How do you “build” an entrepreneur”? In general it is the family of the entrepreneur that, as well as providing finance and opportunity, transmits a certain entrepreneurial culture. This has long been the pattern in Italy. But entrepreneurial ability is not always a hereditary characteristic and it is not uncommon for businesses to risk going into decline when heirs take over the reins, too often later in life, because the original entrepreneur has finally moved aside (and generally against their will).
Universities have helped to develop entrepreneurial skills with their courses and their cross-fertilization of ideas between different disciplines. Today universities have another tool, business accelerators. These are businesses themselves, whose aim, and therefore “product”, is the creation of new businesses and new entrepreneurs.
Business incubators and accelerators have emerged from the eminently institutional phase of past years, when they were set up because there were empty spaces to fill and a need to attract businesses and connections. These objectives remain, but accelerators are now run by people who are entrepreneurs themselves and who have a good knowledge of technological innovations, who can recognize talent, and who invest in the development of startups. Some accelerators are listed on the stock exchange, such as Riccardo Donadon’s H-Pharm in Treviso, or Luigi Capello’s LVenture in Rome. These accelerators receive thousands of applications from young people with business ideas and choose those that seem to have the best chance of growing and succeeding. These young entrepreneurs are offered office space, a little money (but not always), and, especially, mentoring and the chance to work alongside other young entrepreneurs. This creates a hothouse of businesses that help each other, exchanging information and trying things out. Not many will actually make it as businesses, but along the way young people become entrepreneurs who may try another path if that business does not take off.
This is how entrepreneurship begins today, and universities are attentive to these developments. The University of Trento encourages startups with a program of its own, as well as collaborating with the local accelerator (Trentino Sviluppo) and with other institutions (FBK and the Edmund Mach Foundation) in this activity of creating businesses that is such an important investment in the future growth of the region and of the country.