How to succeed with a Start-up in Milan, Italy.

the Duomo in Milan
How to succeed with a Start-up in Milan, Italy.
April 13, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Understand local business practices and cultural nuances to position your tech start-up for success
  • Seek out advisors, mentors, and partners, build a network with local resources like coworking spaces, accelerators, and government funding
  • Collaborate with a headhunter, universities and research centres to find diverse and skilled talent for your team
  • Establish a solid online presence to gain credibility and reach a wider audience
  • Learn the language, understand cultural differences, and build relationships with locals to overcome cultural barriers and gain trust from potential partners, customers, and investors

Building and growing your business in Milan, Italy.

In today's globalised, multicultural world, boundaries to open or expand your start-up business practically anywhere are low.

For generations, Europe has had, and to some extent, some very prominent cities for tech start-ups.

London is an obvious choice, not only because they all speak English, but also because it is one of the world's most experienced business capitals.

However, Brexit has made it much more complicated to operate profitably for any new business.

As a result, cities such as Paris and Berlin are the most growing places to build your start-up, and Lisbon is one of the most exciting. 

But, a significant city, often overseen when it comes to tech start-ups, is Milan, Italy. Commonly known as the fashion capital, Milan is not known for their tech start-up environment.

That is changing rapidly!

Not only is Milan a place where some of the best schools in Europe are, but because it is the most international city in Italy, the younger generations are now growing up with a new outlook on professional life, with strong language skills, Italian Bella Figura mentality and a strong desire to take part on the global world of tech. 

Let's dive into why and how you can succeed with your tech start-up in Milan. 


Milan is in the center of Europe

The tech Startup scene in Milan, Italy

An Overview  

  • Milan is Italy's economic and financial capital and has a skilled workforce, strong industrial and manufacturing sectors, and a vibrant cultural scene.  StartupBlink, Milan Start-up Ecosystem Report 2021
  • The start-up ecosystem in Milan is diverse, with companies operating in various industries, including fintech, e-commerce, health tech, and more. 10 exciting Milan-Based startups we're keeping a close eye on!
  • Milan has several universities and research centres, including Politecnico di Milano and Bocconi University, which provide steady talent and ideas. European Innovation Scoreboard 2021
  • In recent years, the city has seen many coworking spaces, incubators, and accelerators that provide support and resources for early-stage start-ups. Some notable examples include Talent Garden Milano, Impact Hub Milano, and PoliHub.
  • The Italian government and local authorities have taken steps to support the growth of the start-up ecosystem, including providing tax incentives and funding programs for start-ups. For example, the Italian Start-up Act offers many benefits for start-ups, such as tax breaks, access to funding, and simplified administrative procedures. European Commission, "Start-up Europe Comes to Silicon Valley".

These factors make Milan a favourable environment for tech start-ups, with a growing ecosystem attracting talent and investment.

While these are good to know, let's look at why understanding Milan's local ecosystem and culture is important.

Building business culture in Milan

Understanding Italy and their culture is crucial to succeeding with a tech start-up in Milan.

Being influenced by its history, geography, and economic landscape, the city has a unique business culture.

It is thus essential to understand the local ecosystem and cultural nuances to navigate the market and build a successful business effectively. 

Navigating challenges for start-up success

Milan's tech start-up scene is expanding, creating many chances for innovators to shake things up.

But it can take much work to access resources to succeed. Entrepreneurs can do well by learning about the local market and using their strengths to overcome challenges.

One such is by establishing Strong Business Relationships.

Knowing Italian culture, where family, community, and tradition are vital in business, is crucial for entrepreneurs coming to Milan.

In addition, building relationships and understanding local language, customs, and etiquette can establish trust and credibility with locals. 

Different market approach for foreign tech start-ups 

Foreign entrepreneurs must understand the local ecosystem and culture to avoid common mistakes.

Assuming that successful business models and strategies from other markets will work seamlessly is not enough, as the market in the city demands a tailored approach.

Understanding this well will help entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls and adapt their strategies accordingly. Therefore, proper research and planning are crucial. 

Trends, opportunities and market gaps in Milan.

What are some of the key trends when it comes to doing business in the local Milan market: 


Milan has a growing fintech ecosystem, with several notable start-ups such as Satispay, Oval Money, and Prestiamoci.

However, there is still room for growth and innovation, particularly in wealth management, insurance, and blockchain-based solutions.


