The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

A new, digital destination: the ultimate pop-up guide to Rome, Italy — September 15, 2015

A new, digital destination: the ultimate pop-up guide to Rome, Italy

Italy’s capital is a stunning place of age-old history and monuments that meet the eye with awe and wonder. Less obvious, perhaps, is the quickly growing ecosystem of technology and creative work. As one founder noted in 2012, the startup scene is “exploding faster than a tomato in Fruit Ninja.” Turns out these folks are putting out much more than some of the world’s best pasta plates. So what’s Rome’s digital life like? Here are some observations and learnings after an escape from the San Francisco startup scene to a summer of freelancing in the Eternal city.

The vibe

I’ll admit, the growing digital and tech scene feels a little bit secret as it can be easily lost among the tourist traps and obvious draws to the city. There are certainly cultural aspects that make Rome feel different than other well-known tech hubs like Silicon Valley. For example, Romans have much less trust in fin tech applications (many people don’t pay bills online or exchange money using technology) and little interest in on-demand apps or the gig economy. With the latter comes a bit of “old-school” thinking — and far less Uber rides.

Fiat 500s rule the road, a pop-up guide to Rome

Let’s just say that getting to work looks a bit different, with smartly-dressed professionals whizzing by on scooters and driving themselves in cute little cars like a Smart or the Fiat 500. Other things, like an engineer’s growing stomach (as a result of long hours at the office) seem to be universal. “The more tummy, the more skill”, I was told over a huge, late night pizza.

Education for future employees

A healthy mix of Italians, EU citizens, and expats help bring Rome’s digital scene to life, many of them young, talented and ambitious. Long admired for the sciences, Rome is home to many universities that provide a solid engineering education. La Sapienza, one of the world’s oldest public educational institutions, is highly regarded. Roma Tre and Tor Vergata, two other public universities, also graduate students who have meticulously studied for careers in internet related disciplines, like programming, privacy and security.

Luiss Business School, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Luiss Business School

For marketing and entrepreneurship, Luiss Business School, Italy’s first MBA program, is a popular, private option. The school boasts a partnership with the Confindustria, making it a prime place to network and find a career-worthy, post-graduate position in Rome or other Italian cities. An excellent school, Luiss Business School is also a relatively inexpensive choice for an English-taught MBA when compared to similar US institutions.

Engineers and entrepreneurs who studied outside of Rome still have much reason to bring their business to Italy, as the country has recently provided a unique set of laws to encourage economic development.

Government initiatives and new laws

Italy introduced the startup visa in 2012. A result of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development’s agenda, the country’s startup laws were specifically designed to bring investment to promising, developing companies. While Milan is undoubtedly Italy’s technical capital, Rome’s central location, history, and proximity to diverse landscapes make it an ideal choice for a place to start up.

Rome city center, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Krista Gray

Financially speaking, Italy’s new flexible labor law (which is applicable to a startup’s entire four year life cycle) has made it easy for startups to offer temporary contracts to employees, as well as issue performance-related pay — two things that vary from earlier law. Companies hiring ‘highly qualified’ employees without a time-sensitive contract (options range from 6-36 months) can take advantage of an outrageous 35% tax credit as reward. Talk about saving on salary! As far as stock and equity goes, startups in Italy are also able to offer external consultants stock options with ‘privileged tax treatment’ or the option to work for equity.

Foreign freelancers also have the possibility of living and working in Rome, with application available via a second visa. The freelance visa, known as a visto di lavoro autonomo, is a bit more difficult to get as it requires first obtaining a nulla osta in Italy. This tedious process involves meeting income requirements along with sharing a statement of work and a proven place to stay. However, it can be a good option for non-EU creatives or industry professionals who are dedicated to taking advantage of Rome’s growing digital scene.

Accelerators and investment

With government initiatives set to support new business and startups, Italy has become a valuable place for investors and accelerators. Not only do corporations, investors, and venture capitalists benefit from the second highest tax relief in the European Union, but Italy is the first country in the world to introduce special rules for equity crowdfunding. With such a specific set of regulations, many investors have taken to startups based in Rome.

Several accelerators cater to helping companies kick things into gear, including Luisse En Labs, which supports startup growth. Club Italia Investment is also known as a well-positioned ‘accelerator enhancer’, a newly modeled vehicle that helps supplement startups’ accelerator funding.

Startups

Rome is home to more than 150 startups, as noted on Angellist. Listed with an average valuation of 2.5 million, companies range in size from small founding teams to mid-size and larger. Much like in some of the designer offices that make the press from Silicon Valley, culture rules and perks keep employees happy.

