WER Milan family photo

WER2020, kicks off in Milan, Italy

Firmly settling into the new year and decade, the Women in Entrepreneurship project arrived at its first stop of the WER2020 roadshow, in Milan on the 23rd January.

Held in Italy’s economic capital, the ninth event in the European Young Innovators Forum’s (EYIF) pan-European tour, continued to disseminate the project’s objectives to generate a network of alumni of women founders, and local investors, to help drive innovation led enterprise. And also highlight the gender disparity within startup ecosystems across Europe, to inform and enact positive change, both on ground-level and in overarching policy.

Opening with a warm welcome, from Nicholas Zylberglajt, EYIF President, at the cocktail reception, with venue supplied by one of our main partners, Talent Garden Italy, at Talent Garden Calabiana, and catering provided by our other main partner, UniCredit. The evening gave participants an opportunity to mingle with one another and shake off first impression jitters, ahead of the investors panel and one-on-one speed mentoring sessions, on day two.

The cocktail reception hosted speeches from Sharon Cyr, Vice Consul, US Consulate General Milan, who spoke about the importance of mentorships for professional growth, and emphasised the positive partnership between EYIF and the US Mission to the EU, through the Women in Entrepreneurship Roadshow (WER) project.

“Mentorships have a positive impact on the professional growth of the mentees, especially youth and women who face unique barriers to thriving as entrepreneurs. Companies that foster mentorship also thrive as a result.” – Sharon Cyr, Vice Consul, US Consulate General Milan.

As well as from Noa Segre, Senior Consultant Corporate Innovation Talent Garden, who gave additional advice on the value and power of a strong network, to attendees;

“Network with the people around. You never know the power of your network and where it can take you”

Cocktail reception - speakers group photo

(Left to right) Noa Segre, Senior Consultant Corporate Innovation Talent Garden; Nicholas Zylberglajt, EYIF President; Sharon Cyr, Vice Consul, US Consulate General Milan; and Janja Jagic, WER Project Manager.

The collaborative messaging and spirit of the initial meeting, continued throughout the second, day, as participants were welcomed back to Talent Garden Calabiana, where activities kicked off with a dynamic investors panel that took a detailed look at the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, in Italy, and how this compared with larger European and also global environments.

The talented panel of investors included; Sara Lovato, Investment Manager at United Ventures, Lisa Di Sevo, Partner/Investment Manager Prana Ventures, Juliet Boissière, Associate 360 Capital, Francesco Rossi,Partner Levante Capital, and Giancarlo Rocchiettii, Founder and President of Club degli Investitori, who provided their expert insights into the local and global environment of venture capitalism. As well as providing sage advice to participants on how best to excel in the local ecosystem and beyond.

With Lovato, providing a critical eye to the industry obsession of finding the next ‘unicorn’ as she asked participants to raise their hand if they remembered the name of “one female unicorn,” citing this as “part of the problem,” when it came to representation in entrepreneurship.

As the panelists unanimously agreed that although women founders may require additional encouragement within industry, the responsibility lies with the individual to push past set limits to achieve their goals, as this is a key quality for any and all successful entrepreneurs who wish to thrive and survive in the competitive arena of enterprise. With Rocchiettii also drawing attention to the discrepancy, of 45%, when comparing higher institute learning and execution within the professional business landscape and representation of women.

Investors Panel

(Left to right) Sara Lovato, Investment Manager at United Ventures;Lisa Di Sevo, Partner/Investment Manager Prana Ventures; Francesco Rossi, Partner Levante Capital;Juliet Boissière, Associate 360 Capital;Giancarlo Rocchiettii, Founder and President of Club degli Investitori; and Nicholas Zylberglajt, EYIF President.

As the panel moved on, the focus shifted from representation to the subject of deal flow, a term used by investors to describe the rate at which business proposals and investment pitches are received. Panelist explored the different methods of approach to the concept, with Rossi, providing a wider, globalised, view on the term, using the Shenzhen Stock Exchange to give an example of organic productivity due to a more intuitive model of deal flow at the investment core.

With the main takeaways of the panel being that ‘equity is still fairly cheap in Italy,’ and the key quality that investors look for in their investees is the entrepreneurial mindset that exudes both promise and potential, through genuine personal passion and belief.

Summarised by Di Sevo, as she told participants,

“Be confident in what you are doing. You don’t have to be a unicorn, you just need to run your vision with confidence!”

Following the panel, participants were invited to take a short break and also hear from some of the local partners present at WER2020 Milan, including She Tech Italy, Make a Cube, and Tech Italy Advocates – to find out about local initiatives aimed at boosting the representation of women in startup and innovation. Held ahead of the Q&A portion of the event, where founders were given the chance to quiz the investors on topics such as next stage investment, economic growth, metrics, and market expansion, which again highlighted the importance of a strong network to support the individual and assisting them in fulfilling their potential.

Q&A audience

After a lively lunch, catered by Unicredit, participants were invited to participate in speed mentoring with over 30 local business angels, founders, and partners, who provided individual advice and guidance to entrepreneurs over the course of the afternoon. As well as facilitating a first point of contact, to grow their interaction beyond WER Milan into the future.

speed mentoring session

WER2020 Milan, not only provided participants with a detailed look into the Italian entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also provided further data for EYIF to positively shape and disrupt innovation in Europe. Allowing for a solid foundation as the project expands and grows, from a roadshow tour to a long-lasting programme of connectivity, collaboration, and celebration of women entrepreneurs.

The next roadshow will be in Paris, France on the 26th – 27th March. You can find out more details, including how to apply here: https://euwomenroadshow.eu/schedule/wer-paris/

Also don’t forget to register your interest for the first, Women in Entrepreneurship summit, on the 23rd – 24th June here: https://euwomenroadshow.eu/wer2020/