FD Marketplace. Interview with BonelliErede

To learn more about BonelliErede and why we selected it to join the Marketplace, we interviewed Giulia Bianchi Frangipane, partner and member of BonelliErede’s Innovation and Digital Transformation Focus Team, and Lorenzo Foot.

From a legislative point of view, what improvements could be made for the growth of Italian start-ups?

Although Italy’s VC market has been growing steadily over the years, it is still underdeveloped compared to other European countries. To cite just a few figures, in the third quarter of 2019, VC investments in Italy totalled approx. EUR 200 m, compared to 2.6 bn in the UK, 2 bn in Germany, and 1bn in France (source: Dealroom.co, Quarterly European Venture Capital report, Q3 2019). This goes to show how much harder it is for start-ups to raise equity finance and, hence, to scale up in Italy than elsewhere in Europe. Besides the Italian VC market being a bit behind the times, which is the result of numerous factors to address another day, the current emergency will inevitably have repercussions for the start-up sector.
Against this backdrop, government initiatives to support entrepreneurship and companies in their early stage of growth become indispensable. And this is especially true when aimed at encouraging investment and attracting capital, also from abroad and thereby increasing the competitiveness of start-ups at European and international level.
The government responded to the challenge with the recently enacted Relaunch Decree (Law Decree of 19 May 2020, No. 34). It introduces a series of measures designed to strengthen public support for the incorporation and development of innovative start-ups in Italy. One example is the mechanism that allows non-EU operators that invest in start-ups to obtain a particular type of visa: the minimum investment threshold has been slashed by half to EUR 250 k. Another welcome measure is the increase in the financial endowment and the extension of the capacity of action of the “Smart&Start Italia grant”. This grant is available to companies in Southern Italy and is aimed at reducing the North–South gap, which is considerable also in the VC sector: last year, a whopping 78% of the resources invested in the PE and VC sectors concerned Northern Italy (source: AIFI, 2019, the Italian private equity, venture capital and private debt market).

How do you assist start-ups and scaleups and what are the main issues they address to your law firm?

We assist start-ups from their very outset: from incorporation and the structuring and management of the cap table, through internal relationships, to opening up their capital to investors. Our multidisciplinary team also guides start-ups through all stages of their growth: the development and integration of technologies, the choice and use of tools to protect and exploit IP, the exploitation of data, national and international business development, and the management of client and supplier relationships (simplified through the use of advanced legal tools).
With over 20 years of helping companies reach their business goals – and handling many of the most important deals in Italy’s history – start-ups can rest assured that they will receive fast, efficient and viable advice for every challenge facing them.

Admittedly, the legal framework on innovative start-ups and SMEs (innovative and otherwise) is complex and patchy. But if exploited in the right way, innovative companies can gain greater flexibility than other limited companies, especially in terms of fundraising methods and structuring of the economic and administrative rights of shareholders and investors. That is why understanding the individual needs and challenges of each and every client is so important, as that combined with our in-depth knowledge of the legislation enables us to take full advantage of the legislation to devise investment solutions tailored to the given client’s needs and desires.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, have you started initiatives or actions to support Italian business system?

At the very outset we set up a task force to give businesses immediate access to concrete help, especially in interpreting and applying the constant slew of measures being introduced. To ensure no stone is left unturned, the task force is made up of experts from all our practice areas, covering: administrative, banking and finance, bankruptcy, civil and commercial contracts, competition/antitrust, compliance, corporate, corporate crime, court proceedings, employment, healthcare and life sciences, international arbitration, privacy, shipping and transport, and tax.
We have also placed our expertise at the disposal of the authorities and have been actively involved in some of their work.
Another key area of focus is contributing to initiatives to give the needed support to the healthcare system. One such example is the Buzzi Children’s Hospital Foundation in Milan, besides joining their fundraising campaign for medical equipment for ICU, we are also helping with the coordination of the working group it set up to help with the supply of indispensable, quality health equipment. The group is forging ahead with a myriad of initiatives, which many of our professionals are putting their skills to work on, including searching for and liaising with suppliers, negotiating the purchase of the most urgently needed equipment, and supporting businesses that are willing to adapt their production lines in order to help meet demand.