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital health solutions, creating opportunities for start-ups in telemedicine, remote monitoring, and health data analytics.


Milan has set ambitious sustainability targets, including becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

In addition, it creates opportunities for tech start-ups in renewable energy, circular economy, and sustainable agriculture.


The COVID-19 pandemic has also driven a surge in e-commerce adoption in Milan, creating opportunities for start-ups in online marketplaces, logistics, and last-mile delivery.

Education Technology 

Their strong education sector helps foreign entrepreneurs to innovate and disrupt traditional education models by providing online learning platforms, tech solutions, and digital credentials.

Milan, Italy
Milan Business District
paul arnesen human capital

Creating a culture-sensitive business plan with local regulations and taxes

A solid business plan with Milan's regulations, taxes, and cultural norms is essential for tech start-ups. In addition, complying with local laws and taxes is crucial to avoid legal and financial troubles. 

Here is what to consider:

Local regulations

Entrepreneurs in Milan must follow specific regulations and obtain necessary permits and licenses to avoid fines, legal disputes, or business closure.

A business plan that accounts for local regulations is necessary to help entrepreneurs comply with the law.


Working with local accountants and tax experts can help entrepreneurs comply with local tax regulations and take advantage of available tax incentives in Italy's complex tax system. 


With Deel you can hire people in Milan without an entity in Italy.

Cultural nuances

Building solid connections is crucial due to Italian culture's value of personal relationships, trust, and tradition.

Therefore, successful tech entrepreneurs should invest in learning the local language, customs, and etiquette to establish trust and credibility with locals, impacting relationships and deals.

In addition, proper greetings, appropriate attire, and negotiating skills are significant in successful business dealings in Italy. 

Building a network of local advisors and mentors 

Building a network of advisors and mentors who have experience in the local ecosystem in Milan takes time and effort.

For example, working with a local headhunter in Milan with access to the tech talent market is a good start for seeing the potential opportunities in Milan.

In addition, Milan has a vibrant start-up ecosystem with various networking events and meetups to meet other entrepreneurs and professionals in the local ecosystem.

Attend these events, introduce yourself, and start building relationships.

Start building your network here:

Start-up Grind Milan 

Experienced professionals in the start-up ecosystem are featured in monthly fireside chats at this meetup, offering a platform for networking and learning from successful entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders.

Visit here

Talent Garden Innovation School 

This coworking space and innovation school host regular events and workshops on entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and design thinking.

These events offer opportunities to network and learn from experts in different fields.

Visit here

Milan Digital Week 

Start-ups, investors, and digital enthusiasts gather at this yearly event to exhibit the newest advancements in technology and digital culture. In addition, the event offers opportunities for networking, learning, and showcasing products or services. 

Visit here

Meetup Milano startups 

This group organises frequent meetups to bring together the start-up community.

Attendees can connect with other entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals in the ecosystem to network, share ideas, and build relationships. 

Visit here

Start-up Italia Open Summit 

Italian start-ups, investors, and business leaders converge at this annual gathering to discover current trends and advancements in the start-up ecosystem.

In addition, the event presents a platform for networking, education, and exhibiting products or services.

Visit here

Join local entrepreneurship organisations

Several organisations are supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Joining these organisations can provide access to a network of mentors and advisors with resources and support for your business. 

Connect with local accelerators and incubators 

Some accelerators and incubators support start-ups at various stages of development.

Businesses can access local mentors, advisors, investors, and valuable resources and support through these organisations. 


Incubators support tech start-ups by providing mentorship, guidance, and essential resources to foster growth and development.

In addition, these organisations offer access to experienced professionals who can provide legal and accounting services, marketing support, and business development advice to help start-ups succeed. 


Accelerator programs give start-ups chances to present their ideas to investors after undergoing a focused and intense program to scale their businesses.

These programs offer mentorship, resources, and funding opportunities and typically run for three to six months with a rigorous curriculum of workshops, mentorship, and pitch events.

Here's a list of 23 successful incubators and accelerators in Milan.

Coworking spaces

Coworking spaces are shared office spaces where start-ups and individuals can work independently and collaboratively.

They offer start-ups affordable access to office space, meeting rooms, and other amenities.

Also, these spaces provide networking opportunities and access to events and workshops.

Some of the big ones in Milan are Copernico, Talent Garden and WeWork.

