March 02, 2022

Antonio Leone: “Business Angel? Investors that create value”

Antonio Leone, Electronic Engineer with vast experience in the Biotech sector, was Chairman and CEO of Kontron Instruments, Roche Group, where he headed 5 development and research centers and 4 production sites as well as a series of acquisitions.

In 1993 he moved to the Olympus group, where he held the position of CEO Olympus Medical System Europe Hamburg, with a sales figure of 700 million euros and 2,300 employees. Antonio was BELLCO President of the Charme-Montezemolo & Partners fund. Currently, he holds the position of Director of Cellply S.r.l and Resalys pharmaceutical.

From 2015 to 2021 Antonio was President of Italian Angels for Growth, contributing significantly to its growth.

Here’s more about the changes and successes of the association during his leadership.

International top manager with over 40 years of experience in the medical equipment sector and protagonist of the Italian seed venture capital. Can you tell us how you approached the world of investments?

I have always been involved in investments. This has certainly helped me with the challenge I have set out to take on over the past 15 years. Investing in companies capable of changing the future, at the beginning of their history. I have always attributed everything to the quality of my collaborators.

After being CEO of large international companies, from June 2015 to June 2021 you held the position of President of Italian Angels for Growth. How have you seen IAG grow and change over the years?

The group of people representing IAG has been a fundamental pawn in a transformation process that has our country lagging behind compared to others. Italian venture capital and investment in start-ups still have a long way to go, but a lot has been done in recent years.
In fifteen years of activity, Italian Angels for Growth has reached a total volume of over 50 million euros invested by its shareholders, analyzing a total of over 6,500 startups, making 110 investments and finalizing over 15 exits.
What is today the largest network of professional business angels in Italy (+270 members), has also distinguished itself for the consolidation of the permanent internal structure. Eight qualified professionals actively collaborate with business angels in picking the best projects, supporting them in the definition and fine-tuning phases of the investments. Additionally, in recent years, we have underlined the importance of the relationship that can be created between companies and the role of business angels, as facilitators in the relationship with startups for the generation of innovation. For this reason, several Corporates, including KPMG, Novartis and Mastercard, have chosen to join the association.

What were the most significant moments?

When I approached IAG I found a group of heroes united around the organization's founder, Francesco Marini Clarelli, a forward-looking investor.
Despite the difficulties of operating almost alone, this group fully believed in its mission. Over time we have built a more structured organization. Today IAG is a group of investors with a pragmatic approach combined with a riskier attitude.

Over the years, IAG has become the largest community of business angels, entrepreneurs and corporates in Italy who share skills, capital and commitment to support innovation and entrepreneurship. What moment do you remember with great pleasure of the many shared with the members of the Board of Directors and the partners?

It's hard to remember them all. It has been an exciting journey, and it continues to be. At some point we realized that we are no longer alone. Institutions such as CDP, other club deals and venture capital funds have begun to collaborate with us. Today we co-invest with highly respected players with whom we share a valuable creation process. It was not obvious at first, but I consider it an important goal achieved.

In recent years you have had the opportunity to finance various projects and also cover the role of Champion. What recommendation would you give to a founder who chooses to rely on a professional business angel?

As always, it is difficult to find a recipe that is valid for all opportunities. Each reality is different from the others. I would probably give founders the same advice I give to new investors: "People make the difference!"
Do not stop to analyze only the investment opportunity with the business plan. The team you build around the project is critical to the success of it. Including the choice of business angels to be supported as CHAMPIONS.