June 21, 2022

Women and Innovation: interview with Anna Amati

Anna Amati is an Architect, Founding Partner of META Group and EUREKA! Venture SGR Spa, as well as a member of the Investment Committee of Eureka!Fund I Tech Transfer. A Founding Partner of Angels4Women, she is a Jury Member of the EIC Accelerator Program. Member of the Scientific Committee of the Italian "Treccani" Institute, advisor of the Teatro Stabile dell'Umbria, as well as a member of Italian Angels for Growth. Let's get to know her better.

Can you tell us more about your professional experience and the reasons why you approached the world of business angels by joining Italian Angels in 2016?

In the mid-2000s, with META Group, we were designing our first Ingenium Funds to invest in knowledge-based ventures. We were going around inside universities and research centers meeting brilliant minds who could not find the right finance to bring their "founds" to market. In those years, I had the good fortune to meet the U.S. ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli, who was organizing a trip of some entrepreneurs to the United States to raise awareness of angel investing. My brother Luigi, president of META Group, participated in that trip. You know the story then. Luigi, together with some fellow travelers, decided to found IAG. Since then, I have been making investments together with Luigi through IAG taking over then from my brother in 2016.

This year IAG celebrates 15 years. What do you remember most fondly from these years of the network's growth?

In general, the passion and enthusiasm of IAG members, their experience and willingness to take a gamble to build a better country, capable of undermining mediocrity thanks to the talent, commitment and intuition of brilliant people and the resources and skills made available by members. Then, more recently I have appreciated the union with the Roman BAs core and the efforts to increase the presence of women, promoted in recent years.

IAG today represents a radar and point of contact with the innovation ecosystem. Collaboration among all players in the ecosystem is critical to ensure startups receive investment, mentorship, and market entry support. This translates into lower risk and maximum results for all stakeholders. With EUREKA! Venture SGR Spa, of which you are founder, you favor Italian technology transfer in early-stage investments that originate mainly in universities and research centers. Why is it crucial to invest in Italian research?

I took a personal gamble, together with META Group, Stefano Peroncini, Salvatore Majorana and Massimo Gentili in launching the "EUREKA! Venture SGR" and in building the first Eureka! Tech Transfer I fund, choosing advanced materials as the investment focus. I live in Terni and since my childhood I have always breathed, the strength and potential (and the risks) of these enabling technologies in the production of value and innovation for companies and for the territory in which they operate. I have been lucky enough to create META since 1992 together with a group of brilliant researchers, with international experience, looking for tools to improve the quality of life and well-being of people and territories. IAG, like the Ingenium Funds and like EUREKA! now, reflect this basic principle: to foster the emergence of startups through investment in the exploitation of the research results generated by researchers at universities and research centers, to obtain a return on investment and, at the same time, create a strong impact on society.

Named by Wired as one of the ten most innovative Italian women of 2015 and winner of the international award the "Technovisionaries 2016," what advice would you give to a woman who wants to embark on an entrepreneurial path of innovation?

Giving advice is a difficult and delicate art! Finding one's path pertains to the person, her ambitions, dreams, skills, ways of being, and values. What we can do in our ecosystems is to tell about our experiences, where we started and where we got to, what were the elements of satisfaction that marked our lives but also what were the moments of difficulty and how we got out of them. In general, the experience I can share with women who want to do business is not to think about being a woman but to focus from the beginning on developing a product/service that can reach an important market quickly. I do not want to trivialize by saying that the path is easy, but I believe in the saying that there are no limits except the ones we set for ourselves. More generally, it has long been my dream to see the feminine adjective present today "dropped" soon to emphasize diversity again.

Architect, wife, and mother of three, entrepreneur. You love young people, "especially those with an entrepreneurial spirit and scarce resources who should be encouraged." You are a demonstration of how it is possible to reconcile private life, entrepreneurship and being an Angel and Founder. In Italy, and in the world, we are still far from a generalized phenomenon of female involvement in angel investing. How can these limitations be broken down, reversing traditional social and family patterns, and bring more and more women into the world of investing?

If I look back to the early 1990s when I started out, the situation was worse than it is today, there were no role models, there was no talk of innovation, much less startups. The enhancement of research then by many was seen as "the devil." Few understood the value of bringing "the found" of research into the marketplace in terms of social and community impact. New technologies have made it possible to compare with foreign experiences and to accelerate some processes, silent but unstoppable, encouraging the spread of new models, tools, and educational content. There certainly remain today cultural limits, linked to training models that are totally inadequate with respect to a world in constant movement, and social limits, such as the lack of personal services, with respect to which the best solution is not so much complaining as "doing," creating opportunities, communicating, and building more effective models. I believe that IAG, in this last period, has taken up this challenge and this commitment to "doing," devoting time and resources to raise social awareness, including that of women, about the strategic role and impact generated by being a business angel.