The Mediterranean Startup: Towards a "new" paradigm
Mediterranean ecosystems are populated mostly by small family businesses. As a consequence of the central role played by the family in the countries in this area of the world, members of a single family hold the property and deal with the management of companies. This, on the one hand, constitutes a strength of these companies, which benefit from high internal cohesion that makes it very resistant to the difficulties; on the other hand, affects their potential for growth and technological innovation, since the human and financial resources of a family are often insufficient to successfully implement a development strategy.
Until now, small family businesses have faced internal competition and international in various ways: creating districts to make "critical mass" and survive the competition exerted by larger companies; specializing in productions that can not be easily imitated, because highly differentiated ("Made in Italy"); operating in areas protected from foreign competition because they consist of small businesses operating in local markets, with low capital intensity and low added value.
The tremendous acceleration of technological development requires these small family businesses to overcome this financial gap, managerial, and know-how that does not allow to exploit their development potential. This need also arises (perhaps especially) for innovative businesses at start up and, in general, for newly established firms. This does not mean that the Mediterranean should imitate the Anglo Saxon model based on big corporations, private equity and efficient capital markets. Quite the contrary. Any attempt to imitate this model would be destined to a resounding failure because inconsistent with the widespread entrepreneurial culture in the Mediterranean countries.
The big corporations operating in the Anglo-Saxon world, are facing the fierce competition of startups that introduce innovations that generate discontinuities jeopardizing their business model. The need to standardize processes makes them unwieldy and unsuitable to promote innovation. An obstacle to innovation derives from the need to neutralize the risks typical of radical innovations in product and process. To cope with this problem, they are creating spin offs, through which experience innovations outside (thus neutralizing the risks), and acquiring innovative startups that have already achieved success in the market (and therefore are not very risky).
In the Internet Era is emerging a new paradigm of entrepreneurial success that is leading to the crisis of the traditional paradigm based on efficiency, standardization and productivity. In the new scenario, the competitive advantage depends on the beauty, creativity and the ability to tune the business model with the changing market and technology. In this new scenario, the Mediterranean will play a fundamental role in the world economy because creativity is the hallmark of the peoples of this area of the world. In the Mediterranean there are valuable resources: the culture, the art, the architecture, the history, the high quality food, the environment, lifestyle, the great beauty.
Small businesses in the Mediterranean, therefore, must remain small and agile and, therefore, suitable to promote continued innovation by exploiting the resources that are the heritage of this area. But this is not enough. To overcome the financial and technological gap compared to larger firms in the Anglo-Saxon world, they must create strong partnerships and adopt tools to synchronize the processes that make them interconnected. Through the partnership, the small family businesses can innovate processes and products and, in this way, the will create value for the customers.
The Mediterranean Model of New Venture Creation is very different from the Anglo-Saxon Startup Model, underlying the European development policies, which continue to be applied despite their resounding failure in the last 20 years. This Anglo-Saxon model has increased poverty and social inequality, destroyed ecosystems industrial nations of southern Europe. This is because this model is totally inconsistent both with the anthropological characteristics of the people who live where it grows olive trees and the characteristics of the institutions, markets and structure of the industries of the Mediterranean countries.
The Mediterranean Model is based on the development of clusters and cooperation networks of small family businesses (based on the hybrid model of the consortium-industrial district-interoperating firms clusters). It assumes that creativity, beauty, environmental sustainability, art and design, culture, tourism, high quality agro-food, the Lifestyle and fashion, are the fundamental sources of competitive advantage of nations. This should point businesses in the Mediterranean, also (but not only) to take advantage from the "reputation" (brand) of this area of the world. In the new economy, based on the Internet and new technologies, the old paradigm of big corporations, standardization and efficiency is going to die. The variety, not the standardization, will be the source of wealth and the social progress of the nations.
In December of 2013 I founded the research lab ReTMES - Research Team for Mediterranean Entrepreneurship and Startups at the University Mediterranea of Reggio Calabria (Italy) , which have joined several academics from different Mediterranean countries that share these ideas and who are conducting research together to develop new theoretical models and operational tools can foster the development and competitiveness of small family businesses and startups in the Mediterranean. I strongly believe that the aggregation of the scholars will be able to encourage the creation of new innovative and competitive and thereby overcome poverty and inequality that is increasingly spreading in this area of the world
We don't assume the business plan as the "Book of Dreams" through which select unlikely aspiring entrepreneurs, without any experience, doomed to failure. The business plan is rather a tool that defines the DNA and the RNA of the new firms. It is a tool useful ti prevent genetic defects and inconsistencies of the nascent businesses and to manage their evolution in the search for financial sustainability and the environmental.
Incubators and accelerators should promote the match between established entrepreneurs who want to revitalize their businesses, innovators and startuppers.
We consider the foreigners a resource.
Prof. Domenico Nicolò
Scientific Coordinator of the ReTMES - Reseach Team for Mediterranean Entrepreneurship and Startups - University of Reggio Calabria, Italy