Startups, the embodiment of innovation: young, dynamic, innovative companies that launch cutting-edge business models, products or services that are scalable and “disruptive” to break the mould, anticipate change and revolutionize business.
Every year’s StartupItalia Open Summit is dedicated to these manifestations of the spirit of innovation. “Segnali dal futuro” (Signals from the Future), the 2019 edition, was held a few days ago in one of the places that best represents the world of business and innovation: Bocconi University.
It was a busy day packed with speeches and panel discussions featuring exceptional guests from a wide range of business sectors: from marketer Marco Montemagno to Prof. Carlo Cottarelli, competitive swimmer Filippo Magnini and Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalization Paola Pisano, along with figures from the industrial establishment such as Vittorio Colao, former CEO of Vodafone, and Agostino Stantoni, CEO of Cisco.
People, projects, ideas and paths seen through the eyes of those who already live in the future: this is the significance of #SIOS19. An opportunity for exchange, discussion and inspiration for startuppers, the undisputed stars, dreamers and young people who are preparing to enter the business world, as well as for those who have been working in this world for a while, but never get tired of learning, evolving and being reborn every time.
“Innovating is a right” (Paola Pisano) and while startups are the epitome of innovation, this does not mean that other companies are excluded. On the contrary: “Innovation must be open, inclusive and accessible to all,” (Agostino Stantoni). “No one must be excluded from innovation” (Paola Pisano).
As a startup at heart and a fervent changemaker with both a technological and social focus, Way2Global felt totally at ease in the futuristic atmosphere of #SIOS19. Following the first edition, which we participated in last year, we returned eager to learn all of this year’s news, advice, ideas and signals from the future.
So what was the takeaway for the company? How is the right to innovate expressed?
1. “Today is an extraordinary time to innovate.It is possible to make mistakes, but at almost no cost” (Marco Montemagno).
This is the trajectory of startups: they embark on a journey into the unknown, unafraid to experiment, fail and start again with new disruptive innovation. It is a challenging path, but companies should not be discouraged: “Companies often reach a certain point at which they are satisfied and then stop. This is no longer conceivable. Scalability, innovation and continuous growth are essential. Today companies must never stop!” (Luca De Biase).
2. “There are two kinds of companies: those that wake up in the morning and consider what they should invent and those that consider what they should copy. They are both successful models, although the first is more exclusive” (Diego Piacentini).
You do not need exceptional skills to innovate: innovation is within everyone’s reach, there are infinite ways to do it and “there is no need to be extraordinary in order to do extraordinary things” (Selene Biffi). What is needed is a desire to “innovate, change and grow, which requires the ability to experiment, make mistakesand learn without fear” (Tommaso Arenare).
3. “Each of us must commit ourselves to this change if we want to INNOVATE and grow” (Carlo Cottarelli).
We are currently going through a period of volatility, uncertainty and complexity. We live in a contentious country where startups often clash with an obsolete establishment, which blocks the process of innovation. However, we must remember that we are the ones who hold the real power: “Change must take place within public opinion, because we are the ones who vote for politicians,” (Carlo Cottarelli). “Italy will not change unless we all change it together. We need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves,” (Paola Pisano).
4. “Innovation is fast, whereas corporations are slow” (Vittorio Colao).
Speed and dynamism are two key characteristics for large companies that wish to learn how to navigate the digital sea of hyperconnectivity. Along with speed, cooperation also plays a central role: today, co-creation is no longer an option and “Large companies need to open up to the outside world and to collaboration in order to have the opportunity not only to use technology, but to create their own” (Barbara Cominelli).
5. “In life, anything is possible!” (Layla Pavone)
This mantra is relevant to everyone and above all to women, as illustrated by the 20 Unstoppable Women who took turns on stage at the 2019 Summit’s most attended workshop: “The future is women, let’s empower”. Female entrepreneurship is tentative and still in the early stages of development – only 1 in 4 women in Italy holds a managerial position and women-led startups account for just 13%. It is often women forego risk-taking, give up at the start and refuse to try. “Women have been liberated for two centuries, but are still a long way from equality,” (Giovanna Badalassi): It is time to abandon the false myth of “I can't do it” and to be courageous, “to start new businesses, to take risks and to fail” (Claudia Pingue).
6. “We have entered the economy of reputation” (Rossella Sobrero)
Reputation is a defining theme for companies that have decided to make sustainability a strategic driver. Enhancing your brand by making responsible choices and demonstrating a serious social and environmental commitment is a driving force for healthy growth on the market. As a perfect follow-up to Rossella Sobrero’s introduction, journalist Paola Centomo spoke on the panel on “Responsible value and the story of CSR”. She praised the virtuous social innovation model of Benefit Corporations: With their hybrid mission as for-profit and non-profit organizations, and their commitment to promoting social and environmental impact as well as profit, they aim to change the world with a regenerative approach.
Indeed, for Way2Global, a women-led Società Benefit startup that champions sustainable change and social innovation, all these signals from the future are precious food for thought, have touched us to the core and have landed on fertile ground.
We have therefore embraced Article 1 of the Law on the Right to Innovation, which reads as follows:
“Find the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Words which, together with our founding mantra, “Be the change you want to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi), will help us proceed with the same enthusiasm as ever in our collective innovation project, to continue to work every day to improve our country and to honour our promise of global sustainability.
Remembering, as our conscious writing instructor Piero Babudro told us at the beginning of our journey, that:
“A startup is not just a company, but a way of seeing the world and experiencing reality.”