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a growing breed?
By Marco Marinucci

Thus, for the first time, the Italian community can rejoice to have not one but two of such exemplars. Kong, founded by a trio of young Italians (2 from Milan and 1 from Rome) who moved to San Francisco, with a one-way ticket in 2009, has raised $100M in Feb 2021 at a valuation of $1.4B. Sysdig (founded by Loris Degioanni in 2013), instead, went through its last round of funding in April 2021, raising a total of ~$380M at a valuation of $1.19B.

I personally had a pleasure to cross paths with both of them during the early days of their journey and witnessed some of the “behind-the-scene” of those sensational stories (for full disclosure, I’m also a proud investor of Sysdig, while I wasn’t smart enough to invest in Kong…). The similarities between the 2 stories are plenty.

Both projects are B2B, both at the core of the cloud infrastructure, both evolved or “pivoted” over time (Kong started as Mashape, a marketplace of APIs, and totally changed its business model, whereas Sysdig was initially called Draios, did not contemplate containers or cybersecurity in their offering).


Most importantly, all co-founders have proved to be superstar entrepreneurs. With a precious mix of vision, technical abilities, and persistence – those founders embody the quintessential hustlers who can go a long way in Silicon Valley. The proof is, both companies got backed very early on by the top Sand Hill VCs: Accel and Bain Capital for Sysdig, Index, and Andreesen Horowitz for Kong.


What now?


Reaching the unicorn status is not an end, but rather one of the stepstones of a successful entrepreneurial journey. Both Sysdig and Kong are headed to a much, much bigger future: while they already employ hundreds of people, they can grow in the thousand, if not tens of thousands – potentially after a successful IPO.


However, the wave of impact they can have can go well beyond. They can create a generation of young professionals who have experienced the unique Silicon Valley hypergrowth. They will have the wealth, the experience, and the passion to go on their own, as operators or investors, and try to emulate more tech success stories. And the cycle and its ripple effects will continue.  

in Silicon Valley:

Italy is a land of many wonders. The Roman Colosseum, the Dolomites, Venice, the burrata, and the list can go on and on. 

However, there is a new breed that has started populating the earth in a growing fashion, but less so in Italy: the renowned “unicorns”, private companies that have reached the $1B valuation, now even starting morphing in the more rare decacorn ($10B) or even hectocorn ($100B).


Just to understand the speed at which this new species is growing: in 2018 there were merely ~270 exemplars  –  by June 2021 we can count 700+ and growing.

The reasons for this growth are multiple: the major one has to do with what the unicorns feed on: capital!


There’s been plenty of exuberance in the venture market - not just in the US – the EU has also been experiencing the biggest growth of VC investments ever. Also, compared to other decades (ie the infamous .com era) growth stage startups tend to stay private longer and approach public markets later in their development, demanding higher valuations.


While those conditions are historically less visible in the Italian venture market, the few Italian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, have caught up with the market conditions and immerse themselves in the race.

Italian Unicorns
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