From the category archives:

PE & VC News

It’s been a year since Italian policymakers loosened bureaucratic control over the start-up world.  How have things gone during the first year of Italy’s crowdfunding?

Background of Italy’s Crowdfunding

As some history, Italian politicians are the first in the world to allow retail equity crowdfunding, with “no” limits on investment options.  The “no” limits statement has, unsurprisingly, caveats.

So-called “big” investments require some paternalistic oversight.  The thresholds for “big” investments are 500 euro per investment and 1,000 euro per year, for individuals and ten times these amounts for corporations.  Once investments exceed these thresholds, investments are compulsorily reviewed by broker-dealers under the MiFID procedure.

Another requirement is that only “innovative” start-ups are allowed into the crowdfunding sphere.  This requirement identifies over 3,000 companies as innovative.  Additionally, any start-up in Europe may take part in the crowdfunding arena as long as it has a place of business in Italy, regardless of shareholders’ or directors’ nationalities.

The uniqueness of the Italian crowdfunding situation also has some tax implications.  For instance, any individual investing in a start-up with a “social impact” may write-off 27 percent of their investment from their taxes.

The Numbers

Overall, the number of successful projects has now passed the first 1 million euro, with three platforms being the largest beneficiaries of the new business.  In total, although three platforms have garnered the lion’s share of the business, nine platforms have received regulatory approval, with many others in the pipeline.

Based on investor volume, the initial leader of the new start-up platforms is StarsUp! As of writing, StarsUp! has helped Cantiere Savova raise 380,000 euro.  The breakdown of the 380,000 euro is mostly small investors (31 of the 44).  Only two of the investors are large investors (more than 50,000 euros) and four entities have invested between 15,000 and 50,000 euros.

In second place among the platforms is Unicaseed. To date, Unicaseed has raised 147,000 euro for Diaman Tech.  Interestingly, 85 percent of the investors in the software for financial operators were clients before Unicaseed started business.

Rounding out the top three is Assiteca Crowd.  In total, Assiteca Crowd is the leader in euro volume, reaching 520,000 euro as of writing.  The main firm – Paulownia Social Project – received 9,000 euro per day and about 40,000 euro per investor.  Paulownia was the first crowdfund start-up under the new regulations.

Perhaps surprisingly, most of the crowdfunding projects needed long time horizons (Paulownia was the exception at eight weeks).  Apparently, word has not gotten out to as many people as originally thought.

Coming this fall are two new platforms started by universities, with some new platforms taking a more focused approach (such as focusing on energy or social consciousness).

As a note, most of the Italian operators have joined the European Equity Crowdfunding Association (EECA).  EECA’s main goal is as a trade organization, uniting platforms and service providers.  As of writing, EECA has about 50 members from 15 countries.


Overall, it appears things are going well in the world’s first equity crowdfunding arena of its type.  Although the deal volume and companies funded got off to a slow start, investors are warming to the idea that profitable investments may be available in the Italian start-up universe.


Pitchbook is out with their annual review of which universities are producing the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs.  Where would you guess these entrepreneurs attended school?

On top of the 2014 list are entrepreneurs out of Stanford at $3.52 billion. In second place is Harvard at $3.24 billion.  Rounding out the top ten are the Indian Institute of Technology ($3.15 billion), MIT ($2.42 billion), UC Berkeley ($2.41 billion), University of Pennsylvania ($2.19 billion), Yale ($2.07 billion), Cornell ($1.97 billion), University of Illinois ($1.41 billion), and Brown ($1.31 billion).

Unsurprisingly, the list includes some world-renowned institutions, such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.  Yet perhaps more interesting, the list includes the Indian Institute of Technology in third place.

Some other international institutions with high performing alumni are Tel Aviv University ($1.25 billion), University of London ($1.07 billion), University of Waterloo in Canada ($1.01 billion), University of Toronto ($0.93 billion), Technion, headquartered in Israel ($0.80 billion), Hebrew University ($0.56 billion), McGill University out of Canada ($0.54 billion), and Queen’s University in Canada ($0.31 billion).