Use social media 

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be valuable tools for connecting with other entrepreneurs and professionals in Milan.

Stay updated on news and events by joining relevant groups and following key influencers in the local ecosystem.

Seek out local advisors and mentors 

Connect with local advisors and mentors who have industry-specific experience.

Please invite them for a coffee or lunch and ask for their valuable insights and advice.

Be clear about what you need and how they can help you.

Feel free to contact Paul Arnesen on Linkedin for advice for your tech startup venture into Milan.

Finding talent

Finding the right people is crucial to having your start-up or expanding it into Milan.

The most direct way is to work with a milan-based local recruiter; another method is leveraging local universities and research centres.

Doing so can be a smart strategy for finding talent for a tech start-up in Milan, Italy.

Here are some benefits and outcomes of doing so:

Access top talent 

Being home to world-renowned universities and research centres, Milan attracts top talent globally.

By leveraging these institutions, start-ups can access a pool of talented and highly qualified individuals.

Specialised expertise 

Educational centres often have specialised departments and programs to focus on specific fields and industries.

As a result, tech start-ups can access individuals with expertise to get invaluable assistance to develop and grow their businesses. 

Collaboration opportunities 

Universities and research centres also have existing partnerships with start-ups and other organisations.

These collaborations offer tech start-ups opportunities to work with various companies and institutions, promoting growth and development. 

Cost-effective recruitment 

Leveraging local universities and research centres can be a cost-effective way to recruit talent, as start-ups can offer internships or part-time positions to students or recent graduates looking to gain experience. 

Positive brand association 

Partnering with local universities and research centres can help start-ups establish themselves as reputable and innovative companies.

It can be particularly advantageous for start-ups in their early stages, as it helps them establish their brand and reputation.

By building relationships with these institutions and tapping into their resources and networks, start-ups can increase their chances of success and growth.

Government funding and tax incentives applications

Milan provides several opportunities for tech start-ups to access government funding and tax incentives.

It can support their growth and development, encourage innovation, and generate employment. Here are some examples:

Start-up Smart & Start Italia

This national program provides funding opportunities for innovative start-ups, offering up to €1.5 million to eligible applicants.

Additionally, start-ups that qualify for this program receive access to mentorship and business development support. 

Learn more

Industry 4.0 Tax Credit

It aims to support start-ups that invest in the production process digitisation and modernisation.

Eligible start-ups can claim up to a 50% tax credit for eligible expenses related to investments in qualifying assets or services. 

Learn more

Tax credit for research and development 

Start-ups in Milan can benefit from this tax credit that encourages investment in research and development activities.

Eligible start-ups can claim up to a 50% tax credit for eligible expenses related to investments in qualifying research and development activities. 

EU funding opportunities 

Tech start-ups are also eligible for multiple funding opportunities the European Union in Milan offers.

These include the Horizon Europe program, which provides funding for research and innovation projects, and the European Regional Development Fund, which supports regional development projects. 

To apply for government funding and tax incentives, start-ups must meet specific eligibility criteria and apply to the relevant program or agency.

In addition, start-ups must thoroughly research each opportunity and seek advice from legal and financial experts to ensure their eligibility and capability meet the requirements.  

Partnering with established businesses for credibility and resources

Tech start-ups can collaborate with many established businesses in Milan to gain credibility and valuable resources.

To build partnerships, start-ups should research and engage with companies aligned with their goals and interests. Here are some examples: 


UniCredit, an Italian central bank with a strong Milan presence, supports start-ups and innovative businesses through various initiatives, including the UniCredit Start Lab program.

This program offers early-stage start-ups mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities.


Pirelli, a top tire manufacturer based in Milan, is committed to innovation and sustainability.

Their Circular Economy program is one of the initiatives they have in place to support start-ups working on sustainable solutions for the tire industry.

Pirelli wheels on a Ferrari Forumla 1 car.

Telecom Italia

Telecom Italia, the most prominent Italian telecommunications provider, supports start-ups and innovative businesses in Milan.

For example, their Open Innovation program provides access to technology platforms and resources.


Enel, a top energy company focusing on renewable energy and sustainability, offers several initiatives to support start-ups and innovative businesses.

Their Open Innovability program is one such initiative, providing access to Enel's technology platforms and resources. 


Mapei, a top manufacturer of adhesives and chemical products for the construction industry, has several initiatives to support innovation and sustainability.

Their Innovation Hub is one such initiative that supports start-ups working on innovative solutions for the construction industry. 

