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Founders Factory to launch startup hub in Italy 

The London-based startup builder is expanding across Europe and launching a new accelerator programme to source and fund startups in Milan 

By Amy O'Brien

Founders Factory, the London-based startup builder, is set to expand into Italy with the launch of a new venture studio and accelerator programme in Milan, the country’s economic capital, Sifted has learnt. 

The new studio will see Founders Factory partner with brands in Italy to source and fund over 50 local startups over the next five years. It will be chaired by Fabio Troiani, former cofounder and CEO at consultancy group BIP.

It’s yet another sign that Italy is finally catching international investors’ eyes. The third quarter has been the most active quarter ever for VC funding in Italy, passing records set by Q1 in 2022 and 2021, according to Dealroom data — and that’s despite a fall in investment across nearly every other part of the startup scene last quarter.

Founders Factory intends to invest in local startups across the fintech, connected home, metaverse, education, adtech, industrial automation and cyber sectors. 

A spokesperson for Founders Factory confirmed to Sifted that a Milan hub will soon be unveiled, but declined to comment on when it will launch, or who its corporate partners will be.

According to the company website, Founders Factory is hiring for three key initial roles in Milan: 

  • A studio lead to establish the local office and bring in new hires;
  • A Milan-based investor to source and invest in 10 startups a year in Milan;
  • A sector director who will make 10 investments a year and deliver a six-month operational programme for each startup.

Yesterday, Founders Factory also announced a new venture studio in Berlin, in partnership with Deutsche Telekom’s tech incubator hubraum. Its Berlin programme will invest and build startups across commerce, advertising, enterprise IoT, data privacy and telecoms sectors. 

Up until this week, Founders Factory, part of the Founders Forum Group, had operations in London, New York, Bratislava and Johannesburg.

The company was founded in London in 2015 and its corporate partners in the UK include Aviva, L’Oreal, Guardian Media Group, easyJet, Reckitt, Johnson & Johnson Innovation DC, Nesta and Standard Bank.

It first branched out of the UK in 2018 when it launched in Johannesburg and partnered with companies like Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, and healthcare group, Netcare.

The New York hub followed in 2019, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, to invest primarily in healthtech and femtech. Most recently, Founders Factory made its first move into continental Europe this time last year with the launch of its Bratislava hub, partnering with G-Force to invest in and accelerate climate tech startups.

Founders Factory already counts a number of Italian founders among its portfolio, including Gian Maria Gramondi and Luca Cartechini of ecommerce startup ShopCircle, which raised a $32.5m Series A in June, and Kamil Tamiola of biotech Peptone, which closed its $40m Series A in June too.

Italy takes off

It comes as Italy’s startup bubble is finally beginning to grow. The country got its second unicorn last month when payments provider Satispay raised a hefty €320m all-equity Series D led by famed investor Lee Fixel’s new(ish) VC firm Addition, with participation from existing investors including Tencent, Jack Dorsey’s Block, Greyhound and Coatue.

VCs tell Sifted they’re now popping to Milan to scout out local talent after Satispay and its unicorn predecessor Scalapay (there’s a bit of a theme there) attracted big-name US investors.

Watch this space. Later this week we’ll be talking to investors in the know about the hottest startups coming out of Italy right now that you need to get to know.

Amy O’Brien is Sifted’s fintech reporter. She tweets from @Amy_EOBrien and writes our fintech newsletter — you can sign up here

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