The list also includes some surprisingly high-ranking universities that are not typically known as hotbeds of venture capital activity.  Of the surprises are BYU ($1.16 billion), University of Colorado ($0.79 billion), Georgetown ($0.67 billion), and Washington University ($0.66 billion). One note to the study is that it excludes companies out of China, where entrepreneurial activity is nothing short of exhilarating according by many accounts.

1 Pic Switching now to entrepreneur count as opposed to the sum of dollar volume, the rankings change – some considerably.

Interesting, entrepreneurs out of Stanford top this list as well at 378.  In second place is UC Berkeley (336).  The remaining entries in the top 10 include MIT (300), Indian Institutes of Technology (264), Harvard (253), University of Pennsylvania (244), Cornell (212), University of Michigan (176), Tel Aviv University (169), and University of Texas (150).

2 pic

VC Investment Per Entrepreneur

The university getting for the most VC dollars per entrepreneur is not American.  That title goes to the University of London at $15.0 million. In second place is Yale at $13.9 million.

The remaining entries in the top 10 include University of Toronto ($13.1 million), Harvard ($12.8 million), Washington University ($12.4 million), Indian Institute of Technology ($11.9 million), BYU ($11.3 million), Duke ($10.9 million), University of Colorado ($10.8 million), and Georgetown ($10.6 million).

On the other end of this list are some surprises. Venture capital investment per entrepreneur is relatively low at MIT ($8.1 million) and UC Berkeley ($7.2 million), two of the top universities for venture capital investments.

3 pic

Overall, venture capital continues to be clustered in certain areas of the world, chief among them American hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity.  Interestingly, when looking at the data overall, just because there is a cluster of a high number of entrepreneurs receiving VC money out of a particular institution, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those entrepreneurs will get more of that money.


Private equity professionals spend a good part of their day looking at balance sheet figures.  Here’s a break from the traditional look at financial numbers and instead a focus on how the economy has performed over the past 60 years’ – by each U.S. president.

The five measures are Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Employment, Inflation, Retail Sales, and Personal Income. A note of explanation on all the charts: the x-axis is the number of months the given individual was president;  the y-axis is the percentage change in the given indicator since the start of the presidency.  Each line represents the given measure.


The first measure is GDP.  Obama, the current president, does not look good by this measure, with real GDP up a little over 10 percent since the beginning of his presidency in January 2009.  There’s only one president with a lower GDP growth figure at this point in his presidency – Eisenhower.  Of course, GDP performed quite strong from Eisenhower’s 63rd to 78th month.  The strong recovery late in Eisenhower’s presidency placed GDP growth as third highest of the past 12 presidencies (of course, some president’s didn’t make it to the maximum 96 months).

If the sitting president is lucky, he might see GDP growth perform a little better than GDP growth under his predecessor – Bush II.  This would no doubt be quite disappointing to Obama supporters, given that Obama had the advantage of coming in as president when GDP was at its bottom, while Bush had to deal with the onset of the recession.

On the top of the charts are Clinton and Reagan, with GDP up 35 percent under President Clinton and 31 percent under President Reagan.



Retail Sales

Next we’ll look at Retail Sales.  By this measure, Reagan was the best president, seeing consumer spending grow by 68 percent under his watch.  In second place is Clinton at 57 percent.

Absent the financial recession, Bush II would have been third, but the housing bubble dropped Retail Sales during his presidency from 35 percent to 19 percent.  Presuming the economy doesn’t head into a recession at the end of Obama’s presidency, third place may belong to Obama, with Retail Sales currently up 28 percent during his presidency.

Retail Sales

Personal Income

Based on the third measure, Personal Income, President Reagan was quite strong, with Americans’ income growing 79 percent during his administration, far ahead of the next closest president, Clinton, at 59 percent.

Akin to GDP, this measure does not make the sitting president look good, with Personal Income only up 19 percent so far.  Unless the economy experiences some very strong growth in income generation, Obama is unlikely to catch up with Bush II, who ended his presidency at 37 percent.