The EUR District, a pop-up guide to Rome

Pi.campus is a solid example of what Italian startup life can look like, the office complex located in Rome’s bustling, green EUR district. Pi.Campus’ website shows an exclusive club dedicated to providing ‘the best work environment for talented people’ and counts top startups Filo, Chupamobile, and Wanderio as its inhabitants. Though not in residence at Pi.Campus, hot startups like Pathflow, LuxuryEstate, FaceSmash, Netlex, YepLike!, and UnFraud also call Rome home.

Coworking

Smaller companies, remote workers, freelancers and creatives who don’t have space in a place like Pi.campus have plenty of opportunities to co-work. While the list of spaces I put together isn’t as extensive as what some I’ve seen for New Zealand, Australia, London, or San Francisco, there’s no shortage of great places to get stuff done:

Cowo360 coworking space, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Cowo360

  • Cowo360: A favorite coworking space in Rome. The location is visually stunning, with sleek, leather furniture and sophisticated artwork.
  • Impact Hub: Desks in a space dedicated to social interaction. Impact Hub is a great place to meet people and freely exchange ideas.
  • Spqwork: Customized spaces have access to Spqworks’ FabLab, which offers 3D printer use, among other perks.
  • Regus: A familiar name with worldwide locations, Regus offers office space and coworking rooms for startups, remote workers, and freelancers.
  • Let’s Make: A beautiful, creative space for programmers and makers.

Though Roman coffee shops are more of the standup bar variety, it’s not unusual to find folks with laptops in places like Romeow (which is also an impeccably decorated cat café!), La.Vi (bonus points for the roof deck) and Café Café (just steps from the Colosseo).

Romeow cat bistro, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Romeow.

Community, events, and groups

Folks flock to Rome to see some of the world’s most impressive architecture and art exhibits, but those in digital disciplines will be pleasantly surprised at the smattering of community groups and events available in the city, too. From blogger nights to Instagram meet-ups, programming groups, and major conferences, Rome’s scene offers true variety. Here’s a handful of cool, upcoming events:

Though not specifically Roman, the Facebook group Italian Startups is a good place to connect with founders and employees in many cities, and currently counts more than 20,000 members. A second group, Italian Startup Events, caters specifically to happenings and counts 8,000 people (many Romans) as members.

Ready for Rome? Would love to hear your thoughts, questions or experiences in regard to the ancient city’s transition to a technical hub. Leave your notes in the comments!

Featured image illustration by Jen Reyn.

Featured job: evening host, Hub Melbourne, Australia — May 4, 2014

Featured job: evening host, Hub Melbourne, Australia

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Do you love innovation and the idea of coworking, collaboration and community? Do you love bringing some order to things, and connecting with and supporting amazing people? Are you committed to exceptional customer experiences?

If yes, then please read on.

Hub Melbourne is a professional member community that drives innovation through collaboration. They’re now looking for an evening host.

It’s made up of individuals, startups, social enterprises and large corporate, government and education institutes. At our centre is a ‘clubhouse’ – a coworking and innovation space on Bourke Street. They are part of a global network of almost 60 similar ‘Hubs’ around the world.

At the heart of Hub Melbourne is a core team of dedicated individuals whose role is to create an environment where diverse people, organisations and sectors come together, work on projects, swap ideas and innovate. They do this by hosting physical and online collaboration spaces, curating events for learning and networking and catalysing connections for our members. They’re constantly !innovating new ways to work and do business.

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Their values are: Open, Collaborative, Autonomous, and Entrepreneurial.

Overview of the role:

An awesome evening host to collaborate with the team on all facets of the business.

Your role will involve:

  • Providing a welcoming environment for Hub members and space users
  • Supporting Hub members to ensure their Hub experience is an awesome and successful one
  • Space beautification
  • Events setup and breakdown
  • Daily coworking space reset at end of day
  • IT support (shared with day host)
  • Identifying and implementing continuous improvement processes and procedures
  • Working as part of a dynamic duo with the day host

For this role, you must:

  • Dig the idea of innovation and collaboration (this is a deal breaker!)
  • Understand and participate in the digital world
  • Have a willingness to teach others
  • Have excellent research and networking skills – know the right places to look and people to ask
  • Be super-organized, flexible, process-oriented, and open-minded  Be willing to jump in and help wherever needed
  • Have a passion for space beautification
  • Be a hospitality super person with high standards of space cleanliness

What’s in it for you?

  • You’ll be a key member of an energetic and fun small core team
  • Enabling an inspiring and diverse network of over 200 people in-house and 7,000 people globally
  • Being part of a company with a vision and plan to make a difference
  • Working from one of the coolest workplaces in town (12.30-9.30pm, some flexibility with hours)
  • A full-time role based on Bourke Street
  • This role provides you with $55K incl. super plus phone allowance and professional development allowance

How to apply:

Please submit a two-minute video on why you would love to work with Hub Melbourne, plus a LinkedIn profile to:

Full job details: http://bit.ly/HubMelbourne

Breather launches in New York to help people discover quiet spaces by the hour — March 17, 2014

Breather launches in New York to help people discover quiet spaces by the hour

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Breather is a new service that lets you find beautiful, practical spaces that you can reserve on the go. Some say its like Airbnb for non-sleeping spaces that help you find peace and quiet, on demand, in busy cities.

