After years of trailing behind its European neighbours, in 2022 Italy’s tech scene finally began to play catch-up. It raised record-breaking funds for its startups, and picked up its first two unicorns — Scalapay and Satispay.
Fast forward to 2023 and things have once again slowed. Up to July 10 this year, Italian startups have raised a total of $597m — putting the country behind Spain ($1.1bn), Poland ($629m) and even Norway ($892m), according to Dealroom data.
Given that fundraising is down across Europe, it’s too early to say whether Italy has lost its momentum. Although there’s been an absence of megarounds, there have been a number of Series A and seed rounds that investors tell Sifted attracted some hype — including fintech ViceVersa’s €10m Series A, fintech Kampaay’s €7.3m Series A and payroll startup Jet HR’s €4.7m seed.
And there’s a steady stream of new startups emerging that have caught local investors’ eyes. To find out who, Sifted spoke to several local VCs for their pick of the most promising Italian startups that don’t feature in their own portfolios.
Many of the startups mentioned are at pre-seed or seed stage and haven’t disclosed much information, so Sifted relied on company announcements, interviews, LinkedIn and Dealroom data to compile this guide.
Isabella Timossi, investor at Exor-backed venture builder and investor Vento
Number of employees: 4
Funding to date: $120k (pre-seed)
Safurai is an AI-based software application that’s designed to help programmers speed up their own software development. The company says it helps them “speed up coding, debugging, refactoring and documentation”, acting as a virtual assistant for them in the software development process, so they can "code better".
“They operate in a very promising market and have a super strong team,” Timossi says. “And what is most striking about them is their ability to iterate quickly. This has allowed them to build strong initial traction and develop a solution that is tailored to the needs of their users.”
Sector: Clean energy
Number of employees: 5
Funding to date: €1.8m (seed)
Sinergy Flow is developing a low-cost redox flow battery (RFB), a relatively new technology that’s designed as a more sustainable alternative to traditional ways of storing large amounts of energy for a long time.
“The team is highly skilled, with strong academic experience on the topic,” says Timossi. Sinergy also has a female CEO, Alessandra Accogli, with a PhD in applied electrochemistry.
Number of employees: 18
Funding to date: $6.2m (Series A+)
In-silico models are experiments performed on a computer or via computer simulation that can speed up and make drug testing cheaper by allowing researchers to examine many more molecules than would be possible in the lab.
This is what InSilicoTrials is doing. It uses computational modeling and simulation techniques to predict the safety and efficacy of new drugs.
Timossi says its tech “has the potential to revolutionise the drug development process, making it faster, cheaper, and more efficient”.
Alessandra Mazzilli, associate at Berlin-HQ’d VC firm Cavalry Ventures
Number of employees: 16
Funding to date: €1m (seed)
If there’s one thing that Italy’s famed for — outside of world-class food and historic architecture — it’s terrible bureaucracy. BonusX is taking it upon itself to make things easier for people to access social, tax and financial benefits, streamlining the necessary paperwork for application.
It’s amassed 200k users so far, who have received a cumulative total of €16m in benefits through the platform, according to its website.
Mazzilli says she chose BonusX because it’s tackling a huge Italian problem. “Accessing these benefits is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming due to complex information, intricate processes, and ever-changing regulation,” she says.
Sector: HR tech
Number of employees: 24
Funding to date: €4.7m (seed)
JetHR raised one of Italy’s largest pre-seed rounds last month: €4.7m, led by Exor Ventures and Italian Founders Fund. It’s a cloud-based payroll and HR management platform, similar to Payfit in France and Gusto in the US.
Being familiar with Italian bureaucracy could give it a significant advantage in its home market, Mazzilli says.
“The market is very difficult to enter due to the specificity of the legal set-up and the various players involved, giving a local experienced player a clear advantage,” she says.
HQ: Riva del Garda
Number of employees: 117
Funding to date: €3m (Series A+)
Smartpricing is a revenue management platform targeting the hospitality industry — and in particular, hotels. Its software helps them develop dynamic pricing, by analysing data to find the most profitable rates they can offer at different times.
“It’s been growing incredibly fast in the last few years despite facing some stiff competition,” Mazzilli says. “The founders worked for several years in the management of hotels and they know the industry inside out. They couldn’t find an appropriate solution, so they decided to go out and build one.”
Alexandre Dewez, vice-president at French investment group Eurazeo, which has been looking closely at Italian tech recently
Sector: Ecommerce software
Number of employees: 12
Funding to date: N/A
Sellix is best described as a Shopify competitor, focusing solely on online companies. It accepts cryptocurrencies as a payment method, and its software enables a range of other services, including promotions, discounts and email marketing.
For Dewez, it’s the founder, Daniele Servadei, who really stands out. “He learned to code when he was 13. He began building websites for his friends, relatives, and eventually expanded to work with random clients. Since he didn't have a bank account at the time, he asked people to pay him in cryptocurrencies. Then at the age of 17, while still in high school, he launched Sellix as a hobby. Now, he has transitioned to working on Sellix full-time.”
Number of employees: 119
Funding to date: €1.8m (seed)
Futura is an e-learning platform that’s designed to help high school and university students prepare for exams. It says it uses AI to help students learn from their past mistakes and identify weak points to focus on, combined with modular classes.
Its founder and CEO, Andrea Chirolli, is 24 years old, and launched Futura while he was still studying at Milan’s Bocconi University.
“I'm incredibly impressed by the team that [Chirolli] has assembled, and his ambitious vision of establishing a global business that aids students worldwide in their test preparations,” Dewez says.
Sector: HR tech
Number of employees: 16
Funding to date: Angel round, undisclosed amount
Algo is an HR platform that provides recruiters with over 100 tests to help identify candidates’ soft and hard skills at the pre-screening stage.
It says it’s worked with over 200 SME and enterprise companies in Italy so far.
It also has a pretty young CEO and cofounder. Nicolo Mazzocchi is just 23 years old — and Algo isn’t his first company.
“Nicolo started his first company at the age of 17,” Duwez says. “During the process of growing his initial startup, he encountered difficulties in analysing the soft skills of potential candidates, recognising that these skills were the most accurate indicators of recruitment success.”
*Data pulled up to July 10 2023.