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FD Marketplace. Interview with Linklaters

LINKLATERSis a leading global firm combining legal expertise with a collaborative and innovative approach to help clients navigate constantly evolving markets and regulatory environments.We have chosen to include Linklaters in our marketplace to support the startups in our community from this point of view as well. Alessandro Tanno explains better how this will occur.
What are the main legal issues that a startup, especially fintech and tech, has to face from your point of view?
Fintech startups tend by definition to operate in very specific areas that are sometimes, unlike the typical business models of incumbents, either poorly regulated or subject to regulations that arenot studied beforehand,but adapted to that business and therefore sometimes also unclear. The greatest criticality, therefore, lies in moving within a regulatory context that is constantly evolving; trying to mitigate risks as much as possiblewithout the necessary legal framework affecting the sustainability and scalability of the business model. The structured external consultancy must therefore respond to these fundamental needs, providing a timely and rapid service that fully understands the needs of the business and the commercial and technological issues, making them available to the startup professionals vertical skills on specific sectors, but, at the same time, making themtransversal so as to effectively support the startup throughout its evolutionary phase.
What kind of services and support can you provide them?
Linklaters has always aimed to invest in its customers and establish lasting partnerships based on trust. The support provided by Linklaters is not merely legal support or individual advice. The same goes for Fintech, a strategic priority for us. That’s why, within the global network in each office, dedicated Fintech teams have beenformingthat dialogue with each other on a daily basis and that now constitutesa privileged observatory on international trends and best practices. This, combined with our consolidated relationships with regulators and financial institutions, allows us to position ourselves in the startup ecosystem as a solid legal partner.
Linklaters also relies heavily on collaborations with market enablers. In addition to being proud partners of the Fintech District, we are also exclusive legal partners of Crowdcube, FinTech50, TeckUK and Singapore Fintech Association. We believe that collaboration is the best tool to learn new market models and facilitate dialogue between the traditional banking channel and new fintech operators.
Have you launched any particular support/assistance initiatives for the covid19 emergency?
The Covid-19 Emergency required the Firm to remodel all activities. The objective has remained the same as ever: to invest in our clients. All the more so at a delicate time like this, demonstrating that we are at their side to support them in managing the crisis and rescheduling their activities was of paramount importance. Our activities have therefore intensified considerably, leaving room for new projects and different initiatives that have followed the evolution of interaction with customers. We had to oversee new channels of communication and increase the use of new technologies in order to help our customers quickly find their way in a market that had become deeply uncertain. In this way the client expects clear and rapid answers to ever new questions, so one of our first initiatives was to create a multidisciplinary guide to bring together the most diverse experiences of our professionals to support our clients’ big questions. We then created the “Covid-19 / Italian Legal Hub”, a specific section dedicated to Italy on our global website, a collection of insights and practical tips to help clients deal with this emergency while staying up to date with the latest regulatory news. The site also contains a section entirely dedicated to the impacts of the emergency on the ecosystem of Italian SMEs and startups. The continuous dialogue with customers has been crucial because it has allowed us to intercept needs and adapt our structure to change. From this continuous exchange You Matterwas born:an initiative aimed at providing a first free support on issues arising from the Covid-19 emergency, and in particular related to Employment issues.
All our events turned into webinars, we created a training menu to provide free training on legal issues, capitalizing on years of important investments in technology. Linklaters has also partnered with DocuSign, a world leader in e-signing, to enable its clients to affix qualified electronic signatures remotely to most of the documentation produced as part of an operation. This element will represent a “game changer”. A first step
towards the first deal managed in an entirely virtual way.
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