Venture Capital/News/

Intesa Sanpaolo raises its first VC fund of €250m to back European startups

Italy’s largest bank is now betting on tech companies, as investment into the country’s startups picks up

By Amy O'Brien

Luca Remmert, chairman, and Mario Costantini, CEO

Neva Sgr, the venture capital arm of Italy’s largest bank Intesa Sanpaolo, has closed its first flagship fund of €250m to back European startups. 

The legacy bank is dipping its toes into the startup world with the Neva First Fund, which will primarily invest in startups at growth stage as they enter new markets. 

Turin-based Neva Sgr was first launched in August 2020, and has invested €150m across a portfolio of 26 companies to date. A third of its investments have been into Italian startups, including Italian proptech Casavo, Italian insurtech Yolo and Italian luxury marketplace Mirta. 

But the new fund is designed to further focus on Italian tech. 

“We’d like to increase the quota of investments in Italian companies beyond 30%,” Luca Remmert, Neva SGR’s chairman, tells Sifted. 

“We believe there’s value in the domestic territory and the Italian venture capital market has evolved rapidly in recent years”.

Betting on Italy

The average ticket size of the Neva First Fund’s initial investments is €4m, but it will invest first cheques of up to €10m. The fund also intends to make follow-on investments as companies grow. It’s sector agnostic, but with a slight leaning towards fintech and deeptech. 

In a sign that it’s committed to increasing its tech investments in the future, Neva Sgr also announced it’s raising a second, larger fund, which it intends to close in 2024.  

Neva intends to deploy all the first fund’s capital by August 2024, a year early. Intesa Sanpaolo is the biggest investor in the fund, alongside a range of Italian banking foundations including Compagnia di San Paolo, Cariparo and Carilucca. 

It’s a sign that Italy’s traditional finance world is warming up to the potential for economic growth that investing in homegrown tech companies holds — and beginning to shift its perception of “risky” startup investments. Family offices comprise a large part of Italy’s institutional wealth, and have also traditionally been reluctant to invest in “risky” startups. 

But earlier this year, the Agnelli family’s Exor holding company (which owns Ferrari), launched a new venture capital arm, Exor Seeds, dedicated to filling the void of early-stage investment in Italian startups.

Italy motors up 

Though Italy is the fourth-largest economy in Europe, it’s ranked 12th for VC investment over the last five years. It’s created only one private tech company, Scalapay, worth more than $1bn since the dotcom boom. Compare that to Spain, it’s smaller neighbour, which has three.

But in 2021, it began playing catch up. VC investment into Italian startups reached an all-time high of $1.4bn, more than double the previous year, according to Dealroom data.

For context, that’s still less than 10% of the cash that went into France or Germany. But three quarters of the way through 2022, $1.3bn has already poured into Italian startups — despite the cool funding environment across Europe.

International investors tell Sifted they’ve been visiting Milan on the prowl for Italy’s hottest startups, and the city (the country’s economic capital) will also play host to a new tech conference, TechChill Milan, later this month.

There’s now a growing club of scaling startups gaining international investor attention that are edging closer to Scalapay’s 10-digit price tag — read more about them here.

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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