Bonus: Start-ups targeting the Italian market

Marketing or branding your startup in Italy, here are some tips to consider for getting traction online in the Italian market. 

Website Design and Development 

Italians value aesthetics and design.

Therefore, it's essential to have a visually appealing, mobile-friendly website that's easy to navigate to make a good impression and attract customers.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) 

Italians rely more on search engines to find information about products and services.

Therefore, for start-ups to increase their website traffic organically and rank higher, they must have a strong SEO strategy to target relevant Italian keywords.

Content Marketing 

Italians value informative and educational content.

Tech start-ups can leverage content marketing to offer value to their Italian audience and establish themselves as an industry thought leaders. 

Social Media Marketing 

Italians are avid social media users, especially on Facebook and Instagram.

Therefore, a well-crafted social media strategy tailored to the Italian audience can help tech start-ups build brand awareness and engage with potential customers.

Online Advertising 

Online advertising is gaining popularity in Italy.

It lets start-ups reach a wider audience and boost website traffic.

A targeted advertising campaign that caters to the Italian audience and aligns with their interests and needs can be effective. 


Considering the growing popularity of online shopping among Italians, tech start-ups must have an e-commerce platform to offer their products or services in Italy.

In addition, the platform should have Italian language and payment methods and be user-friendly to ensure a seamless shopping experience.

Do you know how to eat pasta the Italian way?

Common challenges for foreign entrepreneurs in Milan

Moving into a new country or hiring people in any foreign country comes with its unique challenges.

Here are some important aspects to consider if you are foreign entrepreneur:

Language and cultural Barriers 

Italian language and culture can be challenging for non-native speakers, affecting communication with partners, employees, and customers.

Legal and regulatory issues 

Navigating Italian regulations can be complex and time-consuming, making it challenging for foreign entrepreneurs to understand and comply with local laws. 

Limited access to funding 

Foreign entrepreneurs may hesitate from Italian banks and investors for investments and limited access to government grants and funding opportunities for non-Italian start-ups.

Lack of network and connections 

A lack of local ecosystem knowledge can make it challenging for foreign entrepreneurs to build a strong network. 

Competitive market 

Milan's start-up scene is competitive, making it hard for foreign entrepreneurs to gain traction. 

Limited resources 

Being unfamiliar with the local market, some foreign entrepreneurs need help accessing resources like office space, skilled talent, and mentorship.

To succeed in such a market, foreign entrepreneurs must proactively navigate such challenges by building networks, comprehending local regulations, and adapting to the Italian language and culture.

How to overcome cultural barriers and build local relationships

Learn Their Language 

Learning Italian can enhance relationships with locals in business and show respect for their culture, breaking down communication barriers.

Although most start-ups today speak English well, you need to always have in the back of your mind that the most common working language is English.

So learning a bit of the language will help a long way in networking and building trust. 

Understand Cultural Differences 

Understanding and respecting cultural differences is vital to succeeding start-ups.

Learn about Italian business customs and etiquette, and be open-minded and adaptable to local business practices.  

Build a Local Network 

Foreign entrepreneurs can establish credibility and build relationships by cultivating a robust network of local contacts.

Attend networking events, join business associations, and seek out mentors and advisors with experience in the local market. 

Leverage Partnerships 

Partnering with local businesses and organisations can give foreign entrepreneurs access to resources and build credibility in the Milan market.

Seek collaboration opportunities with established Italian companies or participate in local events and initiatives.

Be Patient 

Consistent and committed efforts to building relationships over time can significantly contribute to a successful business.

Therefore, foreign entrepreneurs should be patient and persistent in building relationships and establishing trust. 

The Italian hand gesture is widely know.


Dear entrepreneurs,

Milan offers excellent opportunities for start-ups that embrace the local culture and ecosystem while bringing innovation.

To succeed, understand the unique business landscape, cultural nuances, and resources available.

Immerse yourself in the local culture, learn the language, and build relationships with locals to gain insights and trust.

The city has a vibrant start-up scene, so bring your unique perspective and ideas to contribute to the ecosystem and shape the future.

Take the leap, embrace the culture, and succeed with hard work and determination.

paul arnesen

Paul Arnesen

Paul Arnesen is a human capital strategist with more than 10 years experience working with companies globally with HR processes and global strategic direction. Paul is from Norway, but lives in Milan, Italy.