a handful of high-net-worth Italian individuals who will sit on 2100's advisory board. These include angel investor Luca Ascani, Unruly Capital general partner Stefano Bernardi, and the cofounder of Italy’s first unicorn Scalapay, Raffaele Terrone.
It comes as Italy’s huge store of private wealth slowly wakes up to tech investing as an asset class. Other wealthy Italian families — including the Ferrari-owning Agnellis, the Technogym-owning Alessandris and the Berlusconi media dynasty — have begun dipping their toes into venture investing in the last couple of years.
It's Alessandro Benetton's first move into venture investing, but not investing as a whole: he's led the Italian private equity firm 21 Invest since founding it in 1992.
The 2100 Ventures focus
2100 Ventures has two founding general partners, Andrea Gennarini, Andrea Casasco, and another partner, Andrea Gurnari. All three have backgrounds as tech investors and startup operators across Europe.
Despite the consumer focus of the Benetton family’s eponymous fashion brand, the new investment vehicle will focus on backing B2B startups in fintech, SaaS and climate tech across Europe. 2100 Ventures’ portfolio companies will operate in sectors that “can benefit from tapping into Benetton’s huge industrial network”, Casasco tells Sifted in an interview.
Although the new fund intends to invest in pre-seed to Series A startups across Europe, it will prioritise its Italian heritage: more than 50% of the €250k-750k tickets it invests in pre-seed to Series A startups will go to companies with Italian founders.
2100 Ventures has already invested in six startups, including HR tech Jet HR and benefits platform BonusX.
A “feeder fund” for Italy
All three of 2100 Ventures’ founding partners have CVs that replicate those of most Italians in tech: they left Italy to launch their careers.
Now, they tell Sifted they have a desire to give back to their home country.
The three general partners will split their time 50/50 between Milan and London, tapping into their network of contacts at pan-European and international VC firms to play a “feeder fund”-type role, acting as a link between founders in Europe’s more nascent tech ecosystems with larger, later stage funds.
In practice, this will mean they will always co-invest and they don’t intend to lead rounds, instead targeting 1-5% stakes in companies.
“We want to bring what we’ve learned back to help plug the knowledge gap and help founders prepare to access tier one investors in future,” Gennarini says.
They also plan to encourage local founders to build beyond their home market.
“Rather than focusing on a founder’s national heritage, we want to think of them as ‘European’ from day zero,” Casasco tells Sifted.
“This means pushing them out of their comfort zone — which may mean just their home market like Italy — and getting them to build at a European level from the get go.”
The three Andreas list several European startup unicorns in the energy sector alone — including Renaissance Fusion; Northvolt; and Proxima Fusion — that were founded by Italians who felt they needed to leave their country in order to build a successful tech company.
“Historically, Italy as a tech ecosystem has existed mainly across the European diaspora,” Gennarini says.
“But now we want to make building a successful Italian startup something that’s possible without needing to go outside.”