Continue reading

Work-life haven: why entrepreneurs and digital nomads are settling in Bali — January 23, 2014

Work-life haven: why entrepreneurs and digital nomads are settling in Bali

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“I’ve never been as productive as I have been living in Bali. There’s an opportunity here to access yoga, healthy food and fresh air that’s more difficult to come by in a city. It’s a place people come to get perspective on their lives… a unique opportunity to get perspective and focus.”

Bali, with its tropical climate, laid-back lifestyle, beaches, jungles and cheap beer, has long been a holiday-maker’s paradise. The ‘Island of the Gods’, a province of Indonesia, is a popular playground and place of reflection for Australian, Asian and, since Julia Roberts had a mid-life crisis on its shores in Eat Pray Love, American travelers. In recent years, the very reasons for the island’s booming tourist trade have also made it an attractive place to do business from. Bright, driven folk striking out on their own have realized they can live and work in paradise, rather than just holiday in it. So what business realizations are travelers having on their wanderings around the island?

  1. Eat, drink and generally live like a king = cost of living (and of doing business) is low relative to developed economies, and time can be bought back by outsourcing the chores of life.

  2. Relax and reflect in paradise = escape the daily grind of big cities and stresses of everyday life, and gain new perspective on your work.

  3. Soak up the island’s renowned nutrition, wellbeing, art and culture pursuits = immerse your work mind in a creative, inspiring and energetic atmosphere.

Peter Wall, co-founder of the island’s first major co-working space, Hubud, speaks of the hinterland town of Ubud as the island’s creative hub, and the perfect place to escape the rat race:

“Bali has always been recognized as an incredible creative hub. You can come here and experiment, do things a bit differently, step back from the business and work harder or smarter. The day-to-day grind in a big city can wear you down. Living here no-one doesn’t want to come to work. No-one is doing things they don’t want to do. There’s a really nice energy in our space; there’s something about getting out of your normal cubicle and working in a space that feels different.

“My commute to work is two-and-a-half minutes through a monkey forest. I’ve never been as productive as I have been living in Bali. There’s an opportunity here to access yoga, healthy food and fresh air that’s more difficult to come by in a city. It’s a place people come to get perspective on their lives… a unique opportunity to get perspective and focus.”

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With over 200 members, and around 50-60 daily coworkers, Hubud is one factor in the growth of Bali’s creative and startup business community. Wall and co-founder Steve Munroe use the space to help build a stronger community of entrepreneurs, hosting 25 events in November, encouraging ‘exchangeable learning’ and sponsoring hackathons and Indonesia’s social innovation award. The pair are also developing a ‘soft landing solution’ for new arrivals which will include airport pickup, phone number and phone, accommodation, cleaning, laundry, food, desk space and other support for a monthly rate. Understanding and transparency of costs is a sticking point for many, according to Munroe.

A similar set-up can be found at co-working and co-living startup accelerator, Startup Getaway, located near Denpasar and offering offers one, three or six-month stays for entrepreneurs to work on their startup without any distractions or daily chores. The same team is also behind the 30-day networking event Project Getaway and the Contenga International co-living and coworking environment.

One of the facility’s alumni, co-founder and CEO of Windows mail client Mailbird, Andrea Loubier, says the community in Bali is fresh, innovative and creative but, like a startup, still in its early stages. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Loubier has stationed her team – a mix of Danish, Indonesian and Colombian nationals – in a town between Ubud and Kuta. She believes:

“Operational costs can be bootstrapped much easier than in the US or Denmark, simply due to the high cost of living in Europe and America.

“It’s beautiful here; it’s in an up-and-coming, rapid-growth market, with Indonesia being the fourth largest population in the world. The tech industry is growing rapidly as well, and more and more students are seeking degrees in technology which is very promising for building a stronger economy in Indonesia. We have some of the best team members on Mailbird from the prestigious Institute of Technology Bandung right here in Indonesia. We are excited to be part of the movement specifically in Bali, where we already feel that our startup community is a great example of eliminating the extra day-to-day to-do’s, so you can fully dedicate your time to building an exciting business while also enjoying life.

“It’s funny when you tell people that your startup is based in Bali – they’re surprised or don’t take you seriously. Then they are surprised when they see the traction and global awareness of the startup.”

“Our little, Bali-based startup has been recognized worldwide after we were picked up by major tech news publishers and blogs like TechCrunch and Lifehacker.

“The warm weather keeps you happy and very motivated in Bali too.”

