H-Farm is the most picturesque venture incubator you’ve ever been to, based in the Italian countryside a convenient five minutes from the Venice Airport. While the area’s shoe manufacturing industry struggles to keep profitable, this massive incubator represents a solution to the area’s economic woes.
Set on over 1,300 hectares on a modern campus, the incubator includes massive coworking spaces, a huge produce farm (one startup is monitoring veggie growth), a fresh-foods cafeteria, and huge transparent cubes hosting roughly 300 young, inspired 20-somethings at 400 euros a desk. Wired Italia director Riccardo Luna spent time visiting H-Farm and said afterwards on Twitter that it “intoxicated him: a new Italy is born and is set to grow.”
So far Italy’s technological lag has caused aspiring entrepreneurs to leave the country for startup hubs across Europe where visibility and access to funding is higher. Now H-Farm aims to keep that Italian talent in the motherland, together with other local incubators like Padova’s M31 (which specializes in hardware technology) and Florence’s Nana Bianca (led by Paulo Barberes, startup veteran and founder of Dada, which IPO’d in 2010).
With a €20 million fund backed by international partners like Bertelsmann and Unicredit, H-Farm acts as both an incubator and an investor: It provides startups with the capital required to begin operations while supplying a range of administrative, financial, and commercial services.
To date the group’s portfolio comprises 30 startups, four of which have already been sold with successful track records. Web agency H-art, for instance, got a seed investment of €100,000 and was sold for €5 million to the WPP group, a world leader in advertising and marketing services.
Despite the palpable love of Italy, some of H-Farm’s biggest success stories are still the ones that leave. One mobile commerce company, Garage (backed by Balderton Capital and Holzbrinck), recently opened an office in London, which H-Farm founder Maurizio Rossi mentioned as a point of pride.
As H-Farm expands, it is actively looking to host founders from in and out of the country. Get in touch with the team here.
This story originally appeared on Venturevillage.eu. Copyright 2012