After a slow start relative to its European peers, Italian tech has started playing catch up.
In 2021, there was a noticeable uptick in VC investment into the country’s startups: it reached an all-time high of $1.4bn, more than double the previous year, according to Dealroom.
For context, that's still less than 10% of the cash that went into France or Germany. But just over halfway through 2022, Italy’s already racked up $1bn of investment.
International investors tell Sifted they’ve been visiting Milan on the prowl for the country’s hottest startups, and the economic capital will also play host to the TechChill conference in September for the first time.
The surest sign of all? Italy finally banked its first unicorn company since the dotcom boom when buy now, pay later fintech Scalapay reached a $1bn valuation in February. Now, there’s a growing club of scaling startups gaining international investor attention and edging closer to 10-digit price tags.
We’ve used data from Sifted’s intelligence team and Dealroom to compile a list of Italian startups which could be the country’s next breakout stars. Each company was founded in 2010 or later, has raised its most recent round since the start of 2020 and has a valuation of €100m or more.
So, which are the rising Italian tech startups? And which could be next to hit a $1bn valuation?
What: A proptech that buys properties and renovates them to sell on at a profit
Funding to date: $241m
Latest valuation: $500m (Sifted estimate based on founder interview)
Founded in 2018, Casavo has seen accelerated growth in the last couple of years. It’s been gaining big traction in southern Europe — particularly Italy and Spain — where there are large pools of properties that haven’t changed hands in years and often require refurbishment.
This is Casavo’s core focus: it operates on a rather unusual model that sees it offer free appraisals for property owners looking to sell, using its tech to generate an offer within two days, then buying it and renovating it to sell on at a profit.
The company grew its user base threefold in 2021 and expects “triple-digit growth” in 2022. So far it’s sold around 3,200 properties and executed €1bn worth of transactions.
It raised a €400m Series D funding round last month — comprised of €100m equity and €300m in debt — to expand across Europe, starting with France. Hold tight for an imminent valuation boost that could see its valuation edge closer to $1bn — CEO Giorgio Tinacci tells Sifted the round was so over-subscribed that he’s already plotting an extension in the coming months. No mean feat in the 2022 fundraising environment.
What: Grocery delivery startup
Funding to date: $149m
Latest valuation: $469m (Dealroom estimate)
A slightly older member of this list, online grocery platform Everli was founded in 2014 — but the pandemic was an inflection point for the startup’s growth.
CEO Federico Sargenti previously told Sifted: “The pandemic was a real tsunami. The number of demands doubled each day, and we had to act with enormous speed across a range of frontiers, from technology to logistics.”
Everli allows users to place direct home delivery orders from supermarkets like Carrefour, Lidl and Conad in 135 cities in Italy, France, Poland and the Czech Republic, via a network of freelance “personal shoppers”. It’s been tipped as a “one to watch” by investors in Sifted’s pages a couple of times, and recently announced a €22m extension to its Series C funding round from Italian VC United Ventures.
It’ll use this fresh cash to accelerate its international expansion plans, with Germany and Romania on the cards first.
What: An insurance intermediary selling car insurance online
Funding to date: $110m
Latest valuation: $330m (Dealroom estimate)
Prima has built its own tech stack and data analytics tools so that it can underwrite consumer car insurance digitally. It sold its first policy in 2015 and has since gained 2.2m customers.
It’s been growing fast, too. Its primary market is Italy but it’s also expanded in Europe and has offices in the UK and Spain. According to LinkedIn data, its employee headcount across these locations stands at 698, having grown a sizeable 57% in the last year.
Prima has done all this without fundraising for four years. Its last venture boost came in 2018 when it raised €100m from Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. So another raise could soon be on the cards…
What: Mobile payments for consumers and businesses
Funding to date: $171m
Latest valuation: $248m (as of November 2020)
Another relatively old member of this list, Satispay was founded in 2013 and launched its payments systems in 2015. It’s grown to be Italy’s largest mobile payments provider, used by more than 160k merchants including Esselunga, Carrefour, Boggi, Eataly and Benetton. Its HQ is in Milan and it has expanded across Europe with offices in Luxembourg and Berlin so far.
Rather than using debit and credit card networks, Satispay is a bank account-enabled platform that offers in-store and online payments as well as peer-to-peer payments, savings and, thanks to a recent partnership with Italian rising star Young Platform, cryptocurrency trading.
Its last fundraise was in November 2020: a €93m Series C round that included participation from Jack Dorsey’s payments company Block (at the time called Square), as well as China’s Tencent Holdings. In other words, that was some time ago — we’ll have our eyes peeled for a raise in the near future.
What: Challenger bank
Funding to date: $49.5m
Latest valuation: $198m to $297m (Dealroom estimates)
Banca AideXa is an Italian neobank founded in 2020, which focuses on sole traders and companies up to €5m — the backbone of the Italian economy. It has a full ECB banking licence and was founded by finance heavyweights Roberto Nicastro (also senior adviser for Cerberus Capital) and Federico Sforza (previously an executive at Nexi and ING). It also boasts a rare female cofounder, COO Elena Adorno.
AideXa provides fast loans to SMEs within 48 hours using open banking. Founded during the pandemic when many SMEs were forced to close, it distributed over €80m in loans in 2021 and collected €60m in deposits, according to its latest results. It now has more than 2,000 Italian SMEs on its loan book, and is planning on doubling its headcount from 50 to 100 by the end of 2022.
What: Grocery delivery
Funding to date: $77.5m
Latest valuation: $187m (Dealroom estimates)
Cortilia provides home grocery deliveries but with a focus on local, eco-friendly suppliers. It previously operated in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Veneto and Liguria — but plans to expand further south into Rome using a fresh €20m Series C extension.
It raised the funds in June from Five Seasons Ventures, Red Circle Investments, Indaco Venture Partners and Primo Ventures.
CEO Marco Porcaro previously told Sifted that the company’s business exploded during the pandemic, thanks in part to the benefits it brought to struggling businesses and quarantined consumers.
Cortilia built its own AI-driven algorithm that tailors deliveries to user preferences’ and delivery times, which helps prevent food waste and also helps vendors that sell on the platform to keep better track of supplies.
More than 250 small and medium-sized producers sell their food on Cortilia, and the company has 70 employees.
What: AI-powered business forecasting
Funding to date: $49.5m
Latest valuation: $176m to $264m (Dealroom estimates)
Vedrai has developed AI-powered software that delivers business forecasts to SMEs by analysing millions of market variables alongside their company data — a useful tool for CFOs right now.
Founded in 2020, Vedrai raised €40m in its second funding round in April from Italian asset manager Azimut, which it plans to use to develop its technology and expand further into Europe.
Vedrai currently has around 80 employees — almost half of which have been hired in the last six months, according to LinkedIn data.