Another coworking space in the island’s coastal town of Sanur, a female entrepreneurial group called Secret {W} Business and #subali meetups add to the community on the island.

Three years ago, TEDx made its way to Bali’s shores, started by digital designer Daniela Burr. Earlier this year the event was attended by a curated group of 400 innovators, creatives, cultural leaders and social pioneers. Burr started TEDxUbud after falling in love with the island:

“It happened unintentionally. I took a sabbatical in 2010, inspired by designer Stefan Sagmeister and came to Bali following his advice. I loved it. I started TEDxUbud just two months after landing and it grew exponentially, completely changing my life. I run a digital design studio and have the ability to work from anywhere… Bali quickly became the perfect spot. I’ve met the most incredible people on this island, we now have a great co-working space, and I get to live what I always thought was a dream life.”

Working in paradise, and in a developing country remote from  major business centers, has its drawbacks, but those working there find them insignificant compared to the benefits. Budgeting, safety, language/cultural barriers and internet speed can be factors to contend with, but are issues easily managed. Access to outside networks, events and resources not yet established in Bali also need to be managed – raising investment requires flying in or flying out, for example.

The picture painted by the entrepreneurs and digital nomads who’ve chosen the Bali work-life haven is a rosy one. The business case is strong, and the vibe of the island is proving for many to be the special ingredient needed to unlock inspiration and creativity. It’s not hard to see why it’s becoming a hub for startup business and creative industries.

Additional links:

Follow @thefetch  on Twitter and subscribe to our global weekly email digests at http://thefetch.com.

About our contributor // Chris Byrne is a writer working on the journalism-marketing merger. He’s a data journalist, content and comms freelancer. Follow him on @penseive.

Image credits: All photos from Hubud coworking community.

How to move cities without feeling lonely — December 10, 2013

How to move cities without feeling lonely

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When moving places, people experience first a sense of loss, dislocation, alienation and isolation, which leads to processes of acculturation. Sarina Quinlan tells her story.

Over five years ago, I packed my bags and said goodbye to a life in Staines, United Kingdom. I’d lived there, in the same house, my entire life. Traveling and working in Europe, America and Australia as a music journalist and marketing manager, I felt confidently schooled on cultural differences and happy to live anywhere.

On 14 August 2008, 80% of my possessions were hand delivered to a local charity shop and with zero emotional and physical preparation, I was alone, homeless, jobless, ecstatic, and bound for Brisbane. From personal experience, here’s how to beat the loneliness demon and get connected to your new life.

Before you leave

Be aware of the emotional impact of starting a your life in unfamiliar territory, consider the dislocation, the home sickness and the loss of the presence of your support network. Don’t expect to hop, skip and jump over the dramatic changes you experience, give yourself a break. To reduce the natural shock, plot exciting activities to do once you’ve found your new digs. Plan to explore.

When you get there

For those looking to kickstart your own venture or looking to connect, here are some tips on immersing yourself in a fresh start and meeting positive people:

Contribute

Fanzines, street press, blogs, non-profit organizations and local events. Volunteer and paid positions for contributors exist. Take something you love and contribute to a community, publication or group. For research, local independent cafes, music stores, magazines and flexing the DuckDuckGo or Google machine is essential.

Meeting up and going it alone

From nights out to tech-heavy meetups, check out Meetup.com to join a range of social groups, and check if The Fetch is in your city.

Going it alone to events can be daunting for some, if this is you, I would consider getting some experience dating yourself in your home town before venturing alone in foreign territory. It is also good to know, most of the people that attend events have arrived on their own two feet, no entourage in sight.

Collaborate

Working on your blog? Want to immerse yourself in a creative or tech startup? Plan a coworking space crawl. Visit as many as you can and be social, ask questions, find out how to get involved in events such as Startup Weekend. Hire a desk and collaborate with your new found colleagues.

For Australia, San Francisco, London and New Zealand, check out The Fetch Coworking Space Guide

Reinstate the things you love

Recreate your home routine. Book into yoga classes, join the gym, find your favourite coffee spot to feel more settled. Fill your new home with photos, familiar objects that make you feel like you. All these things will help you reconnect with yourself in new surroundings.

Phone home

Don’t forget to call home regularly to check in and remind yourself of how small the world really is. The emotional grounding and support from face time with your friends and family will help you glide over obstacles that may be present.

Evaluate

Plan a trip home at the end of the first or second year, it will help you evaluate how you feel about the migration and whether you have made the right decision. The visit home will quell some of the torn feeling you may have between your amazing support network at home and your exciting new way of life.

Have you moved alone? What’s your story?

About our contributor // Sarina Quinlan is a marketing consultant and the curator of The Fetch in Brisbane. Follow her on Twitter via @digitalsarina.

Image credit: Drew Struzan, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox

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