Personal Income


The worst president according to the fourth measure, Inflation, was President Carter, with inflation up 47 percent during his tenure.  Inflation has not been too big of an issue under President Obama, up just 11 percent so far.

Unless there is a large bout of inflation in the late stages of Obama’s presidency, it’s likely that inflation under Obama will have grown less than inflation under Bush II, who saw inflation expand 20 percent during his 96 months.



The last measure is total employment growth.  Based on this measure, presidents Clinton and Reagan saw the best labor markets, with employment up during their presidencies 21 percent and 17 percent respectively.

In looking at the past two presidents – Obama and Bush – there’s a chance that employment might come in higher under Obama versus the growth under Bush.  Currently, employment is up just 3 percent during Obama’s tenure, while employment peaked during Bush’s presidency at a little over 4 percent, after which the economy turned south because of the housing market bust, putting Bush’s final number at 1.6 percent.


Overall, the past 12 presidents have seen some large differences in how the economic indicators have performed under their administrations.  In terms of comparing presidents, the economy generally performed best under Reagan and Clinton, at least when measured by the five indicators of GDP, Retail Sales, Personal Income, Inflation, and Employment.  In comparing the two most recent presidents – Obama and Bush II – the measurements are a little less clear.  At this point in both individuals’ presidencies, employment and inflation are performing a little better under Obama, while GDP and income were better under Bush.  Retail sales are about even.


Should PE Professionals be Nervous When Looking at the Pace in Mergers and Acquisitions Volume?

August 11, 2014

In the mergers and acquisitions world (M&A), 2014 is off to an incredible start.  We’ve seen Valeant’s $46 billion proposal for Allergan (April 22).  About a month later, May 18, we saw AT&T acquire DirectTV .  On June 15, Medtronic acquired Covidien in a deal worth about $43 billion.  Earlier in the year we digested Comcast’s […]

Read the full article →

How has Financial Employment Performed by President?

July 28, 2014

Pretty much everyone knows the western world is experiencing one of the worst recoveries on record.  This is quite evident when looking at the incredibly long time it took for employment to get back to where it was in 2008, by the tentative growth in GDP, by the weakness in wage inflation, by the stubbornly […]

Read the full article →

Venture Capital Through the Recent Recovery

July 14, 2014

Anyone who follows the private equity/venture capital world knows that political entities attempt to recruit business startups.  Over the past few years, leaders in various areas, including New York, Utah, and other traditionally less important areas, have promoted the growth of their startup scene – and their efforts are being rewarded. What Do the Numbers […]

Read the full article →

The End of American Economic Dominance. Will American Finance Follow Suit?

June 30, 2014

Just about everyone that follows politics and economics knows that businesses in the United States dominated the world economy in the 1980s and 1990s.  Really, American-based businesses have been king of the business world since World War II.  That dominance has loudly come to an end. Unsurprisingly, the end of American dominance of the world’s […]

Read the full article →

Why Are Venture Capitalists So Interested in Education?

June 16, 2014

Innovation in the education area may have a bright future after all, at least if one judges it by the exponential growth in venture capital interest. Overall, data out of Pitchbook indicate strong growth in deal activity and the total invested capital in U.S.-based education startups over the past ten years. Total invested capital has grown […]

Read the full article →

How Has Financial Employment Performed Over the Past 11 Business Cycles?

May 19, 2014

Most everyone has seen the following chart of employment change from peak to peak for the past 11 business cycles. (Some analysts choose to ignore the 1943 recession for shock reasons, essentially making 2008 look the least appealing of them all.) The label for each line represents the year in which the recession started; the vertical […]

Read the full article →

The Story Liberals Don’t Want You to Hear

May 5, 2014

Since the onset of the economic crisis in late 2007, liberals and conservatives (and economists with like-minded leanings) have been ferociously debating two issues – inflation and debt.  On inflation, liberals generally argue that inflation wasn’t an issue.  By arguing such, liberals were able to claim that the best way to deal with the economic […]

Read the full article →
Real Time Web Analytics